Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy pulled quite a stunner on Monday when he waived Josh Smith. Smith won’t come off waivers until Wednesday, but it’s likely that he won’t be without a team for long. Numerous franchises have reportedly expressed interest in signing Smith, including the Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, Grizzlies, and Kings. While Houston is currently rumored to be the favorite to obtain Smith’s services, the veteran forward is apparently in high demand despite only averaging 13.1 points on 39.1% shooting this season, with both numbers being below his career averages of 15.4 PPG and 45.6%.
The competition to ink Smith is most certainly due to the price tag he can be had for, which will be more than likely for the league-minimum salary, or not much more than that, which is all that most of the teams linked to Smith have to offer the big man. Detroit had garnered little to no interest in its efforts to deal Smith prior to its decision to release him, when his price tag would have been $13.5MM for this season, and whose contract ran for two more seasons at the same rate.
While Smith was clearly not performing up to his contract this year, which according to Hoops Rumors’ 2014/15 Salary Rankings, was good for the ninth highest cap hit amongst small forwards in the league, he’ll be a bargain at around the league-minimum for whichever franchise signs him. But which team would be the best fit for Smith?
One of the biggest issues with Smith’s production in Detroit was its insistence on trying to make him a small forward in an oversize frontcourt, a spot that Smith clearly was not suited to play. On his next team, if his coaches are wise, he’ll more than likely go back to his natural power forward position, though he can also provide some minutes at the three as well in a pinch.
Smith has been a starter for 758 of the 781 career games that he has appeared in, though this trend isn’t necessarily going to continue with his next team. Here’s a quick rundown of the starting power forwards on the teams reported to be in the hunt for Smith:
- Clippers: Blake Griffin [23.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG]
- Lakers: Carlos Boozer [12.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG]
- Heat: Chris Andersen [3.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG] or Udonis Haslem [4.1 PPG, 4.0 PPG]
- Grizzlies: Zach Randolph [16.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG]
- Rockets: Donatas Motiejunas [10.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG]
- Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki [18.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG]
- Kings: Jason Thompson [5.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG]
The quandaries for Smith when making the decision on which team to sign with is how to best market himself for next season and which circumstance would allow him to best rebuild his value. Does he try and chase a ring with a contending team? Or does he try to maximize his playing time, as well as have the best opportunity to put up numbers? Out of the teams listed, Smith would only be a clear upgrade as a starter for the Kings, Heat, and Lakers. Miami is the only one of those three that has a realistic shot at the playoffs, mainly because the Heat reside in the much weaker Eastern Conference, which should give Pat Riley‘s squad the edge amongst that group if Smith chooses the playing time route.
If Smith wants to join a contending team, as has been mentioned as being one of his criteria, then relocating to Texas may be his wisest decision. Smith is close friends with Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo, who have each campaigned for their respective teams to ink the veteran, and joining the Rockets or the Mavs would certainly be appealing for him as a result of those relationships. Both of those franchises have realistic shots to go deep into the playoffs, but Houston would also offer Smith a much better opportunity to log significant minutes with Motiejunas currently penciled in as the starter.
So where do you think the best fit for Smith to land would be? Cast your votes and sound off below in the comments section to expand on why you believe this would be the best situation for Smith.