Let’s all just take a deep breath and calm down. I know that Josh Smith is the hottest name being hurled around prior to this year’s NBA trade deadline on Feb. 21, but the speculation over potential destinations and various trade scenarios is lending way too much credibility to the NBA trade machine.
Clearly, I love the trade machine as much as anyone having let it fuel several of my own ideas for trade scenario writings, but some of what is being hurled around the internet is getting a bit far fetched. After ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that there is a 60 percent chance that Atlanta deals Smith before the deadline, speculation over a move is hitting new heights.
Now that reports have surfaced putting the Brooklyn Nets in discussions with the Hawks over bringing Smith to the Big Apple, it seems that this saga may be nearing an end sooner than some, including myself, had anticipated. But a deal between the Nets and Atlanta is a long way off due to their differing valuations of what Atlanta should receive in return for Smith.
Before we get into the various rumors, let’s reason that Atlanta is just as likely to hang onto Smith and feel perfectly comfortable losing him in the summer for nothing. Moreover, let us take a look at Smith and come up with a realistic valuation of a player the mainstream media touts as disappointingly inconsistent one day and a superstar the next.
Over the span of his nine years in Atlanta, Smith has played both forward positions and has flexed his muscle as an offensive playmaker and shot blocker, but take a closer look at his numbers. This is a player who has never managed to average 20 points per game in a single season with his best campaign coming last year at 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Those are pretty impressive numbers for a second or third option star on a deeply talented team, but are they numbers you expect from a guy coveting a max deal? Consider that David West signed for Indiana for $10 million per season just a few years removed from similar rebounding numbers (8.9) and a better scoring average (20.6) during his best year at his previous stop in New Orleans. Given Smith’s playmaking ability and the fact that he’s a better defender than West, he’s certainly worth more, but how much more? He’s only a few years younger than West was when he signed for Indiana, which says to me that Atlanta’s rejected offer of a three year deal worth $47 million is perfectly reasonable.
Smith has shown in nine years that he isn’t capable of being the go-to guy. He is a good player, but he doesn’t score or rebound like a healthy Kevin Love, a power forward that will be paid $14 million next season and $15 million the year after that. Smith expects a max deal, so given the current situation, should the Hawks bend and make him the offer he wants in the summer? No, but that doesn’t mean they have to trade him now.
By keeping Smith the Hawks will clear that much more money off their books and have a $40 million war chest to go into free agency with. Ferry wants a young center or draft picks or other players that could be assets right now as the Hawks are still in the midst of a season where they will make the postseason and given the position he has worked himself into, it’s somewhat ludicrous to assume the Hawks will make a deal considering Ferry is really in the driver’s seat.
So of the current rumors, which ones could be real? Let’s break down a couple of false rumors real quick.
Dallas- Not a reality for three reasons: (1) The Mavericks have as good a chance as any team of signing Smith in the offseason given the funds they’ll have available and Mark Cuban writing the checks, so there isn’t the sense of urgency from the Mavs you might expect.
(2) Chris Kaman and Shawn Marion don’t fit the bill for Ferry’s desire for either young players with value they could build around or guys that could seriously help them win now. Kaman is a free agent in the offseason, this is true, but wouldn’t you rather go into the postseason making one last run with Smith than Kaman?
(3) The Mavericks don’t really have much to offer in the way of draft picks. It’s too big of a gamble for Ferry to trade Smith for two old guys and a first round pick, just to see Smith and his new team make the playoffs and that draft pick end up being a late first rounder. Even less enticing is a future Mavs first round pick, because with the war chest Mark Cuban has at his disposal for this summer’s free agency period, it’s likely that a future Mavs pick may not be worth a whole lot.
Denver- Bleacher Report began pushing this idea yesterday that the Hawks should make a deal with Denver that sends the expendable pieces of Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov to Atlanta for Smith and Johan Petro. This deal would essentially be awful for the Hawks who according to the article are desperate for a center not named Zaza Pachulia. If that’s the case, why take on Mozgov who is basically a younger slightly more productive version of Pachulia.
Add to that the fact Smith really wouldn’t fit into Denver’s lineup without displacing Kenneth Faried, this deal doesn’t make sense. Even if Smith moved from power forward to small forward, that would displace Danilo Gallinari who is the team’s top scorer. Why would Denver mess with their team chemistry now considering they are battling for a top four spot in the Western Conference. For both sides, this deal doesn’t work.
There are scenarios being thrown around out there that do work, however.
Brooklyn- The Nets sitting down to the bargaining table isn’t too surprising considering that the season Joe Johnson is putting together isn’t living up to his massive salary, but the fact that they want to reunite him with Smith is a bit of a shock considering the Hawks never achieved anything with them together.
Brooklyn can design a package to tempt the Hawks into making a deal, but it will take a lot more than their initial offer of Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks. A first round draft pick will also need to be included at the very least, but they may be trying to figure out another avenue to make the deal work. The problem there is that the only other really enticing player the Nets could send Atlanta’s way is Gerald Wallace, but that would put the Hawks over the luxury tax line this season unless the Nets took another player off their books. Most of the Hawks lineup is comprised of expiring deals other than guys that Ferry intends to keep and convincing Ferry to part with those contracts may be tough.
Deals involving Nikola Pekovic-He may not be the youngest center in the game at 27-years old, but Pekovic has built a name for himself over three seasons and is averaging numbers similar to Smith this season at around 16 points and 9 rebounds per game. Any move that brings Pek to Atlanta also has the added benefit of bringing other players along with him whether from Minnesota or third party teams that could be involved in a deal giving Ferry more negotiating power.
The Hawks can renegotiate a deal with Pek this summer that would see him stay in Atlanta if they miss out on Dwight Howard. They could move Al Horford to power forward where he belongs and still have plenty of cap space left to build a formidable team considering that the Timberwolves center makes just $4 million a year now and probably wouldn’t cost the Hawks more than $8-10 million to resign.
One thing is for sure, this saga is complicated. The Hawks have a lot to consider, but making one more postseason run and getting the most out of Smith before freeing up a ton of cap space isn’t something that the Hawks should let go of easily. It took a lot of wheeling and dealing for Ferry to get them to this point, so it’s tough to see him compromising their current position for anything less than a fantastic deal, which thus far is not on the table.