Monday, August 4, 2008

JOSH SMITH IS WORTH GOING AFTER

In Tim Kawakami's 'Talking Points' Blog, he lays out some compelling reasons as to why the Warriors will not / should not go after Josh Smith. As an ardent believer in the superstar potential of Josh Smith, I attempt to rebut each of his main points of contention.

1. The Warriors are (at least) one excellent player short of sure-fire playoff contention… but I’m not at all sure that Smith is That Player.

In fact, I think the Warriors do not believe he is that player. Smith is only 22 and he does many good things (big-time shot-blocker, decent rebounder, OK passer, can run the floor and finish) but he’s a career 44.5% shooter and that is not exactly your definition of a low-post scorer.


For a young prospect straight out of high school, a career 44% shooting statistic isn't a fair indication of Smith's potential as a shooter. He was a rail thin, inexperienced kid playing against the best basketball players in the world. I'd expect him to shoot mediocre numbers initially. As he continues to develop his post and mid-range game, along with an improved shot selection, his shooting percentage will go up.

Josh Smith's true shooting percentage (takes into account free throws and 3-pointers) is a very respectable 52%. He also shoots an impressive 59% in the post.

Playoff contenders usually have one feared defensive post player, the Warriors currently have none. Smith will continue to bulk up and add muscle as his body matures, allowing him to do a better job against the bigger PF's of the NBA. Although he is only 22, he is already considered one of the best in the game, having finished 6th in Defensive Player of the Year voting. It's only a matter of time before he wins the award. Smith is going to lead the league in blocks some day and right now will continue to make life difficult for the opposition in the post.

Josh Smith's Top 10 Blocks of 2007
From: NBA




2. Smith is probably not worth giving up Wright–whom the Warriors love, remember–and giving away Harrington–whom Mullin loves.

The Warriors believe Wright, who is two years younger, will end up doing many of the same things Smith does now, but more efficiently and definitely more inexpensively (for now).

And as I’ve typed often, Mullin isn’t giving Harrington away, even if Don Nelson would like him to. If Mullin is going to give up Wright and Harrington, he’s going to want someone he’s sure can get him into the playoffs and maybe win him a round.


If the Warriors believe that Harrington and Wright have the qualities that make the Warriors a competitive team, then they should be drooling over the prospects of landing Josh Smith who is essentially a hybrid of the two players.

Wright will never gain enough weight to be able to take and dish out the punishment that Smith can. Wright's frame is what it is and he will essentially mature in the same manner as Joe Smith - a very good role player / solid starter, but not a superstar. Wright gets banged around far too easily, and isn't able to dominate even in a Summer League game. He has never been an outstanding rebounder for his size, even in college and doesn't seem to have the mentality to take it strong to his opponent, but instead would rather finesse it with jump hooks and close range jump shots. He has trouble finishing after slightest of contact and goes to the line at a rate of 5.1 FTA per 48 min. as compared to Josh Smith's 7.8 FTA per 48.

Trading Harrington for Smith wouldn't be like giving him away for nothing. Insert Smith into a core lineup consisting of Ellis, Biedrins, Jackson, Maggette, Azubuike, Turiaf, Randolph, and Williams and you have a playoff team that might not be able to make it out of the 1st round initially, but has the makings of a contender as the young players enter their prime years together. The immediate impact that Smith brings on the team is on the defensive end and on the glass. He will be able to contribute on the offensive end as well, but will only get better as he continues to work on his shooting range.

It seems like whatever Don wants, Don gets (see O'Bryant, Dunleavy, Murphy, Diogu, etc.). If he doesn't like Harrington, Mullin shouldn't have any problems moving him based on his recent history. By the way, does Mullin know Smith's another lefty?

3. Smith’s contract would be huge–possibly larger than the 6-year, $66M deal the Warriors just gave Monta Ellis, and I believe it’s very important to Monta that he’s the highest-paid Warriors player.

VERY IMPORTANT to Monta. I cannot emphasize that one any more than I already have.

The Warriors carefully kept Corey Maggette’s F/A deal and Andris Biedrins’ RFA deal under Ellis’ deal. That was market rate (or in Maggette’s case, slightly above), but it also gave Mullin room to come on top of them both with Ellis’ deal.


Why is it 'VERY IMPORTANT' to Monta that he be the highest paid player on the team? From what I've noticed about the guy from the 3 years playing with the Warriors, he doesn't seem like the egotistical jerk that would demand such a condition. Monta seems like a humble guy that would welcome any player that would increase the Warriors' chances at eventually becoming a contender. He comes from a very poor upbringing and now is blessed with a very generous contract that will pay him $11 million a year for the next 6 years. Just because an up-n-coming superstar like Josh Smith would rightfully command a slightly higher salary doesn't mean that Ellis would instantly transform into a Diva crying foul. I have not heard or read one instance that would suggest otherwise. As for Maggette and Biedrins' deals, they are kept below Monta's contract because they don't deserve to be paid more than Ellis, not because the Warriors feared they would offend Ellis. Maggette is overpaid, but Biedrins is receiving a good deal from the Warriors perspective. Based on Monta's production, upside, and star potential, he should be paid the highest among the three. But if Josh Smith comes in, Smith should at least be paid as much as Monta if not, more. He's younger, has better size for his position as a SF/PF, is bigger box-office draw, has a big impact on defense, rebounds, is an under-rated passer, and has shown improvement on his offensive game.

