Josh Smith to play some center? It might happen, according to Doc


From the look of things, Doc Rivers doesn’t mind blatantly attempting to copy a portion of the on-court formula that helped catapult the Golden State Warriors to championship status. The first sign? Acquiring players in the off-season who could defend and play multiple positions — Doc hopes Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith can do some of what Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston gave Steve Kerr off the bench. The second? Playing Josh Smith at some center a la Draymond Green, as revealed by Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

"The whole goal was we needed multiple positions,” Rivers said. “I wanted the second unit to be guard-less, meaning Austin isn’t a point guard, Lance isn’t a point guard, Jamal’s not a point guard. But all of them can dribble. Josh can dribble. That was our goal. We wanted four (guys). If we could somehow come up with five in the second unit where they literally could all bring the ball up, the versatility they create for that unit … We can play a unit of Josh and Paul at four and five and Lance, Jamal and Austin."

When the Clippers signed Smith, Rivers cited he spoke with Smith about a specified role, increasing the forwards interest in the team going forward — this may be the role that was spoken of.

The change of playing ‘smaller’ players at center won’t be a permanent one as adjustments to the adjustment becomes the typical norm until a head coach finds the equalizer to nullify a change. But for now, it’s the wave and not many player better fit the role than Josh Smith, and Rivers will be smart to try it out.

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  • Some stats to consider when thinking on Smith at center.

    According to Nylon Calculus’ latest position estimate, Josh Smith played 12.1% of his minutes with the Houston Rockets at center, which makes sense with Terrance Jones starting and the Rockets missing Donatas Motiejunas for a long portion of the season following Smith’s arrival.

    Citing, Smith posted a PER of 18.4 per-48 minutes when playing the center position.

    Citing SportsVU, in 6.8 attempts per game Smith forced opponents to shoot 46.7% at the rim.

    In 500 minutes of Smith on the floor without one of Howard, Motiejunas, or Jones aside him, the Rockets allowed opponents to score 1.037 points per possession, per NBA Wowy.

    If you’re unaware of what any of the above statistics mean, they’re mostly positive, with the PPP mention the being the lone negative, though with a natural small/power forward at center the opposing team is expected to see an uptick in scoring.

    Regardless, there’s potential, including an attempt to feature all role players in a role without causing frustration on the bench, namely Jamal Crawford, whose moral coming into the regular season may already be on edge after numerous trade rumors over the summer. In last years reserve lineup, only Rivers and Crawford were capable of creating off the dribble; as Rivers describes — if not in the ‘graf above, throughout Woike’s entire article — all five man on the floor in the potential bench lineup (Rivers-Crawford-Stephenson-Pierce-Smith) are a threat in some way with the ball, adding the dynamic sought when viewing Warriors games.

    If the Smith-at-center experiment fails and all five ball-handlers are unable to mesh with each other, Rivers can resort to a five-man unit that can push Smith back to power forward by inserting Cole Aldrich — or Chuck Hayes/Nikoloz Tskitishvili, two training camp invites — as the backup center, and instead relying on Smith at center in very small doses, and further choose who will be the odd man out in the backcourt.

    Due to the varying ceilings and floors of the new-look bench unit, no one truly knows how the Clippers’ reserves will pan out. In some scenarios, the group projects to do well; in others, the opposite.

    Next: Why benching Paul Pierce makes sense for the Clippers