Houston Rockets Player Profile: In Search Of A 15th Man

By John Bauer
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Oct 15, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) controls a rebound above Houston Rockets center Joshua Smith (42) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Center

Joshua Smith

Center:  6′-10″,  360 pounds

Joshua Smith, not to be confused with former Rocket Josh Smith, has the most accolades, as well as potential, of the 5 players vying for that coveted 15th spot on the Rockets. In high school Smith was widely considered one of the top centers in the nation by many recruiting sites. ESPN Rise even ranked him #1 among his peers.

After several offers from top schools in the country, Smith couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play for UCLA and their storied tradition. Smith made good on his commitment to UCLA early on by earning All-Freshman Pac-12 honors. He averaged 10.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game that season in 33 games.

As did a lot of other players under the Ben Howland regime, Smith quit the basketball team at UCLA, after just six games in 2012. Smith decided to transfer to Georgetown for the 2013-14 season.

After a rocky 1st season at Georgetown marred with weight problems and academic issues, things didn’t look bright for the once highly touted McDonald’s All American. He finally started to turn the page in 2014-15 as he finished second on the team in scoring and in rebounding.

After teams passed on Smith in the 2015 NBA draft with the trend toward more athletic bigs who can play small ball, Smith earned an invite to Las Vegas for the summer league with the Heat. Smith averaged 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. His production was plenty for the Houston Rockets to offer Smith a training camp invite.

Chances to make the Rockets

Smith has been given plenty of playing time and opportunity to showcase himself this preseason with Houston. Given Dwight Howard’s health concerns, Donatas Motiejunas still out recovering from surgery and Clint Capela showing potential ,but raw it appears McHale is set on adding a center (if anyone) to the roster.

The Rockets have played Smith in 5 games this preseason in which Smith is averaging 7.4 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game and, most importantly, 18.0 minutes a game.

The main issue regarding Smith through preseason has been his ability to remain on the court as he compiles personal fouls quickly and in bunches.

Despite that Smith has demonstrated solid defensive ability in blocking out the opposition and grabbing boards.

On the offensive end his size has allowed him to grab copious offensive boards for put backs and has demonstrated quick hands and feet.

Smith has soft hands and decent passing skills as well and most remarkable is his deft movement for his size.

It seems the Rockets want to see if Smith can hold up for stretches of time in case someone like Howard is shelved by injury. As long as Smith continues to improve and keep his weight in check, he is the front-runner to land that coveted 15th spot.

Next: Who Will It Be?