The Rockets aren't healthy. Dwight Howard is out, James Harden is hobbled and they're not alone on the sideline. They've needed help.
Enter Josh Smith. The much-maligned power forward was a bargain-basement pickup for the Rockets and GM Daryl Morey, but he's been the best version of what the team hoped he could be.
It's been two months and 30 games that Josh Smith has been a member of the Rockets. He's had his highs during his stint so far (21 points on 8-17 shooting vs. the Clippers on Feb. 11) and he's had his lows (3 points vs. Washington in his third game on Dec. 29).
Here's Smith's shot chart when he was on the Pistons:
The shot chart isn't pretty at all. He shot 44 percent in the restricted area, which is beyond horrendous.
Here's his short chart with the Rockets:
He's shot a respectable 53 percent in the restricted area since joining the Rockets. And he's improved his efficiency from basically everywhere on the court.
He's been a much better three-point shooter in Houston than in Detroit. He's making 35.6 percent of his threes with the Rockets, a perfectly acceptable number, compared with 24.3 percent with the Pistons. And although he's attempted 90 threes already with the Rockets, it's fine if he's hitting it with that efficiency. Not going to lie, I still panic when I see Smith attempt a 3.
As a defender, he's improved in his defensive field goal percentage. Take a look at his defensive field goal chart when he was on Detroit:
Now take a look at his defensive field goal chart with Houston:
Smith has been a huge boost to the Rockets bench. As Kelly Scaletta of Bleacher Report wrote here, the Rockets were last in the league in bench scoring before acquiring Smith and Corey Brewer. As Scaletta also noted, the Rockets have moved up to 10th in bench scoring.
It hasn't been all great though. His turnover percentage has risen from 14.1 to 17.3 since joining Houston. He's 13th in the league in turnovers off of a bad pass this season, and he's only one of two players in the top 15 who aren't guards. The other guy is LeBron James, who handles the ball as much as most guards do.
His shooting percentage has risen from an abysmal 39.1 percent to a more palatable 44.4 percent. Part of that is Smith not being forced to play small forward like he was in Detroit. He played 20 percent of his minutes played at small forward with the Pistons this year, according to basketball-reference.com.
When Smith is forced out onto the perimeter, he has an urge to take threes or even worse, long twos, which is never a good thing. Now with the Rockets, he hasn't played a single minute at small forward. Instead, he's played 90 percent of his minutes at the 4 and 10 percent at the 5.
Smith shot 58.4 percent within 3 feet of the basket with the Pistons, according to basketball-reference.com. That put him in the bottom-10 field goal percentage-wise of players who took at least 100 shots within that range.
Now with the Rockets, he's shooting 66.3 percent within 3 feet of the rim, which would put him in the top 20. It helps that a higher percentage of his field goals have been assisted, though not by much.
Smith has been doing for Houston the exact opposite of what he was doing for Detroit: taking smart shots. And it's certainly paying off. Not just for himself, but for the Rockets as well.