COMMENTARY | The Dallas Mavericks have an abundance of salary cap space heading into this offseason and pure logic would suggest that they will be one of the more active players in both the free agent and trade markets this summer. And while there are only two viable franchise centerpieces on the market via unrestricted free agency in Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the Mavericks will certainly look at a bevy of other free agent options.
Many Dallas fans are clamoring for the Mavericks front office to give a long and hard look at unrestricted free agent Josh Smith.
Josh Smith, Forward
6'9'', 225 LBS
27 years old
8 years experience
2013 PER, EFF/40: 17.92, 22.4
Status: Unrestricted free agent, Atlanta
Cap hold: 2013 Max salaryThe 27-year old former 17th overall selection has an abundance of physical gifts as well as being a solid scorer, still has never been an All-Star and has always been considered the second best player on an underachieving team in Atlanta.
The speculation out of the ATL is that Smith and his agent will be looking for the league max, or perhaps sign a one year deal to go for the 10-year max next summer. Thus the $70 plus million question that remains for any suitor, including Atlanta, is whether or not Josh Smith (who's entering the probable apex of his career), is worthy of a superstar contract?
Since his 2010 campaign, where it appeared to be a safe prognostication that Smith would blossom into a bona fide star, he simply hasn't been able to make the leap. There isn't any question about Smith's pure natural gifts, ability to finish in transition, or his ability to stuff the stat sheet. Still, as teams continue to transition to more metric based evaluations, the bubble may have popped on super athletic wingmen who don't have one discernable elite skill.
In 2013 Smith's OFFRtg (99) was the worst of his career. And while his per 40-minute numbers are solid (specifically his points), he's coming off two seasons where most of his metrics regressed.
Smith's PER (17.92) ranked 18th for all forwards who played 30 or more minutes a game in 2013. His EFF/40 (22.4) ranked ninth with players such as Thaddeus Young, Paul Millsap, and Ryan Anderson finishing ahead of him. Perhaps the biggest hindrance to his game is that despite being a horrid long-range shooter, Smith keeps jacking them up with alacrity.
According to NBA.com's database, Smith has been submarining his eFG% from 16 feet and beyond, to a mediocre .384 percent. Thus that groan you hear on T.V. from the Atlanta faithful as Smith hoists up a deep jumper is well understood. Coupled with the fact that he's a sub-60 percent free throw shooter, you're looking at a player who you can't completely trust in crunch time, because he becomes a liability at the charity stripe.
The three good numbers for Smith are his age (he'll turn 28 in December), his USG (26.78, which ranked sixth last season amongst top tier forwards), his effectiveness distributing the ball (over four dimes a game), and finally his ability to protect the rim from the weak-side in help situations. He also could be a classic change of scenery candidate, having been stuck on a mediocre franchise since his rookie season. And did I mention he's only 27--the effective prime of most NBA players.
The other reality is that Smith really might be an off-the-ball combo forward, as apposed to legit a stretch 4. While playing the 3 last season he held opponents to a PER of 8.9, and posted more efficient shooting numbers as opposed to when he was at the 4. When he puts his head down and attacks the basket Smith is great. When he's in the open court he's great. When he moves off ball he's great. Defensively he's solid, but where he simply doesn't fit--on paper at least--is in the fact that Josh simply hasn't grasped the value of an offensive possession.
As NBA teams become shrewder on the idea of not overpaying wing players Josh Smith might be considered the bridesmaid of this year's free agency class, thus pricing himself into a deal closer to the $8-11M range as apposed to the max-deal he and his camp are sniffing around for. And while Smith has solid playoff numbers his overall production still indicates that he's most likely a complimentary piece, as apposed to the cornerstone of a perennial championship contender. Therefore, even taking Shawn Marion's contract situation aside, the reality is Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson don't need to overpay for a player with Smith's numbers just to make a splash in the market.
Stats compiled by NBA.com, ESPN.com, and Basketball Reference.com
Dave Jacober resides in New York City and has written extensively about the NBA for seven years. He covers the Dallas Mavericks and has been published by, USAToday, SI.com, and is a frequent guest on Huffpostlive.
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