Review time. Let's do this.
J-Smizzle after the jump.
Jason Smith Game Score by game
Jason Smith is, and I say this without irony, one of the most refreshing Hornets players I've seen. I don't mean that in terms of his skill level; he was probably your baseline 2010-2011 NBA replacement player, whatever that means. To say the end product of the season didn't hinge on him at all is an understatement. Yet for me, Smith epitomizes an increasingly popular idea that the Miami Friendos (in particular) have made us acutely aware of - interactions between players on the floor are as important as players' abilities themselves.
Smith was a flop in Philadelphia. Outside of a semi-acceptable midrange game, he wasn't good at most things. If we take a closer look at these "most things," we find they included rebounding, defending, scoring, dribbling, or more holistically, "basketball." No surprise then that the Darius "Dongaila" Songaila and Willie "A Millie" Green deal wasn't met with wild celebration but rather loud snoring noises.
But that's the thing with Smith's season. He performed in 2010-2011 almost exactly up to his old standards, the same ones that had succeeded in impressing nobody. 101 points per 100 possessions with Philadelphia, 100 with New Orleans. 49.1% true shooting with the 76ers, 49.0% with the Hornets. Other such fancy numbers. Yet few would disagree that Smith served a reasonably important role on the team, and if we're being reasonable, served it reasonably reasonably. The key difference was, of course, his role with the Hornets. Dell Demps and Monty Williams acquired him to be the bench's version of David West.
They took his one truly NBA level skill - his shot - and milked it like a coconut. Smith complemented that primary responsibility with tons and tons of hustle. He fought for loose balls, he improved as a screen setter through the season, he fought his tail off on defense. The important thing is none of those secondary aspects of his game could have seen the light of day had the coaching staff not given him that perfect primary role. And that brings us back to his acquisition in the first place. Given his stats and play with the Sixers, few of us would have imagined him having much success in his eventual role. I think it's safe to say that Smith's 2010-2011 was exactly what Dell Demps envisioned; it's exciting that he was able to spot Smith as a contributor amidst the rubble in Philadelphia.
It's one thing to spot a player that can improve given a bigger role or a change of scenery. To be honest, that's a skill becoming more and more commonplace across front offices due to the advent of advanced statistics and video analysis. But determining that a player can perform exactly the same for Team A as he can for Team B, yet can help Team A more is an equally important skill and one that's much tougher to find.
Smith's role for 2011-2012 seems unclear at this point, and you'd suspect heavy influence from the eventual directions Carl Landry and David West select for themselves. Positionally, Smith is best served as a four; though he logged almost 44% of his floor time as a center this season, it's not a good match on the defensive end. That fact in itself is not going to preclude him from getting minutes there if he does resign of course. Aaron Gray's future is still uncertain, and the free agent market for bigs looks unappetizing as ever. So if I had to make a guess now, I'd lean towards a Smith return.