HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — That didn’t take long.
We went roughly one week without a juicy trade rumor to chew on. Then came Monday’s news that the Hawks had agreed to a contract extension with All-Star center Al Horford (five years, $60 million) and the rumors began to fly.
Hawks power forward Josh Smith is the man caught in the crosshairs, with most people wondering if it makes sense to move him now or later (how about never?) or move someone else?
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford lit the flame with this detailed explanation for why it might make sense to move him:
Several GMs believe the Hawks won’t be able to keep Joe Johnson ($18.5 million in 2011-12), Josh Smith ($12.5 million in 2011-12), Marvin Williams ($8 million in 2011-12) and Horford ($12 million in 2011-12) together past this season for financial reasons.
While Horford’s new salary won’t push the Hawks into the luxury tax, it will put them very close. The move means they won’t be able to afford to re-sign Jamal Crawford, or replace him with a similar salaried player next season, without incurring the tax.
That situation is already leading to speculation that GM Rick Sund may be forced to put Smith on the market soon. Sund briefly flirted with trading Smith last summer, before pulling back. While no one is claiming he’s been made available yet, a number of GMs around the league expect his name to be in the mix by the February trade deadline.
Williams would be the Hawks’ first choice to move, but he didn’t get a lot of bites when he was available this summer. That could push them to see what they can get for Smith.
A number of teams, including the Knicks, Nets, Pistons and Suns, have shown interest in the high-flying forward in the past. It will be interesting to see if talks heat up as we get closer to February.
If the Hawks didn’t move Smith in a rumored deal for Amar’e Stoudemire (it came up a couple of years ago and again last season around the trade deadline, when Stoudemire was the hottest name in the game), I can’t see any reasonable explanation for trying to move him now.
This Hawks’ team has yet to plateau, so trading anyone off this roster right now (even Crawford) makes little sense to us. Are they ready to challenge for a title right now? No. But Sund would be taking a huge gamble trying to find the right piece by the trade deadline by moving a piece as integral as Smith is to this team.
Now we’re not crazy. If you can leverage Smith for someone like Chris Paul or even Carmelo Anthony, then you have to explore your options. You never say never.
But unless you are talking about acquiring a player of that caliber in a package, this is a waste of time.
Someone has to go, but it needs to be someone other than Smith.
What say you?