Why the Hawks shouldn’t trade Josh Smith

Bo Churney —  February 12, 2013 — 12 Comments

Over the past few days, sources have said that the Hawks are currently in talks with the Nets about sending Smoove to Brooklyn. The rumored trade could be Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and a first round pick for J-Smoove.

My first thought was that there was no way this rumor could be true, but reports continue to insist on its existence. I see why Brooklyn would want to do the deal, but this would make absolutely no sense for Atlanta.

Kris Humphries hasn’t been good this season. His defense isn’t really good and he’s been inefficient, although his rebounding is extremely solid. (as it’s been for his entire career) He’s also scheduled to make $12 million next year, which would be a strange way to spend all that cap space that Danny Ferry has been coveting.

Now, I’m relatively high on MarShon Brooks, but he hasn’t been good in sporadic playing time this year. Of course, that could change if given consistent minutes in his hometown, but what would happen next year? Lou Williams will be back by then, which could easily leave him in rotational purgatory again. (while I’m high on MarShon’s abilities, I think the team would be much better off in developing John Jenkins)

The fact that this is supposedly hinging on a pick that’s going to fall somewhere in the early to mid-20s is ridiculous.

What would this trade ultimately do? Well, it doesn’t bring Atlanta a game-changing player. It would make the Hawks noticeably worse, but not bad enough to put the team in the lottery. It’s wouldn’t allow Al Horford to slide over to the four position, and possible tap more into his potential. In other words, it’s pointless.

Winning a title in the NBA is all about having a superstar. (don’t try to bring up the ’04 Pistons to me) You need a top ten player and a great supporting cast to get there.

Is Josh Smith a top ten player? Nope. Would trading Josh Smith potentially bring a top ten player? Sure, if the Hawks are getting lottery picks from Phoenix or Charlotte. In all the other proposed trades, though? No, that’s not happening.

In my view, the Hawks have three better options than making a trade: try to sign Dwight Howard with Josh, re-sign Josh without Dwight, and letting Josh Smith walk.

Signing Dwight Howard

Sure, getting Dwight to come here is a long shot. A looooooooooong shot, to be exact. But even against the odds, is that not the best option? It would certainly be the easiest way for the Hawks to grab a superstar, even if Howard has been hobbled by injuries this season. Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Dwight Howard would be the best front court in the entire Association, and the Hawks would still have room to offer contracts to Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, plus the other guys that would fill out the roster. Even with horrible odds, that is a much better option than Kris Humphries for a year and a half.

Only signing Josh Smith

Of course, since this master plan probably won’t work, you have to be prepared for what will happen in the aftermath of its failure. If Josh demands max money, you can give it to him, and continue being a third-sixth seed in the East for a few more seasons and hope you get lucky. Of course, with the way Jeff Teague has been playing lately, we still have no idea what he may become. He could just continue to be an above-average point guard, or he could blossom into one of the league’s best at that position.

Now, I don’t think a Teague-Smith-Horford core is a bad one; I think it has some potential, as all three of those guys still have room to grow. (and, of course, it still leaves open cap space) However, barring Jeff Teague turning into Chris Paul, the ceiling on that team is likely the same as the one on the Joe Johnson teams: good, potentially 50-win team, but still not enough to compete for a title.

Letting Josh walk

Now, what could happen is that the Hawks let Josh Smith walk and they battle forward with Jeff Teague and Al Horford. They would have about $30 million in cap space to play with at that point, but would have it in a less-than-stellar free agent market. In all likelihood, they could build a decent team that would get them into the playoffs, and still leave enough cap room for the much more enviable 2014 free-agency period.

Why are all of these options better than just trading Smith for the sake of getting something in return? They either get you the superstar you need to win, or they leave you with the cap-flexibility that is a more enviable position for Danny Ferry to operate. With cap-flexibility, you can continue to freely move things around.

Almost all of the feasible trades that I’ve seen proposed about Josh Smith usually do two things: make the Hawks worse as a team, but not bad enough to land in the lottery, and require Atlanta to take back at least one bad contract with multiple years on it.

