How Josh Smith Signing in Houston Affects the Golden State Warriors


Signing a deal with the Houston Rockets on Friday, NBA forward Josh Smith sure had himself a merry little Christmas.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Golden State Warriors. Having most recently suffered a loss at the hands of their Pacific Division rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors only have their NBA title aspirations further complicated by the Rockets’ signing of “J-Smoove.”

Formerly of the Detroit Pistons, Smith was waived by Detroit on Monday and cleared waivers on Wednesday. Averaging a lowly 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds, he was barely through his four-year, $54 million contract with the Pistons before the team chose to let him go.

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Smith’s camp was clear to stress that Smith was only open to signing with teams that were offering a starting forward spot, limiting the playing field to such teams like the Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat and the Rockets. With the Kings currently in a rough transition and the Heat struggling to stay above the .500 mark in a substandard Eastern Conference, the most logical decision was to join the Rockets (20-7), who are currently 2nd in their division and 4th in the Western Conference.

The Rockets used their bi-annual exception to sign Smith to a one-year contract worth about $2 million, and he is expected to replace Donatas Motiejunas as the starting power forward. He will join All-Star shooting guard James Harden and former AAU teammate Dwight Howard as Houston continues to establish themselves as a powerhouse in the West.

For the Warriors, the Rockets’ decision to sign Smith effectively creates a much more difficult situation as they continue to contend for a NBA title in an even tougher Western Conference.

While still the best record in the NBA (23-5), the Warriors are currently on a two-game losing streak no thanks to the team of Los Angeles. Without center Andrew Bogut (knee) and backup center Festus Ezeli (ankle), the team’s interior defense and overall rebounding has been lackluster, even with the return of David Lee.

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Although Smith’s shot selection has been called into question the past couple seasons due to his increased tendency to shoot ill-advised shots outside of 15-feet from the basket, it’s unlikely Smith’s ability to punish teams in the paint, box out big men and defend proficiently has disappeared altogether.

Should Rockets head coach Kevin McHale utilize Smith correctly and take advantage of Smith’s inside game, defensive ability (1.7 blocks per game, 1.3 steals per game this season), rebounding prowess and court vision (career-high 4.7 assists per game), then not only will the Warriors find the Rockets much more of a challenge, but also the rest of the West.

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And on a side note, the Rockets were forced to clear a roster spot for Smith, resulting in 6-foot-11-inch rookie forward/center Tarik Black being put on waivers. Averaging 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds on 54.2 percent shooting, Black’s athleticism and rebounding earned him a spot on the Rockets after playing well for their Summer League team. Having spent three seasons playing college ball at Memphis and one at Kansas, he unfortunately went undrafted last June.

On a dirt cheap, two-year contract worth a partially guaranteed $500,000 this season and a $845,000 team option, the Warriors could very well pick up Black to fill the void left by Bogut and Ezeli.

It’s questionable as to whether he’d find a home in Golden State, but the Warriors could use every little bit of help inside with big men injury woes becoming something way too familiar with the franchise.