Clippers: Doc Rivers looks ready to trade Josh Smith


Now that Josh Smith is getting even less minutes despite Blake Griffin being injured, it looks more likely that the Los Angeles Clippers may be willing to trade him away.

This should be the time for Josh Smith to rise up in the Los Angeles Clippers’ rotation. Blake Griffin is out for at least two weeks, meaning that the position of starting power forward is totally up for grabs. Even when looking past the starting spot, with one less forward, there should only be more opportunity for Smith to get in the game. Yet, over the last week or so, this hasn’t come close to happening for Smith as Doc Rivers continues to favor others.

His arrival in L.A. was an interesting one. As well as being a player who helped eliminate the Clippers at the end of their second round playoff run for the Houston Rockets, Smith is also a player with actual talent who’s struggled to fit in anywhere over the last few years of his career. His time with the Detroit Pistons was a disaster and his career in Houston was extremely short-lived.

Doc hoped that his combination on size, athleticism, ball handling and defense would allow him to operate as a combo-forward and center in a new second unit, small-ball lineup. Yet, the only times it’s come close to working is when opponents are using a small lineup too, as there’s no way Smith is imposing enough to defend the paint against genuine centers.

Instead, he’s had an up and down season with flashes of positivity during his turbulent role. His defense has helped, while his shot selection and decision making has been misguided at times.

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Now, besides the fact his name has been involved in trade rumors already, it doesn’t look like his future with the Clippers is all that promising.

Over the last 10 games, Smith has averaged just 11.8 minutes a night. He’s had three games playing less than 10 minutes and three DNP’s during this time. And over the Clippers’ last two games without Griffin, Smith has played a total of just four minutes and 55 seconds.

To cap it off, Doc chose to start Paul Pierce instead of Smith as the starting power forward on Monday night against the Washington Wizards. The Clippers won 108-91 and Pierce actually did fairly well with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, but to give Smith absolutely no playing time is bizarre.

What could Doc have done to make his rotation even more bizarre? He played Branden Dawson for the first time this season while Smith didn’t even get on the court for a second.

This hardly makes it look like Doc has great plans for Smith’s future. Meanwhile, it adds fuel to the trade fire if he’s already opting to not play him at the time of Griffin’s injury when his minutes should easily be expected to increase, and certainly not decrease.

Dec 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center Josh Smith (5) dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (44) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls defeat the Clippers 83-80. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

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So, what has Smith done to keep his spot with the Clippers? Well, considering the fact he’s had limited chances while others have often taken more minutes at the three and Pierce even replaced him at the four, Smith hasn’t really done too much yet. Besides his playing time being all over the place, his surprising three point shooting, playmaking, lob passes and defense have all come in bursts.

He’s had spells where he chases down opposing players for a high-flying block, and others where his effort wanes and he allows easy baskets.

That being said, with 10 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per 36 minutes, while forcing opponents to shoot 5.6 percent worse than normal (per, Smith’s defensive impact has still been notable. At least, far more than players such as Jamal Crawford and Pierce, who Doc will probably be unwilling to trade due to his loyalty to them (especially Pierce).

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His scoring numbers aren’t exactly exciting for fans, as 14.4 points per 36 minutes (not too bad) with 39 percent shooting isn’t the most reliable production off the bench. Plus, as he still takes too many long twos, often early in the shot clock, his stroke of 31.3 percent from 16 feet is constantly frustrating. Although, as both Crawford and Pierce are still only 31.9 percent and 28.7 percent from three, respectively, they aren’t shooting lights out either.

The real issue is finding a way Smith can fit effectively into certain lineups, where his inconsistent range isn’t such a liability beside other weak shooters and his defense can be maximized and not stretched at center. Although, Doc appears to be giving up on this test right now.

Then there’s the matter of who could the Clippers get in return. Is Smith, even if packaged with someone like Lance Stephenson, really going to draw much interest? The answer to that question has to be no, which makes the idea of dealing Smith even more uncertain if no one valuable can be acquired in return.

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If that is the case and Smith stays put in a minimal role, this will have been yet another bad move by GM Doc Rivers as the Clippers desperately try to get the right bench to support their starters.