Is it always worth it to acquire a star player if you can? Is it always worth it to pour a lot of your resources into one player? Some deals have cast this idea into doubt, and Josh Smith‘s deal is one example.
During the Doc Rivers years, Smith was a name that kept popping up during Celtics trade rumors. There were frequent rumors of the Celtics pursing him aggressively. While those rumors never developed into a trade, Smith did eventually leave the Atlanta Hawks to play on a 4 year, $54 million dollar deal with the Detroit Pistons. Last season, Smith averaged a solid 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, playing for a Pistons team that finished 29-53 and was a massive disappointment.
However, is Smith even close to being worth his contract? Judging by the past year, absolutely not. Last season, Smith had 1.1 win shares, meaning he basically produced just 1 win over the course of a season. That is an incredibly low number, especially considering 10 members on the Celtics roster produced more wins than Smith. Rajon Rondo, who appeared in just 30 games this past season, finished with the same amount of wins produced as Smith (who appeared in 77 games). Why would teams want a player paid that much, when they can grab a player like Robin Lopez; Robin produced 10 wins last year and is only paid $5 million per year.
So why do advanced stats not like Smith? First of all, consider his inefficient shooting. Smith tied his career low effective field goal percentage last year, 45%, and had a true shooting percentage of 46%, by far his career low. Despite him shooting poorly, he still used almost 1/4 of his team’s possessions. This all added up to him actually costing his team a win due to his poor offensive output.
Second, Smith’s defensive prowess wasn’t the same this past season, as he played some of his worst defense (judging by wins produced defensively) since his second year in the league.
Detroit is desperately trying to trade Smith away now, but they have found no potential suitor willing to give up a good amount for the star. Teams now realize that a player like Smith is one that doesn’t produce wins, which is the name of the game. The movie Moneyball stated that a team’s goal was not to buy players, but to buy wins; if that’s the case, Smith and the Pistons won’t be getting too many calls from NBA teams in the near future.