5 Teams That Would Be Good Fits for Potential Josh Smith Trade
After signing a monstrous deal in free agency, one that will pay him $40.5 million over the next three seasons, Smith came to the Motor City and completely flopped, largely because he was asked to play out of position throughout the year. Small forward simply wasn't his cup of tea, as playing him on the perimeter led to some horrific numbers from outside the three-point arc.
For the sake of keeping this article safe for work, I won't print his exact statistics here, but you can check them out on his Basketball-Reference.com page...if you dare.
The losses piled up, to the tune of a putrid 29-53 record, and now Smith's future during the Stan Van Gundy era in Detroit is up in the air. He's just not a great fit for a roster that also boasts Andre Drummond and still seems likely to retain the services of restricted free agent Greg Monroe.
So, where does he fit?
Detroit isn't being forced to trade Smoove. In fact, as Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports, Van Gundy is telling Smith not to expect a move:
Detroit Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy reached out to forward Josh Smith to tell him that reports of the franchise engaging in substantive trade talks with Sacramento centered on Smith have been inaccurate and – barring an unexpected turn of events – Smith will be in training camp with the Pistons this fall, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
However, it's still in the team's best interest to deal him, just for the right package. Given his ridiculously large salary, the asking price can't be as high as it would be otherwise, but the Pistons can still get back pieces that fit in with SVG's stylings in much better fashion.
Smith, despite the bad reputation he earned in 2013-14, isn't some washed-up player. He's a 28-year-old forward with elite athleticism and a versatile set of skills, even if that includes clanging ill-advised perimeter jumpers off the rim.
Under the right coaching, surrounded by the right players, he could prove that he's worth most of the money he's earning.
Potential Trade: Josh Smith and Tony Mitchell for Jeff Green, Vitor Faverani, Joel Anthony and a 2015 first-round pick
Josh Smith and Rajon Rondo played together at Oak Hill Academy and they've always wanted to team up at the professional level.
"The conversation comes up," Smoove said before an early January loss to the Boston Celtics this past season, per The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes. "We always tell each other how surreal a moment that would be for us to be able to reconnect again in that realm."
Could it happen?
"It can be far-fetched, but it could be possible too, at the same time," explained the forward before continuing. "I’m always optimistic. I always think of different scenarios. It could happen, but who knows?"
Well, here's one scenario.
The Celtics could free themselves of Jeff Green's contract, one that's continuously proving to be far too large, and end up with Smith on the roster. Sure, they'd have to give up a few more pieces, but the Pistons would surely be thrilled to land a true small forward like Green in the process, one who could conceivably thrive alongside both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Boston, meanwhile, would no longer have to worry about a frontcourt devoid of athleticism. Smith is a natural fit alongside a more technically skilled player like Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk, and it's a safe assumption that he'd finally be motivated to play smart basketball with his former high school teammate.
The thought of Rondo and Smith running the floor in transition once more has to be quite appealing.
Potential Trade: Josh Smith for Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson
This is scary.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers' never-ending trade discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves ultimately fall through, that doesn't mean they'll be done making moves. After all, there are other power forwards available, and Smith would fit in with their system quite well.
Not only is he a great passer for a player his size, which has to appeal to David Blatt and his modified Princeton offense, but he'd immediately be the best rim-protecting forward or big man on the roster. The defense, one projected to struggle either in its current form or with Kevin Love on board, would suddenly look significantly better.
According to NBA.com's SportVU databases, Smith faced seven shots per game at the rim and held opponents to 47.1 percent shooting in that situation, a mark far better than that produced by Tristan Thompson (leaving for Detroit in this situation) or Anderson Varejao.
In fact, among the 77 players who went up against at least five shots per game, only 14 were more effective than Smoove.
On top of that, he's a versatile defender, one who can capably guard smaller players out on the wings. With him, LeBron James and Andrew Wiggins patrolling the court, Cleveland's defense would be a terrifyingly athletic unit capable of switching on most picks.
Though Smith doesn't provide the floor-spacing abilities that are so vital next to a driving machine like LeBron, everything else he brings to the table trumps that deficiency. He's well worth giving up a suddenly promising Anthony Bennett and a stagnating Thompson, though Detroit would surely be glad to get that type of potential back in return for its failed experiment.
New Orleans Pelicans
Potential Trade: Josh Smith for Eric Gordon
What do you do when you have an overpaid player who doesn't fit your system? You swap him for a new one who might.
