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Could J-Smoove be on the move?
Rudy Gay was the first trade domino to fall late last month. Now, it looks like Josh Smith could be the next.
The Atlanta Hawks forward is hoping for a max deal (five years, $94 million) when he hits free agency this summer. The consensus around the league is that Smith, who has been with the Hawks since 2004, will be out of Atlanta's price range if he demands a contract of that magnitude.
Rather than holding onto Smith (17.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.3 spg) and hoping he'll reconsider, the safest thing for the Hawks to do would probably be to trade him. That way, the Hawks would at least get a few pieces back to start up the rebuilding process.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reported about a week ago that the likelihood of Smith getting dealt before the February 21 trade deadline was about "60 percent" though many around the league would consider that a light estimate.
If this is indeed Smith's final week in a Hawks uniform, where would his unique skill set best be utilized? Let's explore that topic by looking at some of Smith's potential landing spots.
The long shots
Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis has long coveted Smith (Smith actually signed an offer sheet to play with the Grizzlies when he was a restricted free agent in 2008) but their recent Rudy Gay trade has likely eliminated them from consideration.
Phoenix Suns: There was talk that Phoenix could dangle center Marcin Gortat (11.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg) as part of a deal for Smith but John Gambadoro, a sports talk show host on 620 KTAR Phoenix, has since refuted these rumors.
San Antonio Spurs: Smith, one of two players in the NBA averaging at least 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block (the other is MVP candidate Kevin Durant), would be a game-changer for any team that acquires him. But with a 41-12 record and 13 wins in their last 14 contests, do the Spurs really need him? Yahoo Sports says that the Spurs have "interest" but it wouldn't makes sense for them to break up their core for what would probably be a three-month rental.
Brooklyn Nets: The Nets want Smith badly and it seems like an ideal fit. Smith and Joe Johnson (16.8 ppg) played together with the Hawks for seven seasons so he wouldn't have any trouble fitting in.
Smith probably wouldn't be the No. 1 scoring option (Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams are all averaging over 16 ppg) but then again, offense is only a small part of the package Smith offers fantasy owners.
Brooklyn is hoping to rid itself of power forward Kris Humphries (5.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and backup shooting guard MarShon Brooks (5.2 ppg). Both are fantasy- worthy if given enough minutes. Humphries would take Smith's place at forward while the free-shooting Brooks would be a solid fill-in for injured guard Lou Williams (out for the season with a torn ACL).
Charlotte Bobcats: Playing for one of the worst teams in the NBA probably wouldn't be Smith's first choice but the team does have plenty of cap room to sign him to a long-term deal (only three players on Charlotte's roster make more than $7 million annually).
The Bobcats are trying to unload Ben Gordon (12.7 ppg, 41 percent from three point range), who would also be an ideal replacement for Williams (14.1 ppg, 3.6 apg).
Charlotte is only a four-hour drive from Smith's home in Atlanta and Smith would have a chance to establish himself as a franchise player with the Bobcats. Plus, he'd have the opportunity to work alongside owner Michael Jordan, whom Smith paid homage to with a free-throw line jam at the 2006 Slam Dunk competition.
The versatile Smith would likely start at the four in Charlotte with Byron Mullens (12.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) moving over to center. Bismack Biyombo (4.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg) would slide back to the bench.
Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs had a chance to see Smith in action this past Monday in a 105-101 Hawks win in Dallas (26 points, 13 rebounds for Smith). Smith's arrival would cut into Shawn Marion's minutes but it would also take a ton of pressure off veteran Dirk Nowitzki (15.1 ppg).
It would probably better serve Dallas to acquire a point guard (Darren Collison's future with the team looks shaky at best) but nothing would surprise me with owner Mark Cuban calling the shots.
Houston Rockets: We're not sure what the Rockets would give up as part of this trade, but it would probably involve either Patrick Patterson (11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg) or Chandler Parsons (14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg). Both are rising stars with sleeper fantasy potential.
James Harden (26.1 ppg) is the unquestioned focal point of the Rockets' offense but there's probably still room for Smith to average between 13 and 15 ppg. Judge Reinhold lookalike Omer Asik is already Houston's chairman of the boards (11.6 rpg, second in the NBA) so it might be tough for Smith to maintain his 8.6 rpg average if he goes to Houston.
There's still one more possibility we haven't discussed yet. If Smith decides that he's willing to take a little less money this summer, the Hawks could spend that extra dough on impending free agent Dwight Howard, an Atlanta native and a former high school teammate of Smith. Reuniting Smith and Howard (16.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 2.4 bpg) would immediately make Atlanta the second-best team in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the only team with a real shot to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat.
Even if Smith and Howard are secretly planning a dynasty in Atlanta, Smith should probably have his suitcase packed just in case.
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