It’s hard to avoid thinking about an 18-footer clanking against the iron every time one discusses the offensive repertoire of Josh Smith. The former Hawk and current Pistons small forward has a tendency to jack the ball from the perimeter despite his long, 6-9 body and 7-foot wingspan. But with new coach/GM Stan Van Gundy assuring Smith he’ll be around next season, he’s apparently dedicated himself to bulking up this summer in preparation for some time in the paint at power forward.
Smith told NBA.com’s Keith Langlois on Tuesday he had spoken with the new Pistons coach and personnel man, and while SVG didn’t provide specifics, he intimated more time in the paint for Smith, so the small forward decided to hit the weights hard this offseason:
“I’m ready to play whatever position is asked of me, but I’m going to play a lot of (power forward) and that was my main focus on being able to get more in the weight room and put some more muscle on my body to be able to withstand that physicality in the paint. I played that position so much, so long in the league that I know how big you have to be in order to be able, night in and night out, to withstand that impact and that physical nature inside the paint.”
While Smith alludes to more power forward time, the man who currently plays that role for Detroit had a pretty hectic offseason as a restricted free agent. Greg Monroe will come back next season after accepting Detroit’s paltry — at least in comparison to what he might have made had he signed an extension — $5.4 million qualifying offer, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
The uncomfortable part for Smith and Monroe stem from rumors Monroe had given Detroit an ultimatum to deal Smith, despite Smith’s career-low trade value after an unremarkable 2013-14 season. Monroe quickly denied the report, but Smith’s belief he’ll be spending some time at the four has to aggravate Monroe.
The possible rift doesn’t change Smith’s belief he’ll spend more time in the post, even if we’re still smarting from his abysmal start to the 2013-14 season when we begged him to stop shooting three-pointers.
Smith claimed his probable role will involve “Being able to play in the mid-range and attacking. If somebody comes over to help out, I’ll be able to find the open man and I’m very confident that those players are going to knock shots down because they’ve proven it their whole careers.”
If Smith is in the mid-range, nobody is going to come over to help out, they’ll just let him throw up bricks.
Smith averaged a team-high 16.0 shot attempts per game last season, while only connecting on 41.9 percent of them — including a dreadful 26.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Despite such a low percentage from deep, Smith attempted 3.4 three-pointers per game, even though he averaged less than one make a game.
His entire 2013-14 season might be (somewhat unfairly) boiled down to this mid-range fadeaway he attempted in the first quarter against the Mavs:
Still, Smith — who averaged a career-low 3.3 assists per game last season — has the faith of his new coach, even if it’s not exactly warranted following his 2013-14 play.
“He’s not only a very willing passer, but an outstanding passer,” Van Gundy says of Smith. “I think it’s the best part of Josh’s game. Probably the most overlooked part of his game – his ability to create for teammates.”
Smith was equally as enthused with Van Gundy:
“He [Van Gundy] knows what it takes to be successful in this league. It’s a proven fact with his body of work. When you’re able to be a part of a coach like that, you want to buy into his philosophies because you know they’ve worked.”
Whether Smith actually buys into Van Gundy’s philosophy, remains to be seen. After a decade in the NBA, Smith has yet to make an all-star team, but still signed a lucrative 4-year, $54 million contract last summer as a free agent making him the highest paid player on the Pistons. The deal has already cost Maurice Cheeks his spot as the coach and Joe Dumars his place as the general manager, both of which roles Van Gundy inherited.
Smith shot 44.5 percent of his shots from 16-plus feet last season, and less than a quarter of his attempts came within the restricted area. If he’s serious about spending more time getting roughed up in the paint, and spreading the ball around to newly acquired shooters, that’s good news for Pistons fans.
We just wouldn’t hold our breath.
What do you think?
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