The Pistons are still struggling to find a player who can thrive at the 2, though they invested a first-round pick in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope last summer and just handed Jodie Meeks a large chunk of cash to bring his shooting prowess to the Motor City.
However, Stan Van Gundy has never been one to turn down shooters, and having Eric Gordon on the roster would give him even more upside at shooting guard. It was only a few years ago that Gordon was viewed as the future of the position, though knee injuries have seriously hindered his development.
From the New Orleans Pelicans' perspective, Smith would be a terrific partner in crime for Anthony Davis, even if they've already acquired Omer Asik this offseason, and trading Gordon would allow Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans to play their natural spots.
Though throwing Smoove out at the 3 is normally a terrible idea, it might be just crazy enough to work by the bayou. After all, Davis has more floor-spacing ability than either Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond, and that allows the uber-athletic acquisition to do more than stand around on the perimeter. Plus, he could work nicely at the 4 when either Davis or Asik need to spend some time on the bench.
And we can't forget about Ryan Anderson. Here's Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes on how everyone would click in NOLA, although he wrote this before Asik was acquired:
Where Smith makes things interesting is in the way he could team with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson in an unconventional frontcourt.
Anderson provides all of the spacing New Orleans could ever want, and Davis has been playing farther away from the basket as his game has matured. That means Smith could fill in on the offensive margins, diving into the lane on the weak side as Davis and Holiday work the pick-and-roll, or perhaps sneaking around the rim as Anderson forces a big man to venture away from the bucket.
Asik is a wrench in the plan, but he's still not problematic. After all, he just provides even more depth, especially because so many two-man combinations among the four bigs would have complementary talents.
Potential Trade: Josh Smith for Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade
The future of one of the most talented free agents left on the market remains cloudy, as Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns remain far apart in contract talks, according to sources close to the situation.
The Suns have offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million contract, but the point guard wants a maximum five-year, $80 million deal, league sources said.
It continues to be in Phoenix's best interests to retain Bledsoe's services, as Jeff Hornacek's two-point guard system needs at least three high-quality floor generals to operate at a high level throughout an 82-game campaign and ensuing playoff run. However, they can also turn Bledsoe into something similarly useful, then hand Tyler Ennis more minutes.
That something is Smith.
The forward is a capable post-up presence, but it's his athleticism that makes him so intriguing. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Suns played with the No. 8 pace is the NBA during the 2013-14 campaign, and TeamRankings.com shows that Phoenix led the Association in transition points per game.
Smith teaming up with Goran Dragic, a one-man fast break, and Gerald Green would be truly terrifying for the opposition, and he'd simultaneously help shore up a defense that could—at times—hold the team back.
A five-man core of Isaiah Thomas, Dragic, Green, Smith and Miles Plumlee would be one of the more threatening two-way lineups out there, and Phoenix's depth would only aid the desert-based franchise's cause.
Potential Trade: Josh Smith for Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson and a 2017 first-round pick
As ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports, this is the potential deal that has been drawing the most real-life buzz:
Sources told ESPN.com the Kings have continued to express interest in Smith and the parties are on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal.
As ESPN.com reported last month, Detroit and Sacramento have engaged in trade discussions that would potentially land Smith in the same frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Initial talks called for Sacramento to send Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry to the Pistons for Smith, but those discussions reached an impasse and were pushed into July along with the rest of both teams' free-agent business, sources said.
If Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams (far more valuable than Jason Terry) isn't getting the job done, then we're going to have to sweeten Detroit's haul with a first-round pick from the Sacramento Kings. Unfortunately, though, that can't happen until 2017, as the Kings owe their 2015 first-rounder to the Chicago Bulls.
For Sacramento, the rationale is pretty obvious.
They've coveted that frontcourt combination of Rudy Gay, Smith and DeMarcus Cousins, and this would allow them to put it together without losing any of the floor-spacing guards on their roster. Ben McLemore, Darren Collison and Nik Stauskas are all still there.
"Smith, whose athleticism has been a plus on defense throughout his career, ranked 15th in the NBA with 1.43 blocks per game and would help Cousins protect the rim. Cousins was 20th in the league at 1.28 blocks per game," writes Jason Jones for The Sacramento Bee. "One of the Kings’ top priorities this offseason is to improve their interior defense."
So long as Mike Malone can keep the shot selection under control, this is a promising bunch.