The Detroit Pistons Cut Josh Smith, Stunning The NBA World

The Detroit Pistons have released forward Josh Smith, who signed a guaranteed four-year, $US54 million contract with the team in 2013.

It’s a stunner. 

The statement from coach and team president Stan Van Gundy:

“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. 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.”

NBA players in Smith’s situation — expensive players with long-term deals — never get cut because the team is still on the hook for the remainder of the contract. 

Smith will be a free agent once he clears waivers, but the Pistons have to pay him what he is owed. He can sign with any team.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, the Pistons will use the “stretch provision” on Smith’s contract — meaning the ~$US26 million that’s left on the deal will be spread out over the next five years for salary cap purposes, instead of just the next two years. With the NBA salary cap set it explode before the 2016-17 season, cutting Smith won’t be as much of a financial burden as it seems. As Grantland’s Zach Lowe notes, Smith will count $US5.4 million against the cap in each of the next five years — which isn’t a complete disaster.

Van Gundy took the Detroit job instead of the Golden State job because they offered him complete personnel control. This move is a clear indication that he has all the power he could ever want.

The Pistons have the third-worst record in the NBA at 5-23. They came into a year believing they could make the playoffs, but now they are blowing it up and rebuilding.

Smith, 29, was one of the most coveted free agents in the league in 2013. While he has been a profound disappointment in Detroit, he’s still a talented player in his prime who could excel in the right situation. It’s not an overstatement to say he could swing the title race if he lands with a contender.

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