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2012 Atlanta Hawks Season Preview: What If Josh Smith Was to Be Traded Midseason?


October 1, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith (5) is interviewed during media day at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

You might have heard that this is a transition year for the Atlanta Hawks. Make no mistake, it is not a rebuilding effort. Lou Williams has deemed it “restructuring” and Jeff Teague still considers this team a contender. But there are some significant longterm issues to address with the elephant in the room being Josh Smith on the last year of his five year contract.

His relationships with former head coach Mike Woodson and then his successor Larry Drew has had some turbulence. Beyond that, though he’s a great talent, the national perception is still sour enough to see him denied a deserved spot on the All-Star team the last two years. He has already previous declined an extension at the prospect of re-upping with a longer term contract once his ends in the offseason. After the whirlwind offseason that saw Joe Johnson leave town, his tone towards resigning with Atlanta immediately augmented significantly. This is to be expected, as the hometown kid from College Park has now become the face of the franchise and the de facto go to player on the court.

But, to play devil’s advocate, it is still possible that talks could go south during the season and Danny Ferry and the Hawks could have a Dwightmare or Melodrama situation on hand. Though the media would probably not extend the same 24/7 coverage that those situations had,  in a similar fashion the sake of the franchise might hinge on possible losing its best player.

Should Josh Smith explicitly want out of town, what trade options would be available? One would presume a contender would not think about jeopardizing its shot at championship by exchanging valuable pieces for a polarizing player the caliber of J Smoove. However, those searching for a possible star player to build around or the missing piece to becoming a championship caliber team might bite. In this Joe Kaiser article on ESPN.com (Insider), he lists some trade ideas that could be feasible in the coming months. To address them in order:

Josh Smith to the Indiana Pacers for David West and Paul George

May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) battles for a loose ball with Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) and Paul George (24) in the first quarter during game 5 of the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Paul George is the prize in this scenario, seemingly on his way to stardom about to the level that Josh Smith is at and possibly higher. He possesses a long 6’8” figure that can defend the 2 through 4 comfortably with a sweet release and the ability to fill up the stat sheet in a similar manner to the man he would be traded for. David West is on the last year of his contract but is a tough undersized power forward that could gel with Horford in the frontcourt quickly. The Hawks would have a control of Paul George for a long time as he reaches restricted free agency in 2014 much like Josh Smith did in 2008. He could easily mask the Atlanta wing’s defensive liabilities, such as John Jenkins and Lou Williams who are signed longterm, and become the new face of the franchise. However, the Pacers don’t seem likely to give up a cheap asset like George without definite knowledge of being able to retain Josh Smith longterm and even then it is still unlikely.

Josh Smith to the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis and a first round pick

This proposed trade is odd in that Andrea Bargnani is a similarly talented but flawed player and that Josh has hinted at his preference for larger markets, and therefore is probably unwilling to sign long term in Toronto. Bargnani is a sharpshooting and offensively active player but struggles on defense and is an incredibly poor rebounder for his size. His total rebound percentage last year, the percentage of rebounds he grabbed per the total available rebounds, was a ghastly 9.8%, sandwiched by Alonzo Gee and Chase Budinger on the stat chart last year. Did I mention he has half a foot on either of those two? Al Horford would be helped with the grunt work of rebounding with Ed Davis next to him but Davis possesses few other useful basketball abilities. This seems like a poor trade from both angles.

January 25, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon (8) goes to the basket against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) and power forward Paul Millsap (24) during the first quarter at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Longer shots

Among the longer shot trades listed, Utah with their incredible depth at power forward and center might be willing to part with a combination of Paul Millsap, also in a contract year, and either Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors or Gordon Heyward. Taking Millsap and say Favors, the hometown kid who attended Georgia Tech, would make sense towards more depth in the post. If the opportunity to resign Millsap arose, a trio of Horford, Millsap and Favors would be incredibly athletic and a longterm force in the East.

Denver with Danilo “Il Gallo” Gallinari would be an intriguing partner, as Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri has shown no fear of trading a player that was recently signed to a longterm contract; see Nene and Arron Afflalo. Josh Smith is essentially an Andre Iguodala doppleganger, just couple of inches more stretched out, and that duo could wreak havoc on any wing player that crosses halfcourt.

However, I do not foresee any scenarios where Josh Smith is traded during the season, rendering this simply a thought exercise and nothing more. He seems to relish the idea of leading a team at the mature age of 26. Danny Ferry has restated many times his admiration of Smith’s talent and his commitment towards building around him if at all possible. It should be an interesting story to see unfold this winter and beyond.

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