This report card was probably the most difficult to figure out. The power forward rotation in Houston was shipped out at the trade deadline for Thomas Robinson. Donatas Motiejunas started more games out of the remaining crop of power forwards but Greg Smith played more games and minutes per game than any other power forward. The rampant instability of the power forward spot forced me to designate a starter. Since Greg Smith had the most minutes and games played, he gets the nod.
Greg is in his second year in the NBA and was a undrafted free agent of the Houston Rockets when he was acquired. He played his early days for Rio Grande Valley. Greg was intermittently the starter and is widely deemed the back up center for the Rockets, however, due to a lack of stability at the four he was called on to start games and log about 15 minutes a game for the Rockets between the four and the five. Let's take a peek at what Greg Smith brought to the Rockets under the lens of a power forward.
6 points/5 rebounds/.6 blocks per game. True to form the numbers reflect that Smith wasn't a focal point of the offense nor was he a defensive stopper. His rebounding total represents one board for every three minutes he's on the floor. Clearly he's most useful as a back up.
On an advanced level Greg Smith is actually pretty good. He posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 16.17, which is above the league average. Admittedly this PER is mostly reflecting limited use (14.7% usage) but more importantly it's indicative of the fact that he didn't tend to make mistakes on the court in his limited minutes. For a team that didn't have a solution at the four Greg steadied the process. Greg's true shooting percentage (63.6%) was built predominantly on the fact that he's a decent finisher around the rim. The most interesting aspect of his game was that he showed basic elements of a post game that he capitalized on in-close. Ultimately Greg Smith reminds me of a Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's good enough to steady the position and won't tend to cost you an abundance of games but he's not a solution. In expanded minutes Greg managed to see a rise in his offensive rebound percentage, his assist percentage, and his win shares but he saw a dip in his defensive rebound rate, effective field goal percentage, and his offensive/defensive ratings.
Finishing around the rim. Greg brought back the art of the gorilla dunk and showed a great deal of athleticism in the pick and roll. It was nice to have a power forward with no problem taking the ball to the rim. He was a breath of fresh air from Patrick Patterson's love affair with the three point shot and the deep two (Despite the fact that he could make the shot, it didn't help the Rockets style of play with an abundance of shooters already on the floor). Greg had a surprisingly polished post game he would flash signs of throughout the season with a hook shot and post shimmy that threw off defenders.
Rebounding. Greg Smith has never been a prolific rebounder. The power forward position in Houston really required a player who could pull down the offensive boards and in fifteen minutes a game Smith failed to amass more than five boards a game. Worse yet Greg only improved in his offensive rebounding rate, which was completely abysmal anyhow. All of his other rebounding stats decreased with increased minutes. Outside of Omer Asik the Rockets were really hurting for a rebounder and rather than solve that problem Greg merely added a rim finisher. He lands his grade not merely for failing to provide what the Rockets needed but for regressing in a critical area of the game that landed Marcus Morris more time.
Fouls. If you ever need a clinic on how to harm another player and get yourself off the floor then Greg Smith is the man for you. Greg failed to stay on the court for significant periods of time and when he was a backup this problem only magnified. On the season Greg averaged 2.5 fouls per game but the tale of the tape shows something far more painful. His fouls showed up quickly and early knocking him out for significant portions of games. You'd think over the course of the season there would be improvements in this area but they only worsened.
Greg was a good back up at the center position but the power forward starting spot merely exposed his weaknesses. He was pulled from the starting lineup from the Thunder series to go small and it paid off in a big way. Ibaka and Perkins out-classed Smith and they do that to most other players. Smith failed to leverage his bulk against these players and when he saw the floor for most of the year he saw problems. For a player who was plucked up off the D-League he wasn't bad but he was placed in a position where he wouldn't succeed.