Although the possibility of signing Sessions is still out there, the trade that netted the Clippers Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith and Mark Madsen should bring some sense of finality to a surprisingly wild offseason. Yes, there are still a few holes that could stand to be filled, but as a whole the Clippers arguably improved themselves more than any other team this offseason. The way Dunleavy brilliantly flipped Zach Randolph for a valuable 7 million dollar trade exception and two talented young players in Craig Smith and Sebastian Telfair should have him considering a career in real estate once he’s done with this basketball thing. No matter how you feel about Dunleavy, you have to hand it to him for swinging a few great deals that actually puts the franchise in much better shape than it was around this time last year.
We’ve already talked a bit about Bassy, and his story is pretty well publicized. As the backup point guard (for now, anyway) to injury prone Baron Davis, Telfair is likely to play a huge role next season. With the Clippers front court being relatively crowded, Craig Smith doesn’t appear to have an easy route to playing time, but for the man they call “Rhino”, that is nothing new.
Joining the Clippers is a homecoming for Craig Smith, who was born and raised in Inglewood. Collegiate basketball fans may remember Smith for his illustrious career at Boston College, where he teamed with fellow Southern California native Jared Dudley to become one of the most formidable duos in the NCAA. Smith would finish his career as the second leading scorer in Boston College history, and despite being named a second team All-American, he would fall to pick 36. Smith is your classic draft day dropper; if he stood at 6’9 instead of 6’7 he would have likely been a lottery pick.
Despite Smith’s vertical deficiencies, he’s been an effective role player off the bench in his first three years as a pro. Smith is the definition of an efficient scorer, shooting 55% from the field on his career. His per36 minute scoring numbers are equally impressive, as Smith clocked in at 18.4 PPG last year in that category. Maybe most impressive though is the frequency with which Smith gets to the line, going 3.4 times a game last year in only 19 minutes a contest.
The knack on Smith however is that even though he gives you a lot offensively, he’s prone to giving everything right back on the other end. In many ways, Smith is oddly similar to the player the Clippers ultimately gave up to get him; the much maligned Zach Randolph. Smith shares many of the same defensive issues Randolph does in that neither are quick enough to guard 3′s, and both are too small in the post to contest shots against 4′s. Randolph was primarily exploited last year in pick and roll situations, and Smith has been known to struggle in that area as well. Smith is listed at “250″ pounds, but he’s reportedly closer to 275, and that’s a lot of man to get going in different directions. He’s not terrible at it, but don’t expect Smith to be leading a seminar on “how to hedge a pick and roll” anytime soon. The main difference between Randolph and Smith is that Smith is just a sub-par defensive rebounder, while Randolph is one of the better defensive rebounders in the game.
Smith and Randolph aren’t terribly different offensively, either. Similar to Randolph, Smith carves out space for himself inside by using his incredible girth, and then flips in shots from strange angles with a soft touch. Of course, Smith doesn’t have the jump shooting capabilities that Randolph posseses, but you can’t exactly leave him open either. The guy has some range.
But how does “Rhino” and his unique talents fit into the Clippers front court? In theory, pretty well. The Clippers are one of the few teams in the league that have three shot blocking talents like Camby, Kaman and Jordan. Because of this luxury that the Clippers have, Smith will never be without a true big man in the lineup with him, even if it’s Griffin. Offensively, Dunleavy’s post centric offense appears to be tailor made to Smith’s talents. Similar to the thought process with Randolph last year, the pairing that makes most sense is putting Smith alongside Camby, as they seemingly fill the holes in each other’s games as a duo.
Acquiring Smith and Telfair is a low risk, high reward move by Dunleavy. Even Michael Scott would surely deem this a “Win-Win-Win situation”. Basically, we knew what Quentin Richardson was going to bring to the team; a bad back, a bit of nostalgia, and an expiring contract. Smith, 25, was widely regarded by Minnesota fans as agreat role player who worked hard and was a good locker room presence. If he performs well, he could end up being another addition to the emerging young Clippers core. If he doesn’t perform, the Clippers still stand to lose nothing, except for salary. If Smith can stay healthy and play up to his talent level, he’ll be a more than welcome addition to the Clippers.