Monta should welcome the addition of Josh Smith, no matter what it takes to get him into a Warriors uniform. Together, they would make the Warriors the most exciting team in the NBA.

Top 100 Josh Smith dunks
From: mixstealer300



4. Smith’s deal, probably at more than $11M a year, would screw up the Warriors’ finances into the future–and again, they have carefully planned to give themselves room in the future.

We go back to that issue–is Smith That Player? Is he Brand, KG or a Young Baron? No, he’s not that good.

The Warriors are trying to set themselves up to have lots of young talent and have room next season to add one more big salary, if that’s the guy who coalesces everything, the way KG did for Boston and Steve Nash did for Phoenix a few years ago.

I’ll say it again: Josh Smith isn’t that guy, not when they’ve already spent $50M on Maggette, $54M on Biedrins, $17M on Ronny Turiaf and $66M on Ellis.


Josh Smith might not be 'That Player' right now, but he will be in a couple of years. He has all the makings of a star, and put into an up-tempo system he will turn into a superstar. Smith has shown he can dominate a game - even a playoff game vs. the best defensive team in the NBA. HE'S ONLY 22 YEARS OLD!

Josh Smith's 27pts, 9reb vs KG & Celtics Game 3 Playoffs 2008
From: 1EDmanLV



Mullin messed up the Warriors' future finances when he signed Maggette to that 5-Year/$48M deal. Because of the signing, the Warriors won't be able to be big-time players in the Free Agent market unless major sacrifices are made. This is all the more reason why the Warriors should go hard after Smith right now while they have a chance. He's the kind of young talent that they could only hope to get in free agency. They won't be able to land LeBron, Kobe, or Wade in 2010. The Warriors need to lock up a talent like Josh Smith while he is undervalued, just like they locked up Ellis and Biedrins. He'll be worth it.

5. Smith doesn’t quite fit the Warriors’ system, either.

He could fit it, I guess. That’s not out of the question. But ideally, a Nellie big man either can shoot threes or can score at a high % on the low post or can stuff the other team’s monster big man.

I’m not sure Smith does any of those things. He’s not an on-ball smother guy–he likes to guard weaker offensive players and then come swooping in to swat the shots from the better players. He’s not a great jumpshooter, but he likes to shoot. Too much.

He put up 99 three-pointers last year and made 25. He also is a high-turnover guy–3 per game last year. That’s no good. (Harrington and Biedrins were both at 1.1 TOs/game last year. Ellis was 2.1) In a fast system, that, to me, equals a potential tall 39% shooter with 4.5 TOs a game.


Josh Smith is a good fit for the Warriors and will be an amazing fit in time. Here's what I wrote about Smith at the beginning of the free agency period:

Josh Smith is a great fit for our fast paced style of play because of his elite athleticism. He'll be able to play all three positions in the front court under Don Nelson. His length and shot blocking ability will make him a key piece in the chaotic defensive style meant to harass the opponents into mistakes that trigger transition buckets. Smith is a terrific finisher at the rim and delivers punishing dunks that could send teammates and crowds into a frenzy while demoralizing opponents. He's shown that he has range out to the 3 point line, but will have to work on developing more consistency. At age 22, sky's the limit for this rising star, who is already considered one of the best defenders and the #1 rebounding SF in the NBA.

True, Don Nelson loves big men that can shoot, but judging by what I see from Smith, there is no reason he won't develop into a better perimeter shooter. His shooting form is good and has consistently increased his range each of the years he's played in the NBA. Our best shooting big man is Harrington, but during his first 7 years in the league, he shot a dismal 24.4% from 3 point land. In Smith's first 4 years, he is shooting 26.3% from three. With more work, Smith could be the inside outside threat Nelson covets. For now, he could keep the defense honest while Ellis and the other guards do the bulk of the scoring.

As mentioned previously, Josh Smith hit 59% in the low post. He has a lot more room to improve in terms of developing more moves and adding bulk, but he'd be a huge upgrade at PF right off the bat. Not only will he add inside scoring punch, he'll excel at what the Warriors do best, score in transition. Smith is unstoppable on the break and can initiate the break with his strong rebounding, incredible shot blocking, and good passing skills.

6. I don’t think Atlanta would accept the Wright/Harrington package, even if it’s sweetened.

The Hawks are dumb, but they’ve already lost RFA Josh Childress to a Greek team. They built a high level (for them) of excitement last season around Smith, Horford, Joe Johnson, Childress and a little bit of Mike Bibby.

It’d be awful if they lost both Childress and Smith, playing a RFA system in which almost nobody loses high-quality RFAs. You’re not supposed to lose RFAs that are stars. They lost one. They’re not going to lose Smith and it’ll take more than Brandan Wright–I think–to pry Smith loose.


