As the 2013 NBA trade deadline came to a close, the prize piece stayed put, when general manager Danny Ferry decided the best option for the Atlanta Hawks organization was to hold onto forward Josh Smith.
On Thursday, Smith said Atlanta will be on his list of teams he considers when he becomes a free agent. However, all politics is local. The Atlanta native does not want to irritate the home fans, but a person familiar with Smith’s plans told USA TODAY Sports that it is “highly unlikely” that Smith re-signs with Atlanta. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the private nature of the negotiations.
This statement presents the question: what, if anything, can the Hawks do this summer to keep Smith?
When speculation spread that Smith could potentially be dealt to the Bucks, Chris Broussard tweeted out that No. 5 would welcome playing with Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Just hours later, in a chat held on ESPN.com, it was interesting to see analyst Chad Ford make comments connecting Atlanta and Jennings this summer.
Jeff Teague, like Jennings is up to be a restricted free agent this summer. Restricted free agency, in short, means another team can offer a player a contract and if the player signs the offer sheet, their original team can match this offer and retain his services.
Teague is in the middle of his best season as a Hawk, scoring 14 points and seven assists per game. After playing sparingly over the first two years of his career, the third-year guard is one of the “core players” on the Atlanta roster, along with Al Horford and Smith.
But if Teague, compared to Jennings, is more of a pass-first, shoot-second type of guard, why would Smith want Milwaukee’s ball handler over Atlanta’s?
For one, Jennings could take some of the focus off of Smith.
While it’s no doubt the Hawks need a locker room leader, and Jennings doesn’t exactly fit that bill, he is a playmaker. An electric guard who isn’t afraid to chuck the ball, Jennings has attempted a whopping 903 shots in 2013 compared to Teague’s 607. He is the driving force behind the Milwaukee offense and would bring some swagger to the Atlanta locker room.
But digging deeper, Jennings’ numbers simply back up Smith wanting to play with him. Per 36 minutes for their respective careers, Jennings is the overwhelming favorite, despite his background as a volume shooter. Assists-wise Jennings averages 5.8 assists per 36 minutes, while Teague averages just 6.1.
But this season, Teague is averaging 7.5 assists per 36, while Jennings, who is surrounded by another ball-dominant guard in Ellis, is averaging just 5.9 assists.
What Jennings gives up in passing, he makes up for in points. His 18.4 points per 36 minutes are ahead of Teague’s 15.2 per. Jennings admittedly looks for his shot much more often than Teague and does hold a lower field goal percentage, but he gives his team what could be considered the “Jamal Crawford effect”. When Jennings gets it going, he’s hard to stop.
After checking out the numbers, it will be a tough decision for the Hawks between two players who could conceivably command similar money.
Teague is fitting in nicely with Atlanta, but his night-in and night-out effort is a bit concerning. When he’s aggressive and gets up for the big games, he’s unstoppable. When he’s not keyed in, it’s been a bit sloppy. And his turnovers are costing Atlanta down the stretch.
The same can be said for Jennings, though. HIs shooting has pushed the Bucks in and out of games.
With all things considered, if it meant bringing Smith back, would you choose Jennings over Teague? Let us know in the comments below.