My feelings on Josh Smith are rather well known. He shoots too many jump shots (indisputable) and that, among other things, causes him to be one of the more maddening players in the NBA. Now that we have that established, there are certainly arguments for Danny Ferry not trading Smith at the deadline, and we’ll take a look at these points one by one.
1) Josh Smith is very, very good basketball player, and the Hawks are not the same team without him
This one seems wildly simple (because it is), but if the goal was to simply win games on the court this season (it shouldn’t be, but still), holding on to Smith would be the best way to do that. He’s one of the two best players on the team, has produced at a near All-Star level for seven years, and is one of the most versatile/explosive players in the entire league. This is the flimsiest of all of the arguments because it’s based on a flawed assumption (that wins this year are the most important thing), but I’m sure this thinking exists somewhere.
2) Danny Ferry wants to have a CHANCE at keeping him
For the entirety of trade season, the media community has worked off of the base-line assumption that Danny Ferry and the Hawks do not want Josh Smith back for next season. While I agree with this point, there is something to consider alongside it. What if Josh Smith is best player that Atlanta can attract with their vaunted cap space this summer? For all intensive purposes, this is the year for Atlanta to make a push in the summer to build their roster with high-end talent, but with Chris Paul likely destined to stay in LA, the top free agents are (in my mind) Dwight Howard (question mark), Andrew Bynum (screaming question mark), Brandon Jennings (restricted and question mark), Josh Smith (obviously), Andre Iguodala (can’t score), and the duo of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. How many guys are better on-court options than Smith? The only definitive choice is Howard, and with the way he’s performed/behaved this season, anything is possible. In short, Danny Ferry can’t afford to trade Josh Smith if he wants any chance at re-signing him, because if he leaves before the deadline, we can all waive bye-bye to his “Bird” rights, and in turn, to Smith.
3) The Hawks can’t get full value for him in a trade deadline deal
This is probably the only scenario in which Smith doesn’t get traded before Thursday’s deadline. Most reports surrounding Ferry’s philosophy have discussed that he wants nothing to do with clogging his cap flexibility in a trade for Smith. I completely agree with this point of view, and I would go as far as to say that the only money that he should take on past this season would be in an acquisition of a young, cheap asset on a multi-year contract. Monta Ellis? No thanks. Kris Humphries and his $12 million next year? Pass. At any rate, there is certainly an argument that if all else fails, Ferry can hold on to Smith, let his contract expire, and then re-evaluate the market in the off-season without compromising the massive amount of flexibility that the Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams trades afforded him. I would defend this move if it happened, but the caveat (for me, at least) is that I firmly believe that Josh could be dealt for an “expiring deals only” package at the deadline, and Ferry could probably swindle a 1st-round pick for the trouble. At any rate, there’s merit to this point.
In the end, it’s going to be a fascinating deadline day, and whether Smith gets traded or not, the eyes of the NBA world are on Danny Ferry, and more importantly, on the Atlanta Hawks.