Top 50 NBA Players: #26 Josh Smith

Josh Smith
Resume: 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists (career best), 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks (9th in league), 35.3 minutes, 47% FG, and 52% FT… Team record in games played: 40-36 (4-2 without)… Playoffs: 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals (career best), 33.2 minutes, 43% FG, 53% FT, 2-4 record

I know it would defeat the purpose of this whole list, but I really wish I could wait until the season is in full swing to write Josh Smith’s section. This isn’t so much because this is going to be a make or break year for J-Smoove (at this point, we know what Josh Smith is); it’s more so because I have no freaking idea what the Detroit Pistons are going to look like this year, and that hinders my ability to project how highly Smith should be ranked. Remember, two parts of the criteria are a players role—the importance of that role and how well they fit that role—and team success. At this point in time, I can’t give you those answers.

Apr 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) reacts after he scored late in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

For all we know, Smith and the Pistons could end up being a relationship from hell; one that will ride out until Smith is out of his prime and the Pistons are left regretful for signing a Smith to a four year, $54 million contract. Smith could easily be the catalyst of a very bloody murder of any and all spacing the Pistons already lacked. The Drummond/Monroe/Smith trio remains a mystery for another month or so, and it’s a definite possibility that it could be a Pelham 123 style train wreck. Hawks fans and their audible gasps will tell you that anytime Josh Smith shoots outside of the paint, it’s a roller coaster. In case you never heard them, check out Smith’s shooting percentages from last year:

Less than 8 feet in: 63%
8 to 16 feet: 23%
16 to 24 feet: 32%
24+ feet: 31%

Monroe still has some work to do outside of the paint and Andre Drummond should never ever be allowed to shoot except for dunks and layups, and I’m including free throws when I say this. So how do three players who need to score in the paint find the space to score in said paint? Geometrically, it seems like a difficult proposition. You can only fit so many adult males inside of that area, and all three of them trying to create shots there seems like a clutter.

Time to play devils advocate: Perhaps the Smith signing turns the Pistons into the not quite as good defensively Grizzlies of the Eastern Conference. Think about it: An inside-out approach that sacrifices shooting for size and rebounding. Plus each team has three lefties in the starting five (Jennings, Smith and Monroe for Detroit; Conley, Prince and Randolph for Memphis). Detroit may be able to pound teams into submission, dominate the glass and completely shut off the paint for every other team. And Smith might be able to exploit smaller small forwards in the post. These are the things I don’t know about Josh Smith and the Pistons, and won’t know until the season starts. But what I do know is he’s one of the best two way players in the league, a double-double threat every night, and he makes enough of an impact that the Pistons are likely a playoff team because of his arrival. If his jump shot improves (which it may after spending some time with Rasheed Wallace) and Detroit figures out how to space the floor while also creating a super-sized identity, they could make some noise.