Clippers 2015-16 Player Preview: Josh Smith


2014-15 Statistics

12.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, .9 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 2.4 TO, 43.8 FG%, 33.0 3PT%, 15.2 PER.

Last Season

28 games into the season, president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy decided to stretch-and-waive Josh Smith and the nearly $30 million guaranteed remaining on his contract. He simply did not fit into Van Gundy’s system or plans for the future.

To be fair, Smith didn’t exactly help himself out. The 11-year veteran was using possessions at nearly a career-high rate (25.3), while shooting a career-low from the floor (41.7 percent). ESPN’s Stats & Information department summed it up succinctly:

“Smith was on pace to be the first NBA player to shoot below 40 percent on field goals and below 50 percent on free throws while taking at least 12 shots per game.”

However, things began to look up for Smith after signing with the Houston Rockets.

Apr 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA;Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) and Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) celebrate against the Dallas Mavericks in the second half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111 to 99. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Smith joined forces with his good friend and former AAU teammate, Dwight Howard. Howard recruited him to the Rockets, a system he and Daryl Morey thought he could fit well in. Turns out they were correct.

Smith’s field-goal attempts remained relatively the same, but his efficiency increased. Thanks to the Rockets’ spacing, Smith was able to attempt more open shots and became a solid contributor.

According to, 62.5 percent of Smith’s field-goal attempts last season while a member of the Pistons were regarded as tight (2-4 feet) or very tightly guarded (0-2 feet). Nonetheless, with the Rockets that percentage dropped to 54.6.

Thanks to the spacing and gravity from guys like James Harden, Howard, Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry and others, the floor opened up. Smith found more clean looks and was able to connect, especially from behind the arc.

Unfortunately for Clippers fans, Smith terrorized the team in the playoffs and shot 38 percent overall from deep in 17 postseason games.

This Summer

The Clippers were able to convince Smith to leave the success he had with the Rockets, signing a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum worth $1.5 million. Only $947,276 will count against the Clippers’ salary cap, per NBA veteran minimum rules.

2014-15 Highlights

Smith may have had tumultuous season, but there was some good to takeaway. After landing with the Rockets, Smith’s season turned around and his body language and statistics were impacted.

First, I think this is an amazing stat which shows Smith’s versatility.

According to Basketball-Reference, he was the eighth player in league history to play at least 30 games while assisting on at least 20 percent of the baskets when on the floor and blocking at least 3.9 percent of shots attempted.

Overall, the majority of Smith’s highlights came in the playoffs. He needed time during the regular season to acclimate himself with the Rocket’s system, but it paid off. He had moments here and there where he flirted with triple-doubles (Feb. 6 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks and Mar. 27 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves), however Smith saved the best for the playoffs.

During the first round against the Dallas Mavericks, Smith averaged 17.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and shot 51.5 percent from the field while connecting on 9-of-23 from three. In fact, during Game 2 alone, Smith scored 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and nine assists.

Surely, we all remember Smith’s play against the Clippers. He was mostly neutralized by the team’s defense sagging off him and forcing him to shoot mid-range jumpers or attack into a crowd. Because of this, Smith only played 44 minutes combined from Game 2 through Game 4.

Unfortunately, Smith went nuts in Game 6, scoring 19 points, hitting four 3-pointers and getting to the free-throw line eight times.

Finally, although the Rockets came up short against the Golden State Warriors, it wasn’t due to Smith’s play. He averaged 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 blocks and shot 40 percent from three.

Smith eventually found his role in the Rockets system and produced accordingly, something Clippers fans hope will happen this season.

2015-16 Clippers Season Preview

The question everyone wants to know is how will Smith respond to his third team in two seasons? Will he continue to jack up unwarranted threes like he did with the Pistons or turn back into the playmaker he was with the Atlanta Hawks and Rockets?

Fortunately, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers should have complete control over the structure and flow of the offense by using the bench as a motivational tool.

The Clippers are so deep that Rivers can afford to sit guys who are slumping, taking poor shots or just not mixing well with certain lineups. With that said, he also should have a dynamic roster which allows him to put each player in a position to succeed.

Oct 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Josh Smith (right) reacts with center DeAndre Jordan (6) and guard Chris Paul (3) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Smith might see some time at small forward if Pierce is resting or Rivers wants to play big. He likely will see a majority of his minutes as a reserve power forward, but in reality his best position might be backing up DeAndre Jordan.

Imagine the lineup flexibility with Smith at center, flanked by Blake Griffin or Paul Pierce at power forward and a perimeter loaded with talent.

Again, Smith is more than capable of defending small-ball centers with his length and size. However, he can adequately defend the rim by contesting shots or blocking them all together (reference back to his 3.9 block percentage).

According to, Smith held his counterparts to 50.4 percent shooting inside of six feet, a whopping 9.4 percentage points below average.

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While the team does have some depth behind Jordan in Cole Aldrich, Smith should be a viable option. Considering the depth of the Clippers’ guards and wings, he could thrive as a screen-and-roll big or getting out in transition and protecting the rim.

It seems unlikely he will be able to play extended minutes at center all season, but Rivers needs to experiment with his rotations and Smith is the perfect candidate to play multiple front-court positions.

Think of him as the Clippers’ version of a less active Draymond Green. He isn’t going to provide the effort, elite defense and overall efficiency of Green, but he can block shots, be used as a passer in the pinch post and can defend 4’s and 5’s.

Hopefully, Smith buys into the Clippers’ culture and schemes, because he is the type of multi-dimensional forward the team can use to exploit or negate matchups. Oh, but please lay off the 3-point attempts.

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