Despite the numerous quotes from both General Manager Danny Ferry and Josh Smith, rumors have been flying about his availability in a trade in advance of Smith’s impending free agency in 2013. This time, it involves Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have had a long history of swinging favorable trades to bring in talent, regardless of financial consideration, due to their large revenue streams. Take a look at their current team. Steve Nash, although a free agent, only cost some meaningless draft picks in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns. He had an offer of three years, $36 million reportedly to play for Toronto but instead settled on a 3 year, $28 million offer from Jerry Buss and the Lakers front office. This was yet another example of a player taking less money to go to Los Angeles.
Pau Gasol was brought in for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, a couple of first round picks, and the rights to Marc Gasol. Dwight Howard and spare parts was flipped Andrew Bynum and spare parts, and Bynum has yet to take the court for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers.
This brings us to their lofty trade expectations this season. The new rumor is that the Lakers are interesting in a Pau Gasol for Josh Smith and another player, Kyle Korver was the idea that was floated, to make the salaries match. For a representation of said swap, see this trade machine output. ESPN.com gave this quote:
Sources say that the Hawks, at present, have no interest in parting with Josh Smith and Kyle Korver for Gasol. Or even Smith and lesser parts for Gasol. Positions can obviously change between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline, but sources maintain that Atlanta has not been enticed in the least by the prospect of parting with the 26-year-old Smith — even as he heads into unrestricted free agency — for the 32-year-old Gasol. The Hawks, for the record, have also been telling interested teams that they value Smith and what he offers as a hybrid forward in an Eastern Conference that’s generally been getting smaller.
It’s likewise true, sources said, that the Lakers have had internal discussions for months about pursuing Smith, not only for his athletic gifts but also knowing that J-Smoove is one of free agent-to-be Dwight Howard’s closest friends in the game. But if that’s really who L.A. wants, there will have to be another team or two recruited into the deal to satisfy Atlanta’s demands.
From the Lakers’ perspective, it gives them an athletic option to go along with Steve Nash in the D’Antoni system, similar to when both were in Phoenix with Josh playing the role Amare Stoudemire did. Also, given the fact that J Smoove and Dwight Howard are long time friends, it seems it would increase the chance of both staying in Los Angeles longterm when their contracts are up in the offseason.
However, from Danny Ferry and the Hawks’s perspective, a deal as currently proposed would be a great misstep. Ferry was intent last offseason on removing longterm salary cap burdens as he sent Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams their separate ways for expiring contracts.
Pau Gasol is slated to make over $19 million next season, which is a lofty sum for a declining 32 year old. Gone are the days of him posting near 20 points and 10 rebounds numbers. He has slowed half a step since 3 years ago and his normally Al Horford-like shooting percentage is creeping toward Josh Smith territory.
Speaking of Al Horford, he and Pau together in the same frontcourt would see a couple of power forwards both masquerading as centers. Their skill sets are extremely similar, both relying on a crisp pick and pop game wherein both are knockdown midrange shooters, and there may not be enough shots to go around.
There is even a strong argument to make that Josh Smith is currently a better player than Gasol. Josh Smith excels at defense: in isolations, post up and especially weakside help. Gasol has the edge in flowing within the offense, putting up high percentage shots, and crashing the boards on offense. In terms of total contribution, Josh gives the team a high energy and a big numbers on the stats sheet and Gasol gives his team efficiency and reliability. Both are top 30 NBA players, and are very comparable, as seen by their Basketball Reference stat lines of the last full NBA season.
If the Lakers are also asking for Korver, as one of the best pure shooters in the association begins to heat up, it becomes a foolish trade in the short run and long term. Anthony Morrow or Devin Harris as a piece to make the salary switches work make more sense but not enough sense.
There is no knowing whether the Hawks desire to go into a semi-rebuilding mode by gathering assets or try to remain competitive and go for big name free agents in the offseason. Should they decide on getting younger and developing talent, this makes a straight swap unrealistic. In order for a possible transaction, the Lakers would have to sweeten the pot in the form of young assets or possible a third party to bring decent draft picks that the Lakers do not possess.
Let us step through some possible young Lakers that could be available. Darius Morris was drafted out of the second round from Michigan in 2011 has pure point guard abilities and decent athleticism but lacks shooting. He projects as no more than a career backup. Darius Johnson-Odum was drafted out of Marquette the next year, but has the reverse problem of all scoring and point guard play currently in development. Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre are very raw at small forward and center respectively do not project to be more than fringe rotation players.
In short, there are no throw-ins that the Lakers have that may get the Hawks a good return for Josh Smith. With Josh Smith and Pau Gasol currently posting the worst numbers of their careers in this early NBA season, the time to pull the trigger on a trade is certainly not now. This rumor, and others involving Josh, will almost certainly pop up again around the trade deadline. Pray we survive the Joshpocalyse like we barely did the Dwightmare.