Josh Smith is reportedly the Pistons’ top free-agent target, so let’s get to know the player Joe Dumars covets most.
In no particular order:
1. Josh Smith is really good. In his best season, Smith had 9.3 win shares – a total only Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Grant Hill have posted as Pistons since the Bad Boys. Smith’s career year came four years ago, but at age 27, hopefully his best days aren’t behind him.
2. See No. 1. Smith would immediately join Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the discussion for the Pistons’ best player. For a team so bereft of talent in the last few years, this is such a big deal, it deserves two spots on this list.
3. Smith’s contributions are very diverse. He averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game last season. LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Chris Webber, Lamar Odom, Antoine Walker and Karl Malone are the only other players with a 17-8-4 season in the last 15 years.
4. Defensively, Smith has always done a bit of everything. Only Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson have career block-per-game and steal-per-game averages as high as Smith. It’s nice Smith amasses so many steals and blocks, but they alone mean only so much. Those stats are indicative of an all-around defender. Smith allowed less than a point per play last season in every MySynergySports category he defended at least 20 times: isolation, pick-and-roll ball handler, post-up, pick-and-roll man, spot-up, off screen and handoff. Smith’s defensive versatility would be particularly valuable to the Pistons, who lack reliable defenders on the perimeter and in the paint. Smith has the talent to help, game to game, wherever they need it most.
5. Smith is an underrated passer. He led power forwards with 4.2 assists per game last season, and even if he plays more small forward in Detroit, his passing projects well. LeBron James, Nicolas Batum, Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant and Evan Turner were the only forwards – power or small – to average more assists per game.
6. When active, Smith scores well on cuts in the halfcourt offense. He might not have the jumper to space the floor ideally with Monroe and Drummond – Smith has never shot even league-average on 3-pointers – but Smith’s ability to make strong cuts would help space the floor.
7. He cares about the community. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Atlanta means a lot to Smith. He sponsors AAU and high school teams all over the city, paid for the living expenses for the family of Rajaan Bennett — a star football player from his high school who was murdered before he could play at Vanderbilt University — and hosts a Thanksgiving dinner every year for My Sister’s House, a shelter for women and families affected by domestic abuse.
"Sometimes I feel like my tithe to the church is being able to give back to my community," he said. "I grew up in poverty. I wasn’t a rich kid. My dad drove trucks, 18-wheelers.
"My mom had callouses on her hands from doing hair and using the curling irons. My dad used to unload the truck himself just to try and get extra money to buy me shoes. I had one pair of shoes, this pair of navy blue Converse he bought me. And I had to wear them with all my outfits at school and then turn around and play basketball in ’em.
"So you know, I learned to appreciate the little things."
In no particular order:
1. Smith takes too many long 2s, the worst shot in basketball. That, in itself, is problematic. The issue becomes much more troubling considering he shoots very, very poorly on those attempts (and really all jumpers). Smith’s 3.9 2-point shots from at least 15 feet per game ranked 39th in the NBA last season, but only Glen Davis converted a worse percentage of those looks among the top 100 (!) of such attempts per game. Smith stopped shooting 3-pointers – he’s a career 28.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc – in 2009-10, when he took just seven, but he followed that with a then career-high 154 3-point attempts the following year. He topped that with 201 attempts last season. Smith’s penchant for both taking and missing jumpers, especially long 2s, is so extreme, it threatens to undermine all the good in his game.
2. Smith’s free-throw shooting has been erratic. He shot a career-best 72.5 percent in 2010-11, followed with a below-career-average 63.0 percent and then shot a career-worst 51.7 percent last season.
3. Smith can be temperamental and difficult. The Hawks suspended him one game in January for a practice incident. He drew a two-game suspension in 2007 for cursing at then-Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. To his credit, Smith quickly admitted he was wrong in that case. I don’t get the sense Smith is a bad guy, just that his focus on keeping a cool head comes and goes. That same trait shows itself during games, when Smith’s effort and intensity can also come and go.