The 29-year-old Smith will make for quite the captivating fit on the Clippers second unit next season.
After betting the house on Matt Barnes and Hedo Turkoglu to hold down the fort at small forward last year, GM Doc got his wits together this offseason. Now the Clippers have assembled a stacked SF corps of Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson, and Smith, a rotation that can be intrinsically deficient at times but with enough talent and experience on both sides of the ball to complement those deficiencies.
As for Smith, the Clippers pose the perfect low-usage situation for him where he won’t be tasked with shouldering a heavy load like he was in Detroit (a time-tested recipe for disaster) and can instead play to his strengths.
With his seven-foot wingspan, he can defend up to four positions and provide plus weak-side rim protection. Those are sorely needed assets for a Clippers team that posted a below-average 103.0 defensive rating last year on the heels of destitute length on the perimeter and a flat-footed nightmare of a second unit.
Smith will team up with Pierce as a pair of capable small-ball 4s that can switch all pick and rolls and limit Blake Griffin to about 32-34 minutes a night (Griffin logged nearly 3000 minutes, regular season and playoffs last year, and was approaching the point of complete exhaustion by the end thanks to LAC’s lack of depth). Smith could plausibly replicate a portion of Griffin’s impact when the All-Star forward is on the bench thanks to his high-post passing and stellar rebounding totals for a forward. Rivers could even opt to give Smith regular minutes with Griffin and/or DeAndre Jordan. Smith loved to run the 4/5 side pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard last year and will love it even more next season beside the stupidly athletic Clipper frontcourt duo. Oh and not to mention that a pterodactyl like Smoove trailing on the fast-break is perfect Lob City fodder.
However, for everything Smith brings to the table, he takes a lot off it as well, namely in the form of his cataclysmic shot selection.
Hope you’re ready for a healthy dose of long twos and contested threes early in the shot clock, Los Angeles! Turns out that J.J. Redick’s F-minus grade for the Clippers offseason before they got DeAndre back could be used to apply to LAC’s field goal percentage whenever Smith, Stephenson, and Austin Rivers share the floor next season. Efficiency will be in the toilet, and we could be talking about Tony Allen-levels of sagging from Clipper opponents. Even Chris Paul might not be able to save Smoove’s 32.1 catch-and-shoot field goal percentage last year, nor the team’s previously impeccable assist-to-turnover ratio (Smith’s 3.2 turnovers per 36 minutes in 2014-15 by far out-stank that of any Clipper rotation player). So don’t kid yourself with idealistic fantasies: Smith will cause his fair share of headaches in Lob City.
But the good news is that Smith was able to rehabilitate his image and his jumper with Houston last season, especially shooting off the dribble. Doc Rivers has a way of synthesizing the best aspects of his players’ games and cultivating them so we can reasonably expect him to do the same with Smith, provided he keeps the Midrange Shawty on a sensible leash. So don’t expect Josh Smith to move mountains for the Clippers next year, especially since there will undoubtedly be many a call for his exile on Clipper Twitter next season after one too many contested 19-footers. But do expect solid, two-way veteran value and athleticism, particularly on an LAC team placing an emphasis on depth and only paying Smith the veteran’s minimum to do his damage.