MANILA, Philippines – The Detroit Pistons waived athletic forward Josh Smith on Monday, December 22 (Tuesday morning in PH), in a move that head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy called “shifting priorities.”
In a statement posted on the Pistons’ website, Van Gundy said, “Our team has not performed the way we had expected throughout the first third of the season and adjustments need to be made in terms of our focus and direction.”
“We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future. As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced.”
Van Gundy did not undermine Smith’s skills. He even lauded them but still made clear that the team is moving in a different direction.
He added, “In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person.”
Smith is averaging 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game in the 2014-2015 NBA season.
The veteran forward spent his first 8 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks where he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team and was the Slam Dunk Contest champion in 2005. In 2010, Smith was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
Smith signed a 4-year, $54-million deal with the Pistons before in the 2013-2014 season, but he never quite fit in with a team that featured two young, up-and-coming big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Smith had to play the small forward spot, which a lot of basketball pundits have argued, is not his best position owing to his poor shooting percentage.
But the forward who was drafted 17th overall in the 2004 NBA draft brings a lot to the table in other departments. He had his best year statistically during the 2011-2012 season where he averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 steals playing primarily in the power forward position.
ESPN.com reported that if Smith clears waivers within the next 48 hours, he will have the right to go elsewhere as a free agent. By waiving Smith before his 4-year deal expired, Detroit has to pay off what is owed to Smith beyond this season, but the team can reduce the yearly hit to the $5-million range over the next few years with the NBA’s stretch provision.
Houston, Dallas, Sacramento in the mix to get Smith’s services
A few teams are already lining up to get the services of the versatile forward. Analysts said the Houston Rockets could be front-runners to land Smith because of his close ties with its All-Star Dwight Howard.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Houston also has financial advantage to sign Smith.
Houston has advantage on most Josh Smith suitors, who only have minimum slots available: Rockets can offer Smith its bi-annual exception.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 22, 2014
Even beyond close friend Dwight Howard, strong belief among Houston's players that they'll convince Josh Smith to sign with Rockets.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 23, 2014
Houston could very well be the ideal landing spot for Smith where he won’t be asked to take on much of the scoring load with All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard as the primary scoring options.
What he will add though is another strong presence on defense which appeared to be the team’s direction this season when they opted to go forward with Patrick Beverley as their starting point guard and signed Trevor Ariza to man the 3-spot.
Dallas, meanwhile, has never been shy in adding talent whenever they can. Smith can be a back-up to either Chandler Parsons or Dirk Nowitzki at either forward spots adding more defense and energy to the team that recently added 4-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
ESPN’s Mark Stein said Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is a huge fan of Josh Smith so look for the Kings to also pursue the forward aggressively.
The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers – both looking to add athleticism and versatility to their forward spots are also looking into acquiring Smith’s services.
Which team do you think should Josh Smith end up in? Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com