Whether the Detroit Pistons made the right choice by releasing Josh Smith in the middle of the season doesn’t matter to him because there are three teams and maybe more chasing his talents: The Miami Heat, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks in the forefront while the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers are also trying to get in on this deal.
The Pistons release Smith – not buy him out, with two more years and more than $28 million left on his deal. While Smith can afford to take a minimum contract from anyone that approaches him, teams are trying to use their trade exceptions to make him a little bit happier. The question might be if any of them are willing to give him a contract for more than one year. The demand for Smith despite the way he has been tossed by the Pistons might give him some leverage.
Is it easy to understand why Stan Van Gundy simply released Smith? Rumors over the summer suggested the Kings were willing to make a trade for Smith, for some unknown reason. For another unknown reason – maybe bad deals offered in return or the belief that he can turn Smith back into a productive, more efficient player, Stan Van Gundy refused, kept Smith on and doomed the Pistons to a 5-23 start, which even in the East means it’s close to impossible to make the playoffs.
Smith averaged 13.1 points with 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, but he’s shooting just 39.1% from the field, his per minute numbers are at a career low and the Pistons are simply terrible when he’s on the floor, with a net rating of almost -14 during his 32.1 minutes per game. For a player making $14 million a season, that’s impossible to ignore if you’re the head coach and general manager. Weirdly, Smith wasn’t benched this season. We’ll probably find out more soon about things that happened behind the scenes.
Despite all of that, Smith will have no problem finding a team. Right now the Houston Rockets, and not just because of the Dwight Howard friendship connection, seem to be leading the way in order to sign Smith. If you might remember, part of the grandiose, three-star plan for the Rockets when they acquired Howard was adding Smith once he becomes available. That didn’t work out, but things sometimes sort themselves out.
The Rockets can offer smith, via their biannual exception, $2.1 million for this season. They need a power forward or someone who can fill in some big man minutes since Terrence Jones is still out with no hint of when he’s coming back. Donatas Motiejunas has been doing a good job in the lineup, but Smith, a motivated version of him, can add them a defensive dimension that some of their units lack, not to mention what he can form together with Dwight Howard.
The Miami Heat have just lost Josh McRoberts for the entire season. If they can get the disabled player exception from the league, they’ll be able to offer Smith $2.6 million and get someone to somewhat help them bounce up from a very rough stretch, as it turns out the team built in the wreckage of LeBron James leaving them isn’t good enough to do too well, not even in the diluted Eastern conference.
The Dallas Mavericks are another strong suitor. They don’t have any exceptions to give and probably not a place in the lineup for Smith, which could deter him if minutes and pride is what he’s looking for. However, the angle of being a team that’s looking to win something has been highlighted by their trade for Rajon Rondo. Even more, just like the friendship with Howard, Smith is a very good friend with Rondo, adding another interesting angle to this bid.
The Sacramento Kings have been going after Smith for some time, but now they can sign him for free and find someone else to play next to Cousins, while Jason Thompson continues to fill and waste minutes at an alarming rate. The Los Angeles Clippers, another so-called contender that hasn’t been doing as well as expected this season, are simply in the business of adding any available useful player to their very long bench. How lucrative that is for Smith remains to be seen.