With the NBA’s February 20 trade deadline right around the corner, we find ourselves submerged in a medley of rumors, reports, and he said, she said. And while there is a healthy portion of new and improved potential deals, I’ve noticed that one in particular hasn’t been completely swept under the rug and, quite frankly, I’m not sure why. No, the scenario hasn’t officially been reported by anyone in the field but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer on people’s minds. To this day, nearly a year later, a select group of fans and writers alike are still flirting with the idea of Josh Smith joining the Boston Celtics.
After reading an article by SLC Dunk’s Clark Schmutz, I was reminded of the scenario when he proposed that a deal sending Brandon Bass and Jeff Green to Detroit in exchange for Smith was one that "should" happen prior to this year’s deadline. Here’s his rationale for the move:
For Detroit this trade makes a lot of sense. Josh Smith has not worked out as a small forward and the Pistons would trade his remaining 3 years, $40 million for only $25 million worth of contracts and a possible better fit at small forward in Jeff Green. Josh Smith has his issues, but he's a defensive force and would be able to play power forward for the Celtics and be rejoined with his friend, Rajon Rondo. Acquiring Smith would also still allow the talent-poor Celtics to stay on track to add a top 5 pick in the 2014 draft. Smith wouldn't be in the way of any of the top picks other than perhaps Julius Randle. If the Celtics were able to add either Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, either would fit really nicely next to Smith and the Celtics would have pieces to return to defensive prominence. And using the stretch provision on Gerald Wallace this offseason would still maintain enough cap space for the Celts to pursue a second-tier free agent. This trade helps both teams in the short and the long run.
While it’s true that this type of deal would be something very beneficial to the Detroit Pistons, I don’t see how this trade would favor the Celtics at all. Like Detroit, the Celtics have a logjam of their own up front and it doesn’t make much sense to send out a reasonably priced veteran in Bass in order to take on Smith (also a natural power forward), who’s astronomically more expensive than the man he’s being swapped for. Now, instead of just having too many men at the position with an insufficient amount of minutes to go around, the Celtics would also have to deal with Smith’s enormous contract – one he hasn’t exactly lived up to by the way.
Schmutz also states that "if the Celtics were able to add either Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, either would fit really nicely next to Smith." Again, true. But where does that leave Jared Sullinger?
In 2013-14, Sullinger has actually been better than Smith in many key categories, per 36 minutes.
|21 yrs old||28 yrs old|
|17.6 points||16.2 points|
|10.8 rebounds||7.1 rebounds|
|2.2 assists||3.6 assists|
|0.6 steals||1.7 steals|
|0.9 blocks||1.4 blocks|
|.440 FG%||.419 FG%|
|.262 3FG%||.229 3FG%|
Sully has outscored and out rebounded Smith and has also shot the ball at higher clips. The margin between their respective percentages don't seem like much at first glance, but when you take into account that Sullinger is only 21 years old, then you realize he has all the time in the world to continue improving his shot. He will most likely never be a 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc but I have a feeling that before his career's over he'll be in the 34-36% area, which is very respectable for a player of his ilk.
You can go ahead and credit Smith for being a better facilitator than Sullinger but that's to be expected. Smith plays in a point forward role much more than Sully, who essentially never sets up his team's offense. And finally, I willingly tip my cap to Smith for being better in both defensive categories as he has always been an outstanding defender. Plus, he's a lot more athletic than Sullinger, which helps explains the vast differential in blocks. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to age.
At 21 years young, Sullinger just recently secured his first ever Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors and with each passing game it seems like the sky truly is the limit for the big man out of Ohio State. Smith, on the other hand, is already in the midst of his "prime" and likely won't be responsible for anything more than average numbers and stunting Sully's and Kelly Olynyk's growth as players.
In my opinion, once you take a closer look at the numbers and where he's at in his career, you realize that Josh Smith doesn't seem so great after all. In fact, the only positive to be taken away in a hypothetical Smith-to-Boston trade is the fact that he's close friends with Rajon Rondo. Thankfully, Danny Ainge seems to understand that sentimentality doesn't factor into constructing a roster that will compete for championships someday down the road.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.