The Detroit Pistons are going nowhere, so they dumped Josh Smith. Now, he gets to reunite with his former AAU teammate Dwight Howard in Houston. They are going somewhere and this move should only help them.
Because, plain and simple, Smith is a good guy to have as a contributor on a good team and a bad guy to be paying big bucks to play for a bad team. A really bad team. Try 5-23 bad.
The only reason they aren't a shoe-in for the top pick in next year's NBA Draft is because the Philadelphia 76ers (4-23) and N.Y. Knicks (5-25) are extremely bad themselves.
What went wrong in Detroit?
Smith scored, for sure, averaging 15.5 points, 6.9 boards and 3.7 assists over his time in Detroit. But he was also making big-time money while shooting way too many bad shots and making 41 percent of them (a dismal 24 percent from 3-point range).
"I thought it was best for him and I thought it was best for us," Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press. "I didn't make a decision that Josh couldn't help us, that wasn't the decision at all."
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What would have happened?
Well, it was going to get uglier if he had stayed in Detroit. They tried to trade Smith, but there weren't any takers. In fact, the Free Press reported they would have traded away a first-round pick for the Sacramento Kings to take him.
That, with Detroit playing so poorly, was a deal-breaker. Because that pick will be important as Detroit tries to rebuild.
Smith was getting in the way of the younger players on Detroit getting opportunities and developing. He was taking the ball and taking errant shots. Van Gundy needed to rid the team of that.
"We would have had to reduce his role offensively," Van Gundy said. "I don't think he would have been happy about that at this point in his career. I don't think it would have been necessarily fair to him but I think it's something we needed to do to move on."
The problem is all that Detroit still has to pay Smith.
The Free Press explained the situation financially, and how the new CBA chanced how it can be added to the salary cap.
"The Pistons will pay him the remainder of his $13.5 million owed this season, but can stretch the remaining $27 million over the next five seasons, a cap hit of $5.4 million until the 2019-20 season – although that will likely be offset some when Smith signs his next contract this summer. The better Smith performs, the bigger the contract he signs, the less of a cap hit the Pistons take."
What's different in Houston?
The big difference is that James Harden and Howard are clearly the stars. Smith doesn't have to be that, just a contributor.
He'll have to adjust his game accordingly, take shots within the offense instead of forcing them, and become a positive contributor.
"It's an exciting time for me," Smith said to Houston's FOX26 Sports. "Being able to be reunited with a good friend and one of the best teammates I ever played with, I think we can definitely do something special.
"Playing beside the best two-guard in the game right now in James Harden, what more can you ask for?"