How much is Josh Smith worth? He thinks he’s a max player.

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Josh Smith is a free agent this summer.

He will be one of the biggest names out there — 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, a borderline All-Star level player, a guy with the athleticism and potential to be one of the best bigs in the game. If you’re looking for a big who can run and finish in transition, he’s your guy.

But he’s having a down year (PER of 17.1). He still loves his long jump shots that he doesn’t knock down steadily — Smith takes 6.1 shots beyond 16 feet a game and knocks down 29.5 percent of them, compared to the 4.9 shots a game at the rim where he hits 78 percent (stats via Hoopdata). He gets 22.8 percent of his offensive chances on spot up jumpers and shoots that same 29.5 percent (via Synergy).

So how much would you offer him this summer?

If you’re one of the teams thinking about trading for him at the deadline — the Hawks are listening to offers — you better have an answer for that question. And it needs to be an answer Smith likes.

He thinks he should get a max deal, he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“I feel like I’m a max player,” Smith said Friday.

“I feel I bring a lot to the table. I have a lot of versatility. For what I do and what I give this ball club, I feel like I’m worth it.”

The Hawks one max contract offer was to Joe Johnson and that was a mistake before the ink was dry on the signature. Under the new CBA this contract can’t be as painful — five years, about $94 million is the max. And unlike Johnson this contract carries Smith though what should be his peak years — ages 28-33 (which is not way over the hill for a big).

But would you give him a max deal?

I’d be hesitant. But teams that need a star are willing to overpay to get what they want, and Smith has the potential to be a franchise anchor. But after nine seasons at age 27, do you expect him to become more than he is now?

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.