We’re back with all of the reasons that Atlanta (and Danny Ferry, specifically) should deal Josh Smith. I must confess that this was a much easier list to put together.
1) Josh Smith isn’t worthy of the type of contract that he’ll receive (from someone) in the off-season
On the open market, it is assumed that Josh Smith will get a “max” or near-”max” contract from another NBA team in this off-season. If Atlanta were to pony up the max deal for Smith, it is believed to be in the 5-year, $94 million range. With another team, Smith could only receive a 4-year deal, but it is all but assured that his salary would be in the $65-70 million range over those four years. Frankly, he’s not worth that investment for anyone, and he’s certainly not worth that type of “extra” money from Atlanta. Smith is a top-30 player in the NBA in my estimation, but there are probably only 10-15 players worthy of “max” money, and investing a 4-5 year deal at that level into a 27-year-old player who’s athletic skills will be on the decline by the middle-or-end of such deal would be irresponsible. Add in Smith’s occasional temperament issues and his seeming unwillingness to adjust/mold his game around the things he actually does well (i.e. not shooting contested 19-footers), and you suddenly have a wretched potential contract. With all of that said, however, someone is going to give him that contract, and if you are Danny Ferry and you don’t want to do so, trading him now for a small return is the move.
2) He’s not coming back
Somehow, I feel that this is an under-reported story. First of all, Smith has been on the trading block for the better part of three years, and while he’s made it clear that his desire is “max money”, there is something to be said for unhappiness. Why would he want to return after all of that? I know that Atlanta is his home town, but are we all just forgetting that Smith willingly signed an offer sheet to go to Memphis before the Hawks matched it? This is his current contract, and yet, everyone thinks he’s automatically going to want to stay? I’m aware that the extra money is always the biggest factor, but Smith also strikes me as a guy who might play the “loyalty” card against the Hawks for all of the time he has spent on the market. If Danny Ferry gives him the 5-year max, he’s coming back, but if we’re to assume that he won’t do that, why do we think Josh would take a discount?
3) There are many scenarios to improve the future of the Atlanta Hawks roster by trading him
Here is the ace in the hole. Atlanta can either a) acquire draft picks and expiring contracts for Smith, or b) acquire young, cheap assets along with expiring contracts for Smith. Both of things would undeniably help Atlanta, because there are exactly two things that are most important when building an NBA contender. First, you want to have young, cheap assets on controlled contracts and/or 1st-round picks that turn into those young, cheap assets. Secondly, you need upper-echelon talent in order to build a winner, but the critical mistake is paying 2nd-tier talent (ahem, Smith) as if it was 1st-tier talent. The ideal deadline trade surrounding Smith would either be purely for expiring contracts and a 1st-round pick or a deal for a promising, young player on a great contract (think Eric Bledsoe, Thomas Robinson) with expiring contracts. Ferry has made it clear that he’s not taking back any deal that will impede his cap space this summer (say bye-bye to the Kris Humphries rumors), and either of these types of deals would fit under that umbrella. The cardinal mistake in the handling of Smith would be let him go for nothing when there is a deal out there that would acquire a 1st-round pick at no cost. Keep in mind that this season’s on-court success should mean virtually nothing in the grand scheme of thinking because this is not a championship-level team. Frankly, I would offer Smith to the Celtics for Rajon Rondo immediately in an effort to a) garner an asset on a more-than-fair contract, and b) “tank” this season in the standings with the roster as it stands, and almost “hope” for a lottery spot.
Although it’s painfully obvious from context clues, my position, in the end, is that Ferry needs to deal Smith at the deadline. I’m a firm believer that there is a deal out there for either expiring contracts and a pick, or a young asset to help build for the future. Let’s just hope that it’s the right deal.