Former Clippers Josh Smith is heading back to Houston in an attempt to save $2 million in luxury taxes. Smith’s time with the Clippers was pretty horrendous, but can he reclaim some magic with the Rockets? Our friends at Point After figured out Smith’s stats during his Clippers residency.
Per Wojnarowski’s report, the Clippers will also send the draft rights to Sergei Lishouk and $460,000 cash (which will cover the remaining money owed on Smith’s $1.4 million minimum salary) to Houston. In return, the Clippers will reportedly receive the rights to Maarty Leunen. As Wojnarowski writes, “Neither player is expected to play in the NBA.”
Make no mistake, this is a cut-and-dry salary shave. LA will save about $2 million in luxury taxes by shipping Smith out of town.
It’s also an attempt at addition by subtraction.
Smith fit like a square-shaped peg in a round hole from day one with the Clips. Among the team’s top seven lineups in terms of net points per 100 possessions this season, Smith was not a cog in any of them, according to Basketball Reference. Additionally, LAC’s offense played like a wounded animal when Smith was out on the court.
The Clippers scored a paltry 90.9 points per 100 possessions when Smith played. When he went to the bench, their offensive rating skyrocketed to 113 — an alarming difference of more than 22 points per 100 possessions.
The man otherwise known as J-Smoove gained a reputation for being a solid defensive player, but he was only a slight net positive on that end. Of course, when you account for how grisly the offense was with Smith, it’s a wash anyway.
Smith has never been a good shooter in his career, but his marks of 38.3 percent from the field, 31 percent from beyond the arc and 59.5 percent from the free throw line with the Clips were all egregiously poor.
The 6-foot-9 forward can be an asset when attacking the rim and scoring inside, but he often is too overzealous launching jump shots (which is not his strength). With the Clippers, Smith didn’t even score at a league-average clip inside the restricted area.
Doc Rivers’ decision to bring Smith aboard last summer failed miserably to move the needle. The Clippers desperately needed bench depth behind the starting core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but Smith’s poor shooting was ultimately part of a bench unit that shot 40.7 percent from the field, according to HoopsStats. Only the second unit for the Los Angeles Lakers (40.3 percent) and Detroit Pistons (39 percent) were worse through Jan. 21.
So, why would the Rockets want to acquire the sputtering swingman? Well, aside from the fact that they essentially added him for free, Smith actually played a significant role for Houston when it rallied past the Clippers to advance to the Western Conference Finals a year ago.
In fact, when facing a second consecutive elimination game in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Smith was the catalyst who saved Houston’s season. In the fourth quarter alone, Smith scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting (3-of-4 from long distance) — helping to erase a 92-79 deficit heading into the final period.
It was an odd series of events, as former Rockets head coach Kevin McHale kept an ice-cold James Harden glued to the bench in favor of a grittier, more defensive-minded lineup. That group (thanks to Smith) got it done, and Houston went on to dispatch the Clippers in seven games.
While Smith’s statistics were grotesque during his brief and ill-fated stint with the Clips, there’s a chance he’ll be an asset back with a more familiar role in H-Town. If not, it’s not as if Rockets GM Daryl Morey gave up anything of value to bring Smith back.