Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - We have had 24 hours to absorb the shock.
When the Detroit Pistons released Josh Smith, it was a jaw-dropper, not from a basketball perspective, but from a financial one. Smith has A LOT of money left on his contract and Stan Van Gundy just decided this disaster he inherited wasn't worth the $30-$40 million.
The Smith/Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond trio has been a disaster somewhere ranging between new Coke and the Exxon Valdez. The last Motown trio to do this poorly, the federal government bailed it out.
So, applaud Van Gundy and the Pistons for putting basketball decisions over financial ones. The Pistons are terrible and jettisoning Smith won't move the radar significantly either way. They won't improve and Monroe and Drummond can work on chemistry in the hope that Monroe re-ups this summer.
But, where does Smith land?
Make no mistake, Smith was bad for the Pistons. Smith's offensive numbers have been in decline and he shoots too many 3's, but he can make some from long range. Smith is a stretch four who can still defend a little and, since he's only 29, although a long-tenured 29, he's got years left.
Any future employer needs to know that Smith will be motivated. He's not a locker room cancer, but Smith's enthusiasm has come in question. There are a few factors that might shed some light where Smith might be headed.
First, no team will claim him off waivers. The Philadelphia 76ers are the only squad with the cap room to do it, but with their allergic reaction to veteran talent, Smith doesn't make sense. Nor should the 76ers look at Smith.
It's possible, I guess, that some team like the Sacramento Kings, who have had a serious crush on Smith for over a year and tried to trade for him several times, might claim him. Personally, with the amount of money and two years left on that contract, if a team claims him, that team should have its charter revoked.
So, after Smith clears waivers, where are we at?
The Kings seem like a fringe candidate at best, despite their unfettered yearning. They can't offer more than the minimum and don't have a strong enough roster to contend, assuming title contention is something that interests Smith. The only reason Sacramento makes the list of suitors is because of how badly it wants to be on the list. Does Smith do them a solid for showing that love? Probably not, the NBA is a business, not a high-school courtship.
The Los Angeles Lakers are a team that I thought at first made a lot of sense, however, I'm cooling. Smith is going to be in a position to hand-select his next team, so why does a Lakers' squad strapped for cash because of Kobe Bryant's contract, and absent shot attempts because of Bryant's selection, appeal to Smith?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be attached to any available talent, but Smith doesn't help them. Backup power forward, (and to be clear, Smith is a power forward, no more flirting with this small-forward thing) is actually a position of strength for Cleveland with Tristan Thompson.
Serious candidates only, please.
The Miami Heat are ones, according to reports. Their prize offseason addition, Josh McRoberts, is done for the season. Miami applied for a Disabled Player Exemption, which, presumably, it would use on Smith. If the NBA grants the Heat this exemption, they can offer more than anyone else for Smith's services. Miami is lovely, although warm. Playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh isn't hell and Smith's presence could help. His adequate long-range ability is a plus for the Heat, as is his athleticism in Miami's traps. Are they contenders enough to peak Smith's interest?
The Dallas Mavericks have been mentioned a lot as contenders for Smith's services. One of Smith's closest friends in the world is Rajon Rondo. You may have heard he was recently traded to the Mavericks. Like most in this bidding war, Dallas can only offer the minimum and it would seem like a good fit considering the Mavs traded most of their frontcourt depth. I don't think it is a good fit. The Mavs need true big-man depth. Someone like Jermaine O'Neal is a better match. Dallas can play plenty of guys to back up Dirk Nowitzki as stretch fours like Chandler Parsons, Richard Jefferson and, of course, Charlie Villanueva (no kidding, he went 4-for-6 from long range on Monday). Smith is obviously a better option, but if I was Mark Cuban, I'd buy an island. Sorry, if I was Mark Cuban, I'd try to spend what little money available under the cap on a more pressing need.
That leaves us with our final two.
The Los Angeles Clippers need some frontcourt help badly on the second unit. Spencer Hawes is sidelined with a bruised knee and frankly, he hasn't been any great shakes out there this season. Smith is an upgrade over Glen Davis and pairing him with Hawes off the bench could work as both have solid universal skill sets. However, the Clippers have very little financial wiggle room. Minimum is the maximum offer, but otherwise, LA fits the bill nicely for what Smith should be looking for in a franchise. He'll contend, play in a nice climate and for a well-run, professional organization.
But the Clippers don't offer as much as Smith's next employer.
The Houston Rockets can offer Smith more than the veteran's minimum. The Rockets can give Smith the biannual exception which could net Smith $500,000 more than the minimum. (He will, and has, made a lot of money from Detroit, so is that half a mil worth it?)
If the friendship factor is a pressing issue for Smith, then Houston is in great shape there, too. Smith and Dwight Howard are tighter than some jeans and according to reports, Howard is pressing hard for Smith.
The Rockets have a decent climate and are contenders. That's appealing, plus, Houston has a need for Smith's skill set. The Rockets have been without Terrence Jones for some time and Smith's stretch-ability at the four could be valuable. (Remember how badly Houston wanted Chris Bosh?) Defense is a priority in Houston these days and Smith won't kill them on that front.
Houston makes the most sense. I wanted this to end with a darkhorse candidate swooping in, but the Rockets just make too much sense. You can check off every box and Houston fits best.