Mar 27, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. The Bucks defeated the Hawks 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Deadline: What If Josh Smith Was Traded?

Despite the many swirling rumors surrounding Josh Smith, he will remain an Atlanta Hawk for the rest of the 2013 NBA Season.

There has already been a couple of reaction posts to the non-trade of Josh Smith here and here, so I’ll keep this short and take a different angle.

According to this report from, the Milwaukee Bucks were prepared to send Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, Beno Udrih and a protected first round pick (most likely lottery protected) to the Hawks in return for Josh Smith. I believe not taking this deal was a misstep for the Hawks organization. Let me construct an alternate reality when Danny Ferry accepts the Milwaukee Bucks’ final offer.

Let’s play a hypothetical roster construction game. Assuming Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson are brought back due to their restricted free agency status, the Hawks would have 7 players signed for the 2013-14 season. The depth chart would look something like this:

PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Lou Williams, John Jenkins
SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
PF: Al Horford, Ivan Johnson
C: Ekpe Udoh

I figure Teague could be had for $10 million a year, based on what Steph Curry, Ty Lawson, DeMar DeRozan and others made on their extension from the same draft class. Ivan Johnson might be brought back at a similar deal to Lavoy Allen, about $6 million over two years.

Doing the math, this makes for about $38 million, or $20 million under the cap, just enough for a maximum salary. Though landing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard is a pipe dream at best, it still shows the flexibilty the Hawks could still have, while picking up a future first round pick. This means, should the Houston Rockets make the playoffs, the Hawks could have 3 first round picks around the middle of the first round. For comparison, the Rockets had a similar situation last draft and turned those picks into Jeremy Lamb (who helped bring James Harden to the Lone Star State), Royce White and Terrence Jones.

In addition, any of Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia, or Devin Harris or more could be brought back should the organization want to retain them and be able to negotiate a good deal. It seems however, that the organization wants to try to bring back Josh on a friendly deal and then turn their focus to the open market, where any of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum and many more marquee names could be available.

Obviously, the rejected Josh Smith deal is considered 50 cents on the dollar but it was the best the Hawks could get for an expiring contract of a player many do not feel is worth max money. Put plainly, this Atlanta Hawks team has been winning with defense. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ekpe Udoh would fit right into the culture, all though a lot of burden would fall Teague and Horford to create offense.

The real kicker is that the only reason to not trade Josh Smith was to have a better chance to re-sign him by owning his bird rights, which lets the Hawks offer more years and more money than any other team can. A report came out yesterday that an anonymous source close to Josh Smith says it is high unlikely Josh Smith would want to re-sign with the Atlanta Hawks. I do not claim to know Smoove’s intentions, but if this report is anywhere near accurate, the Hawks may come to rue not dealing him for any sort of assets they could get. Not to mention a sign-and-trade to bring back assets is pointless from the view of the player, in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If I’m Josh Smith, why would I want to return to a team that has been shopping you for the better part of the year with coaching and management that I have butted heads with many times?

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution echos my sentiments:

Here’s the problem with what happened Thursday: There is a chance Josh Smith walks after this season for nothing. Even if he has overvalued himself and doesn’t get the contract he hopes for in free agency, he still may leave. Ferry obviously wasn’t enamored with any of the players he was offered in trade, but aren’t weak assets better than potentially no assets?

Make no mistake, some trades are worse than no trade in this situation. Taking on a large multi-year contract, such as that of Amare Stoudemire, as well as an overpaid undersized power forward in Kris Humphries makes even less sense than holding onto Josh. But if it takes an overpay to keep Josh in Atlanta, why not try to get some value when there was a chance to?

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