Apr 18, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets Year End Review: Josh Smith – The Redemption
In retrospect the two phrases used most often to describe the Houston Rockets 2014-2015 season are “Over Achieved” and “Overcoming Adversity“. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how the Rockets lost the second most man games due to injury which is why their success was considered surprising. Reflecting back there was the early success of the team spearheaded by MVP candidate James Harden and Mr. Consistency: Trevor Ariza. Yet, arguably the player who pushed the team over the top and repeatedly filled in for fallen comrades was Josh Smith.
His season more than any other Rocket centered on adversity off the court as he was maligned and scape-goated as the reason for all of Detroit’s troubles. Imagine the humiliation of being waived, and further a team eating $25 million to do so. The message that sent the league was Smith was a malcontent, a locker room cancer and a player who is more detrimental than positive on a roster.
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Let’s not forget though that Smith was forced into a role of playing small forward in a system not suited to his talents.
I’ve debated with the Bboyz why Smith never fit in as a Piston given Andre Drummond is a similar player to Dwight Howard.
The difference is Smith is playing power forward with Howard not small forward. In addition, the Piston’s offense is very different from the Rockets and the tandem of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe focused on interior scoring.
To wit, it’s interesting Stan Van Gundy acquired Ersan Ilyasova this past week which may signal the writing on the wall for Greg Monroe’s exit from Detroit. SVG appears to want a similar team for Drummond to the one he had in Orlando with Howard. That would mean a 3-point specialist heavy team with an agile power forward capable of passing. Ironically Ilyasova is a power forward similar to Smith (and Hedo Turkoglu at his best) who can handle the ball and hit the outside shot.
It begs the question, was SVG forced into trying to make the Monroe-Drummond experiment work? Has he decided to let Monroe walk and returned to his original preference of a mobile power forward with range and intangibles (like Smith)? It certainly appears like that’s the case and once free agency opens July 8th we’ll discover the answer.
In the interim, while Josh Smith may have started his season as arguably the most maligned player in the NBA he finished it proving himself to be reliable and yes even clutch when it mattered most.
As I look back at Josh Smith’s time with the Rockets the overwhelming question is whether GM Daryl Morey will re-sign him this summer. Certainly the one position there is a glut of talent would be power forward where the Rockets have 3 starting caliber power forwards. With that in mind I chose to look at Smith’s year review as a case study for whether he has made himself indispensable in his short time as a Rocket.
Next: Year End Stats