Clippers 2015 NBA Draft targets: Georgetown’s Joshua Smith


Jan 19, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Georgetown Hoyas center Joshua Smith (24) celebrates during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats at Verizon Center. Georgetown Hoyas defeated Villanova Wildcats 78-58. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers don’t have a pick in the 2015 NBA draft yet, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they want to get their hands on one. Even if that fails, they’ve worked out enough low-end draft prospects to have a good understanding of potential players who may go undrafted. Which, seeing as the Clippers may not be able to enter the draft and don’t have enough money to be that selective, gives them options to sign any rookies to deepen the bottom of their rotation.

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And seeing as the Clippers have already worked out a host of new prospects (including at least 12 more yesterday, per Dan Woike), they appear to be focussed on making something happen — whether that may be in the second round, or with any undrafted talent that’s leftover.

First and foremost, the Clippers need to add some depth to their frontcourt. So far, we’ve already seen them address that issue by the reported interest in Paul Pierce, and through the obvious and much needed priority to resign DeAndre Jordan. And with other veterans on the market, who could potentially be signed for veteran’s minimum contracts, the Clippers have options in free agency to make the changes they need with their very limited amount of cap space (which is currently around $5 million).

However, if they don’t make a signing in free agency just yet, that leaves them with the chance to land a rookie. And seeing as they’ll only really be able to land a second round pick at best (due to their lack of other picks or players to trade), the Clippers also need to keep their focus on working out prospects who could go undrafted.

One of which, is Georgetown center Joshua Smith.

The first thing there is to notice about Smith is his immense size, because he basically looks like Glen “Big Baby” Davis’ bigger, badder brother. He weighs in at 6’10” and 350 lbs. Yes, seriously, 350 lbs.

Which, for the record, is 60 lbs heavier than Davis.

And there aren’t many people who make Big Baby look slender.

But to add even more perspective to his overpowering physique, Shaquille O’Neal often played at a slightly lower 325 lbs (and he’s 7’1″ and widely regarded as the most dominant physical force in NBA history).

In addition to Smith’s sheer size, that he uses to force his way through the paint like a battering ram, he’s also surprisingly agile for his size. He may not have the explosiveness of a lanky big man like Anthony Davis, but he isn’t so slow that he can’t keep up with a fast paced offense like the Clippers’, or smaller opponents when on defense.

Joshua Smith is more than just an imposing figure, though. He’s the kind of powerful rebounder and strong interior finisher that the Clippers don’t have when you look at their primary backup big men of Glen Davis and Spencer Hawes.

Both Big Baby and Hawes made less than 61 percent of their shots from within three feet this year. And whilst that doesn’t make them terrible, it’s hardly impressive compared to Smith’s overall field goal percentage from last year of 62.3. The Georgetown behemoth can use his strength to force anyone back when he posts up, and he makes the most of his size to hold off defenders when using his soft hook shot.

Then comes Smith’s rebounding ability.

He played 20.5 minutes a game last year and averaged 5.8 rebounds per game. That doesn’t sound too impressive, but when you look a little deeper into his performance, it’s clear to see why he’s an upgrade in this area over Davis and Hawes.

Smith has always been a strong rebounder, and back in 2010-11 when he was with UCLA, he led the Pacific 10 Conference in total offensive rebounds with 114. Then, with Georgetown last year, Smith led the entire Big East Conference with an offensive rebound percentage of 15.5. With his work clearing up the glass on defense, too, Smith was able to finish the season ranked 5th in the Big East with a total rebound percentage of 17.

And despite the level of play in college being totally different to the NBA, Smith’s high rebounding percentage is still far better than that of Davis and Hawes (both of whom failed to even surpass 11.4 percent, whilst their athletic freak of a teammate DeAndre Jordan’s was more than double that at 24.5).

With his work in the post and serious impact as a put-back guy, Smith even ranked 7th in the Big East for offensive rating (116.1) last season. So, whilst his skill as a low-post defender may need some work (he averaged a moderate 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes), his size helps him deter opponents and he still couldn’t have done much more in his 20 minutes per game last year.

Because when you consider his tenacious rebounding and efficiency as a scorer (10.8 points per game on 62.1 percent shooting) it equated to Smith having the best player efficiency rating (28.2) in the Big East.

Jan 31, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Georgetown Hoyas center Joshua Smith (24) dunks over Creighton Bluejays forward Toby Hegner (32) at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Georgetown defeated Creighton 67-40. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

All that together, and Joshua Smith looks like a promising back up center that could suit the Clippers well. Not just because it looks good to have someone on your team who’s 350 lbs, but because he brings physicality, toughness, rebounding and experience as a low-post scoring option off the bench (he was 4th in the Big East in usage percentage).

The main issues he needs to address are his low-post and help defense, and his weight. Of course, his size is a major asset, although shedding a few pounds will help him to increase his stamina and reduce the stress that he’ll have to deal with on his knees and ankles.

The next question is whether or not the Clippers will be able to sign him.

To give an example of his projected position in the 2015 NBA draft, three separate mocks by CBSSports predict that he’ll go undrafted. And seeing as it’s unlikely that the Clippers will be able to trade for anything more than a second round pick, the fact that Smith could well go undrafted makes him a very noteworthy secondary option if L.A. can’t find anyone in free agency.

So, with his combination of physicality and efficiency that the Clippers’ bench lacks, he could develop into a young big man that can offer more as a backup than either Davis or Hawes.

If L.A. fail to enter the draft, Joshua Smith is definitely worth some attention.

Next: Clippers offseason targets: PF Tyler Hansbrough