The Detroit Pistons have waived Josh Smith.
The Detroit Pistons have just announced the release of Josh Smith. Stunning— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 22, 2014
The news comes as a pretty big shock. Releasing a player of Smith's caliber and remaining guaranteed money is basically unheard of in recent NBA history. The Pistons will stretch that remaining salary (and cap hit) over the next five years.
Pistons will use stretch provision on remaining $26 million of Josh Smith's contract, league source tells Yahoo. This gives some cap relief.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 22, 2014
So Josh Smith, originally signed by Joe Dumars, is no longer a part of Stan Van Gundy's plans. Any team wishing to claim him on waivers will also have to take on his remaining contract, which is very unlikely to happen. That means Josh Smith will soon be an unrestricted free agent, with apparently about $6 million heading his way annually for the next five years no matter what. Therefore it might be safe to assume he will be considering cheaper deals from current contenders. The early reports have suggested the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs. However, if Smith was interested in a team where he could get minutes and be a part of something long term, would the Hornets be a fit?
Josh Smith the player
This season has been one of Smith's worst by almost every statistical category. He's shooting 39 percent from the floor, just 24 percent on 3-pointers, and a horrible 46.8 percent at the charity stripe. His points per game average of 13.1 is the worst since his second season. However he has remained a good rebounder and has been dishing out a decent amount of assists (7.2 and 4.7 per game respectively). These horrible statistics can't be attributed to Smith playing on the wing, like he did for a large number of minutes last season. He's played approximately 430 minutes out of his 896 with only one other big in the lineup (Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond).
So how would Josh Smith, the power forward, fit with the Hornets? Seemingly not well. On the plus side, he definitely has potential to be a fulcrum in the high post like Josh McRoberts was last year, because he is a smart and sometimes willing passer. He's also extremely athletic, good in transition, and a quality one-on-one defender. However, like Marvin Williams, he doesn't bring size to the power forward position. Also, he doesn't stretch the floor. Opposing teams beg Josh Smith to shoot from anywhere away from the rim and he indulges them constantly (70 percent of his shots have come away from the rim this year). To top it all off, when he does get to the rim this year, he's shooting just 44 percent which is well below the 55 percent league average. That is an alarming statistic when you consider how easily Josh Smith should score at the rim.
The Hornets seemingly just figured out a starting lineup that works with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson playing some very good basketball (they're +15 in 36 minutes over their last three games). Trying to insert a new player, with a history like Smith's, would seemingly put the team a step back before it ever put them a step forward. Getting the best of Josh Smith, which could really be an 18 point, 9 rebound, 5 assist sort of guy who limits his 3-point attempts and plays top level defense on a variety of players, seems like a pipe dream. So even if the potential ceiling may be higher with Smith at the power forward position, the recent history proves it isn't likely.
Although the risk is now probably low enough to entice the Hornets general manager Richard Cho, this seems like the sort of move that would take a while to pay-off (if it ever did) and the team just can't afford another setback.