The Detroit Pistons shocked the basketball world late Monday morning by announcing they have elected to waive forward Josh Smith, who still has two years and $27 million dollars remaining on his contract beyond this season.
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward has averaged 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 28 games this year. It is almost certain he will clear waivers in the next 48 hours, and any team that claims the veteran will have to pay Smith $13.5 million annually over the next two seasons.
By waiving Smith now, the Pistons will be able to spread out his salary cap hit over the next few seasons using the stretch provision. Instead of counting as a $13.5 million cap hit in the next two years, Detroit will be able to divide that $27 million owed over the next five seasons on the salary cap (years remaining on contract (2) multiplied by two, plus one year).
The move will give Detroit additional cap flexibility going forward, but still forces the franchise to take a huge loss on a guy that has been linked to trade talks to the Sacramento Kings, among other teams in recent months.
New Pistons President and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy inherited the final three years of Smith's massive contract upon being hired this summer, but he has never been a good fit alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in Detroit's frontcourt. The 29-year-old Smith signed a massive four-year $54 million deal with Detroit in June 2013 in one of Joe Dumars' final bad moves as team president.
After a 5-23 start to the year for Detroit, Van Gundy decided it was time to move on and start rebuilding without Smith.
“Our team has not performed the way we had expected throughout the first third of the season and adjustments need to be made in terms of our focus and direction,” said Van Gundy in a press release. “We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future.
"As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced. In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person.”
The Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers are three teams that are rumored to have interest, according to ESPN's Marc Stein
ESPN sources say both Kings and Mavericks have interest in signing Josh Smith as a free agent if (when) he clears waivers Wednesday— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 22, 2014
Will the Celtics take a look at the veteran forward? The answer may have been more intriguing a week ago, when the team still had Smith's close friend Rajon Rondo on the roster. Now that Danny Ainge has focused on developing his team's youth and collecting more assets by dealing Rondo, it's hard to envision him attempting to bring in Smith to a crowded frontcourt situation. It's just not a fit at this point.
Plus, even if Boston does have any interest, it's probable that any likely playoff teams that wanted to sign the power forward would be far more enticing for Smith to play for this season than Boston. He's still earning all his money from the Pistons, so a chance to win on a team that can give him a clear role has to be towards the top of his priority list.
Either way, several teams will be lining up to try to sign the soon-to-be free agent later this week and Rondo's new squad will be one of them.