Sorry about my absence of late. School's been a Blake Griffin this past week.
It's the dawning of a new era in New Orleans basketball, and with so much attention paid to matters off the court this season, I believe it's time to evaluate how our franchise performed during its time on the court. As a result, I want to begin an evaluation of the front office, the roster and the coaching staff and see how they performed, what could happen going forward, and whether or not you approve of their job this season. Without further adieu, the next player we're going to look at is Jason Smith.
Fifth season in the league (second with the Hornets) out of Colorado State University (2 Years, $5 Million left on contract)
40 Games, 29 Starts, 9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 70.2 FT Pctg., 52.0 FG Pctg., 16.6 PER, 107 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating
Best Game this Season: April 7th vs. Minnesota (26 Points, 10 Rebounds, 3 Steals in 36 Minutes during a 99-90 victory)
Jason Smith drew the ire of fans like me last season. I frequently complained about how soft his game was. I felt that he was too generic to really make any kind of mark in the NBA and I was always upset that he would take minutes from Aaron Gray. This is the reason why fans are not General Managers. From the beginning, Monty Williams felt like he had something in Jason Smith. I'll forgive him for being a year ahead of his time, but Smith really evolved into a really good player this season. No longer was he out there looking for a way to fit in or being afraid to make a mistake. He was simply put out there to play basketball and he played the game very well this year.
By all accounts, Smith may have been the team's most consistently productive big man this season. His size and athleticism made him a frequent option for both PF and C positions this year (although it'd probably be best if he stayed at PF). His mid range game is still top notch and he showed a frequent ability to crash around the basket for offensive boards and even became a bit of a deterrent around the rim late in the season that wasn't seen at all last year in New Orleans. It's amazing to see what a little bit of confidence can do in someone's game and Monty Williams deserves a lot of the credit for instilling that confidence in him.
Of course, anytime that you mention Jason Smith now will be associated with his shoulder check on Blake Griffin this season. Other fouls on Griffin followed but it was the first publicized foul and it got Smith a two game suspension. It's a shame that his improvements this season will always be overshadowed by that, even by fans of the team, because h really wasn't just a scrub who was sent in there to be a goon. He was a good player who got caught in a battle with an opponent. He did let his emotions get the best of him and, for that reason, he won't be known as much more than that for the next couple of years. But that, honestly, can change.
Smith's under a very team friendly contract for the Hornets. When the year started, a lot of us were scratching our heads at the 3 year contract he had been given but it's only getting him $2.5 million over the next two years and, considering that he's only 26, he still has room to grow in the NBA. And although you can say he was a stat-padder on a bad team, it's honestly a matter of someone getting more minutes and responding to those minutes.