That’s what the Hawks risk in making a trade. They risk mucking up all of that cap-room that they traded Joe Johnson away for, and becoming a mediocre team to boot.

Mediocrity is the worst place for an NBA team. Continuous first-round exits with draft picks in the late teens isn’t going to magically turn you into a contender.

That’s the choice the Hawks have to make here. You can either trade Josh for parts that don’t equal what Smoove does on the court, and have that eighth-seed locked up for years to come (mediocrity), or you go big and hope you hit the jackpot.

Obviously, going big means greater potential for striking out, which is fine; even when you strike out, you’ll still have the room to move around and get another chance.

Bo Churney

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12 responses to Why the Hawks shouldn’t trade Josh Smith

  1. With USA Today reporting that Josh Smith’s representation is actively calling around the league to let teams know Josh is unlikely to remain in Atlanta after this season, I think the urgency to get something for him ramps up. I certainly agree that a trade with the Nets would be self-defeating on multiple levels. Marshon Brooks doesn’t play a position of need and why would Ferry commit 12m of next year’s cap to a player who isn’t even in the rotation for Brooklyn?

    Further, this trade would be self-defeating because the Hawks have the right to trade first round picks with the Nets in 2014 and 2015. Giving them Josh Smith for next to nothing would all but assure that the Nets will finish higher than the Hawks in both of those seasons. The Hawks would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    I think finishing the season with Josh on the roster still has multiple benefits because the Hawks will be able to offer Josh more than any other team and potentially sign him to a max deal with an eye toward trading him down the road. Any deal with a cap-locked team such as Brooklyn is still going to be there in the offseason because they can only obtain a player like Smith through a sign-and-trade.

    Meanwhile, I still prefer trades with Houston and Phoenix. The latter could offer Gortat, which fills a position of need. Houston could offer multiple players on rookie contracts, not much over vet minimum contracts, that could develop into rotation players for the Hawks for the next 10 years.

  2. Daniel Christian February 13, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I’m with Buddy on this one. I think Phoenix provides an intriguing offer with Gortat, and I think if you can pry Chandler Parsons and a pick from Houston with whatever else they throw in, that’s a good offer too. The best possible offer would be the Spurs offering Kawhi. If SA throws Kawhi on the table, Atlanta has to say yes, right?

  3. Matthew Lauritsen February 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    I think we would be better of keeping smoove. If we traded for Gortat i think Zaza would beat him out in the starting position which would eb just like trading for a backup. The Joe Johnson trade made a statement that our franchise was ready to build a good team and rise to the top. If we cant get what we need or want then there is no point in settleing for mediocore talent like we have before. If Ferry wants to build something here we either get what we want or we keep what we have and look into free agency whcih would be much more attractive with Josh Smith in our frontcourt.

  4. Matthew Lauritsen February 13, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I think we would be better of keeping smoove. If we traded for Gortat i think Zaza would beat him out in the starting position which would be just like trading for a backup. The Joe Johnson trade made a statement that our franchise was ready to build a good team and rise to the top. If we cant get what we need or want then there is no point in settleing for mediocore talent like we have before. If Ferry wants to build something here we either get what we want or we keep what we have and look into free agency which would be much more attractive with Josh Smith in our frontcourt.

  5. Josh Smith and Mike Scott for Tyreke Evans and Jason Thompson.

  6. Gives us a starting SG capable of creating his own shot or creating for others. Jason Thompson can be a starter at Center.

  7. Michigan Hawks Fan February 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Don’t trade Smith. Take a shot at signing Howard and Smith in the summer. If that fails then rebuild from the ground up.

  8. MHF,

    If Kobe, Dwight, Pau and Nash can’t make the playoffs, do we believe Josh and Dwight will contend in Atlanta?

  9. Michigan Hawks Fan February 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Yes we do with the right pieces around them. Too many egos in LA. Kobe & Dwight are like oil and water. But Josh & Dwight will be “Great” together.

    • Michigan Hawks Fan, still believe Josh and Dwight could have contended in ATL?

      Josh (predictably) is failing miserably. And James Harden plus Dwight still isn’t a top 5 team in the NBA.

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