A month ago, we got the first whiff of the impending divorce between the Atlanta Hawks and Josh Smith. Now we're hearing that not only is Smith open to a trade, he's got a wish list of where he'd like to go.
The Atlanta Hawks have started to gauge trade interest on forward Josh Smith, and Smith isn’t averse to ending his seven-year stay with his hometown team, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Monday.
Smith hasn’t requested a trade, but has privately told league friends that the Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets,Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic are his preferred destinations should the Hawks decide to move him.
It's getting pretty clear where this is heading. Atlanta is getting impatient waiting for Josh Smith to turn into Kevin Garnett, and they've painted themselves into a corner with the Joe Johnson deal. Since no one is going to take on Johnson's deal, it's Smith that's got to go.
So which of the four teams make the most sense? Let's run 'em down.
Orlando Magic: Nope. As we've documented here a few times, the Magic rolled the dice with their midseason trades and came up snake eyes. You could theoretically put a Jameer Nelson/Brandon Bass package together and hope its enticing, but its not. Atlanta is looking to save money and they prefer a veteran with short years left. Orlando is in a tough spot right now and simply doesn't have the pieces in place to get Smith, even though a Dwight Howard/Josh Smith frontcourt would be amazing.
Houston Rockets: Highly doubt it. If the Rockets, maybe, wanted to get more athletic, they could part with Luis Scola for Smith. And since they're under the cap, the salaries don't have to match under the current CBA (which is still in effect for the next week-and-a-half). But again, Scola is locked up long term and I'm not 100% sold that this fills the needs of the Hawks. It just doesn't make sense. And I don't think Smith is what the Rockets need. They need a veteran to come in and bring some stability and teach these guys how to win.
New Jersey Nets: Eh, maybe. The Nets are under the cap too, so they can absorb Smith for whatever Atlanta is willing to take back. But the Nets fall into the same boat as the first two teams: who the hell do they offer? You could try a sign-and-trade with Kris Humphries, but Atlanta would never do that. And since the Nets are obviously not going to get rid of Brook Lopez, I don't see anything here Atlanta would want.
Boston Celtics: Possible. This is the only team on the Josh Smith wish list that makes sense. The Celtics have Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, both players that Atlanta would want:
Hawks GM Rick Sund has long coveted Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – two aging Celtics entering the final years of contracts – but Celtics GM Danny Ainge has yet to show an inclination to break up his core for next season.
Danny Ainge has said in the past that the biggest mistake Red Auerbach made at the end of the Big 3 era was not being willing to break up the band and trade one of those aging stars away to keep the run going. Now Ainge may find himself in a similar boat. Ray Allen for Smith works. It gives Atlanta the veteran presence they need to teach the young guys something about the game. And since Allen is in the last year of his deal, Atlanta can move on after the season is over. The Celtics, meanwhile, get the youth and athleticism they need while maintaining their defensive philosophy. It would also reunite him with former Oak Hill Academy teammate Rajon Rondo (video of how they worked together here)
The down side to this scenario is trading Smith to an Eastern Conference rival. And if the Hawks are really looking to make a move in the conference, they'd probably be inclined to look out west for a trading partner. With Portland mulling over moving Andre Miller, maybe Atlanta would ask them about making a move? That would give Portland a glut of forwards, but they might then try to flip one of those extra bigs somewhere else.
The point there is there are other teams out West that might suit Atlanta's needs while moving him far enough away to make sure he's not going to be a constant thorn in your side. So while Boston fans might be getting a little excited about a young, athletic forward saying he wants to join them, it might be best to temper that enthusiasm for a while as this whole thing plays out. Josh Smith may end up getting moved, but the Hawks won't hurt themselves just to dump him.
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