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.