Clippers “still having conversations” with Rockets’ Josh Smith


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

We know that the Los Angeles Clippers have been interested in power forward Josh Smith for a while now this offseason, but due to their recent mutual interest with Darrell Arthur and reported offer to Chris Copeland, their focus on pursuing Smith hasn’t been quite as obvious. Of course they need to keep their options open with other players, yet due to his superior athleticism and two-way ability, the Houston Rockets’ power forward is the best player available for them.

However, a new update from Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times has highlighted that the Clippers are still actively going after Smith.

Yesterday, Sportando reported that the Clippers have offered a guaranteed contract to Chris Copeland. But he’s not exactly the best player to remedy their lacking depth. Other than his 40+ percent three point shooting from his first two seasons in the league that can help space the floor for DeAndre Jordan (as Copeland can be used at power forward), he has little to offer.

Darrell Arthur, meanwhile, was more efficient than perennial All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge from mid range this year. Believe it or not, it’s true. He shot 43.4 percent from 10-16 feet out and 43.1 percent from 16 feet to the three point line (both higher marks than Aldridge). On top of that, he’s more capable defensively than Copeland — both inside and on the perimeter.

Regardless of what Copeland and Arthur have to offer, though, Josh Smith is who the Clippers need to focus their limited cap space on.

Here’s a short extract from my column yesterday, looking at why L.A. (who ranked 15th in defensive efficiency this year) need Smith:

"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."

In addition to his defense, his shooting efficiency in Houston also improved from his poor showing with the Detroit Pistons (his field goal percentage increased by 4 percent, whilst his three point percentage shot up by 9 percent).

His improving form and two-way ability make him a perfect option to back-up Blake Griffin. He can play at both the 3 and 4, and can certainly make more of a difference than Glen Davis. Although, after Big Baby recorded a +/- of -14.8 this year, that isn’t exactly hard to do.

May 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) looks to shoot as Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) defends during the game in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the signing of former New York Knick Cole Aldrich, the Clippers already have their new center to support Jordan. Even if it’s only for 10-12 minutes per game, Aldrich’s per 36 minutes averages of 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks can help make a real difference. His rebounding and interior defensive presence are what the Clippers need in short bursts, and he can be a welcome addition to replace the recently departed Spencer Hawes.

And after Turner’s update that the Clippers are still having conversations with Smith, their continued interest in him is encouraging. Although, the fact he’s talking with other teams as well means Doc Rivers still has some persuading to do.

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When it comes to their backup power forward, Josh Smith is the ideal target. However, the problem the Clippers may have to deal with is the issue of his salary. After the $14 million deal he grew accustomed to with the Pistons, Smith may not want to sign in L.A. on a minimum deal. If that is the case, don’t worry too much, though. Arthur is still a talented forward who can add some much needed frontcourt depth.

That being said, if Smith accepts the fact he doesn’t need to try and be a star player anymore, and wants to play a vital second unit role on a team with a genuine shot at a championship, he’d be wise to sign with this revamped Clippers’ squad.

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