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Josh Smith & The Appeasement Method


If you want to believe rumors ahead of the NBA Draft, Josh Smith will be in an Orlando Magic uniform very shortly. Rumors are rumors for a reason and nothing is official until the team announces it. Deals appear and evaporate as quickly as I can type. That is just how late June goes. If you are not involved in some rumor, you aren’t doing your job — so at least we know Otis Smith is working… I think.

These rumors are going to continue to fly (I have seen two realistic-sounding three-team deals floating around the twittersphere and various reports) until, well, probably until there is a lockout and nobody can do anything.

The moment the Hawks intimated that Josh Smith would be available and the moment that reports surfaced that Smith favored the Magic (among other including the Celtics and Rockets), it seemed everyone started trying to figure out a way to reunite Smith with his former AAU teammate.

That might be what this is really about.

Josh Smith and Dwight Howard remain good friends from their days playing for the Atlanta Celtics in high school. Howard has reportedly wanted to play with Smith again in the NBA. Now that Smith seems to believe his time in Atlanta is nearing an end, I am sure he is eyeing the same thing.

There are a lot of reasons acquiring Josh Smith would be a good thing. He is a much-needed athlete who could bolster Howard in the post with his rebounding ability (a career-best 15.0 percent total rebound rate) and his ability to defend. A Smith/Howard pick and roll could be downright scary, especially if Smith is hitting his jumper. It would force the Magic to push the pace a little more, which it seems like they want to do, and give them a real finisher on the break.

Smith averaged 16.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game last year. A great season for him for sure.

At the same time, there are a lot of reasons Smith would not be a good fit.

His attitude and shot selection have been question marks his entire career. A year after he seemingly put some of those shot selection questions to rest (he took just seven 3-pointers in 2010) he came back and hit on 33.1 percent of his 3-point attempts (154). The percentage and attempts were both career highs, but Smith’s role should not be taking jumpers. He should be looking to attack the rim by slashing or in the post.

That slashing and finishing ability would give the Magic something they do not currently have, but is Dwight Howard enough to get him in line and buy in? Or does Orlando give him the green light to shoot as many threes as his heart desires. That does not sound like a good strategy in handling Smith.

Is this the type of player and the type of risk you want to take with the stakes this high? Otis Smith has already gone all in and exhausted many of his resources. Who he gives up in this deal might be as important as who he keeps in this deal, especially when considering Orlando is dealing with a division rival.

Then you have to consider his contract. Smith has $25.6 million due the next two years. Hardly clearing up cap room for the summer of Dwight in 2012 or lowering the Magic’s payroll from the second highest in the league.

You have to ask does this truly get the Magic closer to a championship? Or is this simply a move you make to appease Dwight and make Orlando a place he wants to stay?

If you ask me — and ask Dwight — Orlando is already a place he already wants to be. He does not need the coaxing of a good friend to stay. He needs to see Orlando is closer to winning a title.

So does Josh Smith really get you there?

Not by himself.

Smith is not the go-to player and perimeter scoring the Magic sorely missed last year. He does not solve Orlando’s offensive struggles and he would be another headache type player. Think Hedo Turkoglu‘s shot selection except he makes those mid-range jumpers at a much worse rate — Turkoglu shot 45.1 percent from 10-23 feet compared to Josh Smith shooting 38.0 percent on those shots, including 328 attempts from 16-23 feet.

Then you have to consider what the Magic might give up to take him on. Losing Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson would be mitigated by Smith’s presence. But losing Jameer Nelson or J.J. Redick? And you have a very depleted backcourt. This is already a team that is lacking depth already.

Appeasing Howard by bringing in his friend does not sound so rosy when you really begin to think about things. Unless you can get rid of Turkoglu or Gilbert Arenas‘ contract, or even Quentin Richardson or Chris Duhon‘s contract, then you might be looking at a better picture for the Magic.

But Howard has made it very clear. There is only one way to appease Howard: get closer to winning a championship. It is really that simple.

Otis Smith is handicapped for sure. He does not have a lot of mobility or assets to offer. Any deal he can make that might possibly improve the team should be explored because there does not seem to be a lot of options.

If this is the only one, it might be worth pulling the trigger. But don’t do it to pair Dwight with his buddy. Make sure it gets you closer to winning a championship.

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