Free agent profile: Craig Smith
This is the 23rd post in a series of free-agent profiles that analyzes a particular player and how he might fit in with the Lakers.
Clippers forward Craig Smith
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: Smith earned the nickname "Rhino" during his two-year stint with the Clippers because of his bruising presence, his knack for grabbing offensive rebounds and for his agility in creating his own post moves around the basket despite his bulky size. Because the Lakers are stacked at power forward with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Smith wouldn't get much playing time. But he's remarkably efficient when he plays in short bursts, exactly what the Lakers would need in at least providing support in case Gasol and Odom get hurt or they need a breather.
Smith is also an intense practice player, which would do wonders for a team that admitted that efforts in practices were lacking last season because many played paced themselves because of injuries or fatigue. Add the fact that it wouldn't take too much to entice the Fairfax High product to stay in his hometown, and it appears Smith would be a good fit.
Negatives: Smith has a pretty extensive injury history, including a herniated disk in his lower back and nerve damage in his right leg that kept him sidelined for part of last season. His practice intensity also sometimes comes with a price; he has hurt teammates with his bruising style. And despite his power, Smith is limited defensively because of his size and his sub-par conditioning.
Verdict: Clips Nation's Steve believes Smith remains a "strong candidate" to return to the Clippers next season because he has a better track record than Ike Diogu. Still, the Clippers rarely hinder anything the Lakers want to do and it's possible the Clippers could opt for Diogu at a lower price tag anyway. This position obviously doesn't reflect the Lakers' most urgent needs, but if Smith should be available, the Lakers should go for him. It never hurts to have some depth along the front line in case Gasol, Odom or Andrew Bynum get injured.
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Photo: Clippers forward Craig Smith drives in to the chest of Utah Jazz's #16 Francisco Elson during the second half of the game at Staples Center on November 28, 2010. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)