Who should the Clippers sign? Josh Smith vs. Darrell Arthur


Feb 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) reacts after scoring during the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center. The Trail Blazers defeated the Rockets 109-98. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Jordan may be back, but the Los Angeles Clippers’ frontcourt is by no means perfect. Two potential free agent targets that have their interest are power forwards Josh Smith and Darrell Arthur, both of whom could make a difference. The Clippers may already have a new backup center in the form of Cole Aldrich, yet another big to support Blake Griffin could go a long way in making their bench fit for the playoffs.

As it stands, the Clippers’ primary backup big men are Glen Davis, Aldrich, and rookie Branden Dawson (if his range on offense improves and his defense is enough to earn him some valuable minutes). So, if they look to make another signing to bolster their frontcourt, who should they go after?

Darrell Arthur or Josh Smith?

Firstly, we need to address what the Clippers need most from another backup big. After ranking only 15th in defensive efficiency and 16th in rebounding rate, they need some help in both those departments. Dawson led the Big Ten Conference in rebounds per game with 9.1 this year and Aldrich averaged 12.5 boards per 36 minutes this season, so the Clippers have added some toughness on the glass. But seeing as Dawson’s minutes will be very limited for now until he proves himself in the NBA, and Aldrich will be limited to playing at center, they need another power forward to serve as a better option (and defender) over Big Baby.

Because after averaging only 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per 36 minutes this season, and recording a shocking +/- of -14.8, the Clippers could really benefit from a power forward who doesn’t destroy leads like Glen Davis.

With that in mind, what could Darrell Arthur bring to the table?

Mar 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur (00) during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

One initial advantage that could allow the Clippers to sign Arthur over Smith is that he could be signed on a minimum deal. The Rockets’ forward did make a mere $2.07 million for his brief stint in Houston this season, but previously with the Detroit Pistons he was on a $14 million contract.

If Smith accepts the fact he can’t be a three point shooting, go-to offensive player, though, and wants to instead sign where he has a shot at a championship, he should (ideally) be willing to accept a minimum deal with the Clippers.

Similarly to Smith, Arthur also possesses the kind of versatility that allows him to play multiple positions. This year, he spent 1 percent of his playing at shooting guard, 8 percent at small forward, 78 percent at power forward and 13 percent at center. Obviously the minutes at shooting guard hardly count, but Arthur is by no means restricted to just playing the 4.

It may be where he’s most comfortable, but if the Clippers want a big lineup they could bring in Arthur to play at small forward alongside Griffin and Jordan. Equally, they can move Griffin to center when Jordan is on the bench and play Arthur at the 4, and adopt a small-ball lineup.

He averaged 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes this year, and whilst those may not be the best numbers of his career, his offensive output may well increase if he plays with a superstar like Chris Paul.

No offense to the Nuggets’ Ty Lawson, but he’s no CP3.

The best part of Arthur’s offensive game is his mid range shooting. This year, he made 43.4 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet out and 43.1 percent from 16 feet to the three point line. To put that into context, the prolific scoring power forward that is LaMarcus Aldridge shot worse than Arthur from both those distances this season.

With that kind of ability to stretch the floor, even if it’s in small bursts, Arthur could really help Jordan if they’re put on the court together. Arthur’s shot deserves enough respect to draw a big man away from the basket, leaving more space inside for Jordan to reek havoc on the boards. And with an elite point guard to run the pick-and-pop with such as Paul, Arthur should find a lot of success from mid range with the Clippers.

His defensive impact is his main weakness, as he lacks the size to excel as a post-defender, although he makes up for that somewhat with his speed to guard smaller players near the perimeter. When he plays with tenacity, though, he can make a real difference at both ends of the floor and provide energy in transition. Far more so than Big Baby can, at least.

It’s the reason why the offensive rating of Nuggets’ opponents dropped by 9.6 points when Arthur was on the floor. Yet, whilst that may be impressive, he’ll need to play at power forward and be partnered with either Jordan or Aldrich at center for the Clippers to have enough interior presence against opposing bigs.

May 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) drives to the basket as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) defends during the first half in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to Josh Smith, he’s separated from Arthur for two key reasons: athleticism and defense. He may not have displayed his talent recently with the same kind of emphasis that he did during his days in Atlanta, but he’s still a key play maker when he isn’t required to be a star like he was with the Pistons.

His ridiculous tendency to hoist up three pointers in Detroit made Smith look like a bad shooting guard trapped in a power forward’s body, yet that changed with the Rockets.

In Houston, Smith shot 33 percent from beyond the arc (the second best mark of his career) and made 1.1 threes a game (a career high). From inside the arc, he also stepped up his game, making 38 percent of his shots from 3-10 feet and 38.5 percent from 10-16 feet. Those aren’t excellent numbers, but they’re solid enough considering the other ways that he can contribute to the Clippers.

His dunks in transition with CP3 alone will make Lob City even more entertaining.

We also saw Smith effortlessly connect on lobs to Dwight Howard this year. So, if he’s playing with both Griffin and Jordan, his passing inside could help launch countless aerial attacks.

On the defensive end, Smith can be just as ferocious. He held opponents to just 46.2 percent finishing at the rim while in Houston, and even put on a stellar performance from further out. When defending players from within six feet, Smith limited them to a field goal percentage of -9.4 less than their season average. And when edging out to within 10 feet, Smith forced opponents to shoot -8.6 percent worse than their season average.

Add on his 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes, and it’s clear Smith can be a defensive factor all over the floor.

With the Rockets, Smith raised their offensive rating by 3.3 when he was in the game, whilst also lowering the offensive rating of their opponents by an average of 3.3. As a result, the Rockets’ net rating without Smith (+1.2) increased to +7.8 with him on the floor.

Essentially, when he’s in a good situation with the right team in a role that isn’t too much for him, Josh Smith is still a valuable player at both ends of the floor. Regardless of his turbulent reputation in the NBA.

Just ask the Clippers about his 14 point fourth quarter against them in game six of the Western Conference semi finals.

May 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) reacts after making a basket during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimately, the likelihood of this happening comes down to whether or not they have enough cap space to offer him a contract he’s happy with. If the Clippers carry out the rumored trade of Jamal Crawford for Brendan Haywood of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they could potentially create over $10 million in cap space (by waiving Haywood after the trade to clear his $10.5 million salary).

If that happens, L.A. are in a great position to entice Smith to join them. Otherwise, they’ll need him to take a lower salary in order to join their talent for a shot at a title. Although, even if they can’t sign him, Darrell Arthur is still a talented and viable plan-B.

Let’s put finance aside for a moment, though. Because Smith offers athleticism, defense at the rim and on the perimeter, versatility and improved shooting. He’s a diverse, dynamic player that’s rediscovering his form. That’s why the Clippers should go after him.

Josh Smith could be the perfect two-way energizer to support Griffin and Jordan off the bench, and more to the point, he’d give L.A. the frontcourt depth to pose an even greater threat in the playoffs.

Next: NBA Trade Rumor: Jamal Crawford is still available