As the clock ticked past 3:00 pm on Thursday, the tweets/alerts began to roll in with news that Josh Smith was not being traded by the Atlanta Hawks. Like a lot of people who follow the Hawks, I was somewhat surprised by the final outcome. As of Thursday morning, it still seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Smith was on his way out of Atlanta, and that the only “news” would be seeing what kind of package that Danny Ferry acquired for his services. Alas, the deadline has come and gone, and Josh Smith remains on the Atlanta Hawks roster, so it is time to reevaluate and reflect on what did (or rather, didn’t) go down on Thursday.
First of all, the “failure” to trade Josh Smith is not a disastrous outcome. In electing to hold on to Smith, Danny Ferry effectively ensures that he has his entire cap flexibility for the summer of 2013, while simultaneously fielding a competitive on-court product for the second half of the season. If there was one huge argument for not trading Smith, it was that in the majority of rumored trades, the Hawks would be taking back contracts that pushed beyond the end of the 2012-13 season. Clearly, this was something that Ferry wanted desperately to avoid, and holding on to Smith ensures it.
The opposing view, however, is that Atlanta is leaving value on the table by not dealing Smith at this moment. Of course, the actual “offers” that Atlanta received for Smith are the biggest question mark in the entire evaluation. Did anyone offer a package of expiring contracts sweetened with a 1st-round pick? Were there any young, cheap players on the table that were packaged with expirings to provide solid value? We have no idea. Personally, I would never have accepted the Humphries/Brooks offer from Brooklyn, and the rumored Milwaukee deal that featured Udrih, Udoh and Mbah A Moute didn’t exactly inspire a parade in the streets. The “definitive” take on the non-deal would require a lot of information, but if we’re to put trust in Danny Ferry’s assertion that he wouldn’t take any cap hits in a Smith deal, he stuck to his guns and there’s something to be said for that.
In the end, this move (or non-move) has simply prolonged the decision for another five months or so. I am on the record that Josh Smith is not the player that I would invest max-money in as the organization moves forward, but that is the decision that Danny Ferry is faced with when the calendar turns to July. Personally, I would have done whatever it took to remove Smith from the roster this season (i.e. moving him for expiring contracts and expiring contracts only if necessary) for the express purpose of disconnecting from the circus that surrounds his future AND the possibility that Atlanta could “tank” the season without plainly doing so. While this is probably an “extreme” viewpoint, it is one based around the hope that Smith won’t be locked up for a max contract. On Friday morning, Josh Smith will be a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and the team’s focus will be on a) developing young players, and b) winning games for the duration of this season. Five months from now? The circus reconvenes.