From transformative centerpiece to scourge of a locker room who was paid to go away to integral bench cog on a Western Conference finalist, Josh Smith's last 24 months have been quite the up-and-down affair. Smith decided Thursday to add another layer, agreeing to a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The team announced the deal on Thursday:
The Clippers will be paying Smith the veteran's minimum, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. This is significantly less than the $2.5 million offer from the Houston Rockets, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN.
ESPN.com provided comments from Smith, who thanked the Rockets and their fans for his time in Houston:
Over my pro career I have spent a lot of time in Houston with friends and family. Over the past year, while with the Rockets, the team, fans and people of Houston have made it a second home. I want to express my appreciation to everyone for the support and kindness they have showed me and my family while I have been here. Thank you!
The veteran forward joined the Rockets midway through last season after being released by the Detroit Pistons. He averaged 12 points, six rebounds and 2.6 assists per game coming off the Rockets bench, embracing a secondary role for the first time in his career.
Maligned for much of his career for playing over his head, Smith found a home in Houston, contributing as a playmaker on both ends of the floor.
That culminated during the Rockets' playoff run, in which he had an uncharacteristic jump-shooting hot streak that helped Houston reach the Western Conference Finals.
Smith's Houston experience ran in direct contrast to his year-and-a-half in Detroit. Signed to a four-year, $54 million contract in 2013, Smith became perhaps the NBA's most criticized player because of his poor shot selection and lackadaisical play. He struggled to mesh with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, in large part because he was forced into a small forward role.
By December 2014, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy had had enough of the toxic mix and released Smith outright. Detroit will pay $5.4 million on its cap for Smith through 2020, though its actual cash cost has been somewhat offset by Smith's subsequent contracts.
Never even an average jump-shooter, Smith is a bit of an awkward fit. Los Angeles would prefer a player who can stretch the floor, something not in Smith's wheelhouse. He was a 33 percent shooter from three-point range as a Rocket, well above his career average but still not high enough to justify defending him on the perimeter.
Smith is one of only 10 players in NBA history to attempt at least 1,000 three-pointers and shoot under 30 percent. He shoots the second-worst percentage among those players.
Still, Smith remains a legitimately strong finisher near the basket. He shot 60.1 percent in the restricted area last season, a slight downtick from his regularly stellar rates but still a fine percentage. Add in his productivity as a defender—opposing players shot more than 4 percent worse when defended by Smith than their regular-season average—and he's a serviceable player in the right role.
Keeping him willing to stay in a complementary role will be the key to making this relationship work as the Clippers try to make another run at a championship after the surprise return of DeAndre Jordan.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com.