The Houston Rockets acquired Josh Smith in late January for virtually nothing, and he has proven to be nothing close to the solution they hoped he might be.
Nothing has gone quite as expected so far this season for the Houston Rockets. Predicted by many to be a contender in the Western Conference, the Rockets have instead been a middling squad, currently seventh in the conference with a 25-25 record.
The Rockets’ chemistry has been off and their effort has been lacking all season, so naturally the go-to move was to reacquire the vaunted Josh Smith, a player who months ago the Rockets deemed unwanted.
On Jan. 22, the Rockets acquired Smith from the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights to 30-year-old Maarty Leunen, currently playing for Sidigas Avellino of the Italian Serie A. The Clippers also will pay the rest of Smith’s 2015-16 salary.
The Rockets have a knack for acquiring assets for essentially nothing, like the acquisition of Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets for spare parts, but these low-cost moves may have utterly torpedoed their hopes for this season.
It’s been well-documented just how Lawson’s season in Houston has gone, and it’s quickly looking like the Smith experiment may be heading the very same direction.
The last few years have been a series of frustrations for Smith and the teams he has played for. The Detroit Pistons signed the mercurial forward in the 2013 offseason, shoe-horning him into an ultra-big frontcourt lineup with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
That experiment went as many predicted, as Monroe and Drummond’s presence in the paint squeezed Smith to the perimeter, causing him to set up shop outside and jack three-pointers at a career-high rate and an efficiency among the worst of all time.
More from Hoops Habit
- 7 Players the Miami Heat might replace Herro with by the trade deadline
- Meet Cooper Flagg: The best American prospect since LeBron James
- Are the Miami Heat laying the groundwork for their next super team?
- Sophomore Jump: 5 second-year NBA players bound to breakout
- NBA Trades: The Lakers bolster their frontcourt in this deal with the Pacers
In Detroit, Smith shot 2.9 three-pointers per game, hitting just 26.2 percent of them.
The Pistons grew weary of him, stretching his contract and releasing him late in December 2014. Rather than letting him waste away on the bench, the Pistons opted to pay him to go away.
The Rockets then signed him to a one-year contract, and he appeared in 55 games for them, helping lead them to a big comeback against the Clippers and a conference finals appearance against the mighty Golden State Warriors.
The Rockets opted to not re-sign Smith, who then signed for the veteran minimum with the Clippers, who then tired of him and traded him to the Rockets, who apparently just can’t quit Smith.
It hasn’t gone well.
As noted by Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and CBSSports.com, the Rockets have struggled mightily on the defensive end with Smith on the floor, even more than they have on the season as a whole. Smith has a defensive rating of 112.9 points per 100 possessions while on the floor, and the Rockets as a team have an identical defensive rating over the six games he’s been with the team.
To put that in stark contrast, the worst defensive rating in the NBA currently belongs to the woeful Los Angeles Lakers, who surrender 108.2 points per 100 possessions, and the Rockets have a defensive rating of 104.3 on the season.
To take it a step further, the best offensive rating in the NBA currently belongs to the Golden State Warriors, a team that scores 113 points per 100 possessions.
In other words, the Rockets with Smith are allowing their opposition on average to score at a rate commensurate with the incredible Warriors.
The Rockets of a year ago made their name on defense and effort, and both of those elements are sorely lacking from the 2015-16 squad.
Maybe it’s too soon to give up on Smith for a second time, but maybe it doesn’t matter. As it stands right now, the best case scenario for this team is to be first round fodder for either the Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.