Via Jason Friedman:
Since that contest, Houston has featured a lineup with Greg Smith at the power forward position and the club has gone 5-1 in the six games that have followed that switch. During that stretch, the Rockets have posted some impressive numbers themselves, scoring at a top-five rate while defending like a top-10 team. Perhaps most impressively, they are dominating the offensive glass, corralling more than 30 percent of their misses – a rate that would place them among the top-5 offensive rebounding teams in the NBA. To be sure, those numbers are the epitome of limited, dirty data given the small sample size and the fact they’ve largely come against less than stellar competition. Still, Smith’s expanded role has certainly helped Houston, and his play in the aforementioned Memphis game showed hints that it might do exactly that when he grabbed five offensive rebounds and was a team-high +7 during his 25 minutes of action.
The new lineup has certainly been a revelation. What’s more, Smith, when serving as the roll man in pick&roll situations, is scoring 1.29 points per possession, good for 12th in the league. It’s in these instances where he’s doing his most damage, using his gargantuan hands to catch passes Omer Asik has no hope of catching. (I was surprised to find that Smith is shooting only 43% in post-up situations, good for 0.77 PPP, a seeming incongruence with his prowess in the eye test.)
The greatest cause for reluctance for inserting Smith at the ‘4’ was the purported effect he, in combination with Omer Asik, would have in clogging the lane for James Harden. It has been conventional wisdom that the Rockets need a stretch shooting power forward to operate their offensive scheme. On the contrary, in the 95 minutes the trio of Smith, Asik, and Harden have seen together on the floor (191 possessions), Harden is shooting 49% from the field. With Motiejunas in place of Smith (in 259 minutes), that number for Harden is 43.8%. Granted, the latter is a far greater sample size, but at the least, for now, it can be hypothesized that Smith’s presence has not served deterrent to Harden’s effectiveness.