Here is an offer they can't refuse and which will allow the Warriors to take on Smith under Base Year Compensation (BYC) provisions:

Harrington / Wright / Belinelli / Perovic
for
Smith / Claxton

The prospect of ditching Claxton's deal should be enough of a sweetener for the notoriously cheap Hawks ownership group, but throwing in Belinelli and perhaps Perovic for depth at Center would send them scrabbling for a pen. If they want, they can also have Watson to help at PG. Currently, they only have 10 players signed. With Smith going public about his desires to leave Atlanta, this should be more than enough to get them to agree to a Sign & Trade.

7. I think the Warriors are happy with what they’ve accomplished after losing Baron. Chris Mullin will never say he’s done… but he’s basically done for the summer.

-They’re not offering Wright to anybody: He’s their power forward of the future next to Randolph and Biedrins on the frontline.

-They’re not giving Harrington away. He’s the only proven spot-up three-point shooter on the roster, unless you count Marcus Williams and I don’t.

-They want to see what their current roster settles out to be. Right now:

C: Biedrins, Turiaf, possibly Perovic.
PF: Harrington, Wright, Hendrix.
SF: Jackson, Randolph.
SF/SG: Maggette, Belinelli, Azubuike.
PG: Ellis, Williams, possibly Watson.

Mix and match here: Smith is good, but Nelson won’t play him with Biedrins–way too similar. So you have to play Smith with Harrington or with Turiaf.


Mullin as been always willing to make moves to improve the team so I would say the Mullin is never done shaping the Warriors, especially in the middle of offseason where top talent can still be had. He should not be satisfied with the team he has assembled going into the 2008/2009 season. Mullin should be looking to upgrade the PF position.

I like Wright playing alongside Biedrins and Randolph, but Smith would be a big upgrade over Wright giving them a PF with range out to the 3 point line, a more aggressive player that gets to the line, a better rebounder, and a proven defensive stopper with more bulk and versatility.

Harrington isn't in the the Warriors' longterm plans, so I doubt getting rid of him will cause too much concern. Anthony Morrow would probably get more playing time and the Warriors might want to pickup Austin Croshere or another 3 point shooting big man to add to the roster. Smith has some range, but in a few years, he can do a lot more for the team than Harrington. Smith could play Center when they go 'small' - allowing for Williams, Ellis, Maggette, and Jackson to bomb from the outside.

I'd much rather see this line-up:

PG: Ellis / Williams / Watson
SG: Jackson / Azubuike / Morrow
SF: Maggette / Randolph / FA?
PF: Smith / Hendrix / Croshere?
C: Biedrins / Turiaf/ Amundson?

As Randolph develops and the backcourt is improved through the next 2 drafts, the Warriors would end up with a formidable starting five that could grow and win together, eventually contending for a title. Future starting 5: Williams / Ellis / Randolph / Smith / Biedrins. If Ellis is a good enough PG, then a stud shooting guard could easily be located in the draft (Harden, DeRozan, Evans). A future with Josh Smith on the team is a terrific one.

Tim Kawakami makes the mistake of thinking that Josh Smith is a finished product. This is far from the truth and to assert that a 22 year old, athletically gifted player with no college experience has essentially reached his full potential is short-sighted, irresponsible, and flat-out wrong. This is more of an acquisition for the future than it is for the present, but the Warriors are an even better team immediately with the addition of Smith. Hopefully, Mullin comes around to the same thinking.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great work!

MulliNellie not done!!! Mully needs to add another piece or two for the W’s to make the playoffs.

I like Turiaf and Azibuke, just not for $7.5 million next season. I'd rather MulliNellie just find a Morrow or draft a Hendrix - pay them little for a few years - then pocket the savings towards a Josh Smith-type impact player...

Mully salary dumps J. Rich among other reasons (such as allowing Monta to grow) which allows the W's to miss the playoffs last year (then don't play BW at all) - then we wonder why our players sputtered at the end of last season... And don't get me started on the wasted trade exception...

J Canseco said...

Fantastic analysis. I hope TK reads this and responds to it. I appreciate you backing up your points rather than making flash statements (like Tim) and not supporting them.

James said...

Excellent post. I agree with you and not with TK on just about all of the points. If Nellie was the actual GM, I think the Warriors would go all out to get Smith, and I'm not so sure that Mullin is disinterested in the prospect.

My only caveat is #6. I think that AH/BW is probably not enough to land Smith. Although, your amended proposal has a better chance of working. But we'll have to see whether Detroit (using Prince) and Dallas (Josh Howard) stay in the mix with better offers. If those teams bow out, I like the Warriors chance of landing Smith with your proposal (taking Claxton, etc..). Although, I think the Warriors will have to offer 6 yr/ $78 million.

Mullin's Mind said...

Thanks for reading and I really appreciate the nice comments. When Tim K. came out with that post I felt I had to respond. Josh Smith is going to be special. Hopefully, Mullin is working on landing the kid and he surprises us in a few weeks with the BIG NEWS! :)

Mullin's Mind said...

Thanks for reading and I really appreciate all of your comments. I hope Mullin is actually working on a deal that upgrades our PF position. I like Wright a lot, but if we can get someone of Smith's caliber playing at Warriors' speed, this team will be so good.