HawksHoop.com writers Raj Prashad, Daniel Christian and Buddy Grizzard team up to take a deeper look at possible trade scenarios ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Daniel Christian: In contemplating all of the possible Josh Smith trade scenarios, it’s important to understand what exactly Danny Ferry is looking for: some combination of expiring contracts, young talent, and draft picks. While that combination seems to be as attainable as a pot of gold at the end of some far-off rainbow regardless of the player being shopped, I’m going to propose the trade that I believe would be most to Ferry’s liking, the trade on which he’d be most likely to pounce.
The Phoenix Suns, according to the Ken Berger article previously linked (and linked again here for your convenience), have been “aggressive in their pursuit of Smith.” Phoenix is probably trying to acquire some higher-level talent because it always seems like they have no idea what they are doing and they just want to sell tickets and put some sort of star power, however convoluted that star power may be, on the court. They don’t exactly have an abundance of assets, but they may be able to amalgamate the perfect group of players to peek Ferry’s interest.
Now, I recognize that this draft has been pegged as a down year in talent, but isn’t that what people say every year? And every year, don’t we have more than a few good rookies running around NBA courts across the country? I’m not buying that this draft is any weaker than the past two. And because I’m so bullish on one prospect in particular (more on that later), I think the first and most important part of any deal with Phoenix is their own first round pick (not the Lakers’s).
Along with that pick, Phoenix would throw in Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, and Markieff Morris.
That scenario gives Phoenix their guy in Smith and gives Atlanta a top 7 pick (at least, although I’m sure they’d place some sort of protection on the pick), Brown, Dudley, and Morris. Now, to break down how effective that return would be, I’ll take a look at each of those players and who the Hawks could take with that sort of draft positioning.
In Shannon Brown, the Hawks would acquire a usable rotation player, who, when given larger roles usually looks sort of terrible. If the Hawks were forced to play him in some sort of larger role, it would likely help their draft positioning the following year and aid Ferry’s quest to accumulate AMPAP (as many picks as possible). Brown is not a great player by any stretch, but he’s a good off-the-bench guy who only has one more year on his contract before he’s a restricted free agent. If that’s the worst contract the Hawks’ would be asked to take on, well, then it’s a bargain.
In Dudley, Atlanta would attain a pretty good player and a great locker room personality. He’s a hit with the media and he’d be a great influence on his younger teammates. As those teammates develop, he’ll be useful the entire way through, mainly because there is always room for a guy who can defend and shoot the three.
Last but certainly not least, there is Markieff Morris and Phoenix’s draft pick, which let’s just say is top-3 protected. I don’t know how good Morris will be, but it’s worth taking on a young guy with some potential on his rookie contract. If he breaks out, great. If he doesn’t look any good, let him walk. His career could go in either direction. The most important part of this trade, however, is that pick. With that pick, Atlanta takes Anthony Bennet (will go somewhere between 1 and 5 on draft night), a young, big, super athletic, and multi-talented power forward. On top of that, the Hawks have two additional first round draft picks (assuming Houston makes the playoffs).
So in conclusion, the trade is: Hawks send Josh Smith and a second round pick to Phoenix for the Suns’ first round pick, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, and Markieff Morris. The Hawks would then have to make the choice if they wanted to build around Al Horford or use him as a trade chip to maximize their youth movement and collect even MORE draft picks.
Raj Prashad: The Boston Celtics want a young stud, Phoenix Suns want a cornerstone piece after missing out on guys like Eric Gordon and Rudy Gay and the Hawks simply want to unload Josh Smith for the right price, which is believed to be for either a legit center and/or a combination of players with a lottery pick.
Boston makes the most sense for Smith’s landing spot based on relationships Buddy describes below and the Celtics’ need to stay in contention for a title in what could be the last year Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have left. With that said, it’s unlikely Boston’s GM Danny Ainge would part with Pierce and KG is unlikely to waive his no-trade clause to Atlanta, according to Marc Stein. In that sense, the Hawks also won’t be sending Smith for nothing.
The Hawks have desperately wanted a center in order to move Al Horford back to his natural power forward position. Phoenix’s Marcin Gortat and Boston’s Brandon Bass could work, but it’s doubtful the Suns would include their first-rounder in this kind of deal. They could, however, throw in the Lakers’ pick, which they acquired in the Steve Nash deal. Bass is a spot-up shooter who can spread the floor and bang inside with the second unit or with a “big” lineup at the three, while Gortat fits the size and skill requirements Atlanta is looking for.
The Celtics could then send Jeff Green, an athletic guard-forward who is really coming on as late, and Avery Bradley to Phoenix, with Johan Petro from Atlanta to make money work/add depth at the center position. Bradley isn’t the standout name Phoenix is looking for, but could be one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, just look at what he did to Boston’s defensive numbers. His offensive skills need work, but he’d continue to see playing time and could move right into the starting rotation at shooting guard.
Boston would then receive Josh Smith and Shannon Brown, but would be left with only 13 healthy players, assuming they keep Terrence Williams. The Celtics get their guy, Smith, and receive a talented guard who can spread the floor and run in transition in Brown.
Buddy Grizzard: I believe the only team that would trade away significant assets to acquire Josh Smith would be a team that knows that Smith will want to stay there long term. I believe that team is the Boston Celtics, based on the sources of Racine Journal Times writer Gery Woelfel, Smith’s friendship with Rajon Rondo and the fact that Smith went out of his way to praise Boston’s fans last season. “I keep hearing Josh Smith’s primary destination is Boston,” Woelfel tweeted on Thursday.
ESPNBoston.com writer Jackie MacMullan cast doubt on Boston’s interest in obtaining Smith Monday on Boston’s WEEI, saying that Doc Rivers rolled his eyes when she asked him about Smith last year. Well, that was last year, before Rondo was lost for the season and Rivers was confronted with the inevitable conclusion that Boston can no longer contend with its current core. The problem for Boston is that Kevin Garnett insists he will not waive his no-trade clause. Any trade that brings Smith to Boston would have to involve Paul Pierce, Garnett’s close friend. Even if the Hawks were interested in obtaining Pierce, which I seriously doubt, for the Celtics to unceremoniously dump Pierce on a non-contender would be a bad PR move.
Thus, I see only one scenario that allows both Pierce and Garnett to go to a contending team while bringing Smith to Boston. The Celtics could trade Pierce and Garnett to the L.A. Clippers in a 3-team trade that would send Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom to the Hawks. The Celtics would also receive DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers and Johan Petro from the Hawks. This trade would allow the Celtics to rebuild on the fly and give the Clippers a 2-year window to contend for an NBA title. Butler’s contract would absorb $8 million of the Hawks’ cap room this summer, but the team would receive a potential star in Bledsoe, whose rights it would control for multiple seasons. Yes, Bledsoe and Teague (who I assume the Hawks will match any offer for this summer) create some duplication. But the point here is for the Hawks to obtain the best available assets to compensate for losing Smith.
Despite Garnett’s insistence that he won’t waive his no-trade clause under any circumstances, I believe that a scenario that allows he and Pierce to contend for another championship together would change his mind. The biggest hurdle for this trade would be the approval of Chris Paul, whom I noted before has been given de facto GM powers by his team. The Clippers matched Golden State’s 4-year, $43 million offer sheet to Jordan in 2011 in part to help the team’s chances of re-signing Blake Griffin, Jordan’s close friend. If Paul’s sense of loyalty to Griffin (and Jordan) is greater than his desire to upgrade the roster, I could see Paul asking Clippers management to turn this deal down.