It’s been an open secret around the league that the Atlanta Hawks are looking to move their star big man Josh Smith before the trade deadline. With an expiring contract and ambitions of a max deal that the Hawks don’t want to give him, it’s inevitable he’s going to leave at the end of the season and Atlanta are understandably desperate to get something back for the perennial almost-All-Star.
For years now, Smith’s name is prolific through trade rumours. He’s been linked to everyone from the Lakers to the Nets, and it’s probably only a matter of time before the New York Jets make a play for him to start at quarterback. Smith’s appeal is easy to see – he’s a talented young explosive forward who plays an exciting brand of basketball. While his averages of 17.4ppg and 8.6rpg are good enough for any team in the NBA, there’s always been the lingering hint of untapped potential that entices a lot of teams who see a potential franchise cornerstone in waiting.
Atlanta are not a team that fears trading star players, shipping out one-time believed savior Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster move this offseason. The issue that complicates matters for Smith is his contract situation and the uncertainty about where he’ll be next season. As it usually does close to the deadline, the rumors begin to fly about where star players will land. While reports today have Smith landing in Boston or Milwaukee, there’s only one team at this point in time that is certainly in the thick of trying to acquire Josh Smith – the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have a simple edge over other alleged frontrunners Milwaukee and Phoenix – they’d be set to make noise in the playoffs. Phoenix is a team that is still worlds away from returning to contention, and they currently have very few pieces on the roster to inspire much optimism in Smith and convince him to stay. Similarly, Milwaukee could potentially enter the offseason with their two best players – Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis – hitting the market if Ellis chooses to opt out of his deal at the conclusion of the year. Brooklyn, on the other team, is a team built with a ‘win now’ mentality and could potentially be one major piece away from causing havoc in the weakened Eastern Conference.
The rumored deal in place between the Nets and the Hawks at the moment would see Smith go to the Nets for Kris Humphries and promising second-year guard MarShon Brooks, who has been buried on the bench this season, go to the Hawks in exchange. The deal makes sense on both sides. The Nets gain another two-way weapon to play alongside Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez while sending out relatively little in comparison. The Hawks, while encumbered with Humphries’ $12 million salary for 2013-14 acquire a former first-round pick MarShon Brooks.
For those with a short memory, Brooks was a bright spot on a damp final season for the New Jersey Nets last year. Scoring 12.6 points per game in just 30 minutes, Brooks played well enough to earn himself a spot the All-Rookie Second Team – beat out only by a few relatively unknown guys by the name of Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving. Brooks has struggled in limited minute this season, primarily due to his heavy ball usage which is muffled on a squad with Brook Lopez down low and Joe Johnson on the wing.
Going to Atlanta, post-Josh Smith, would give the Hawks to find out just how good Brooks can be with the ball in his hands. Already down Lou Williams for the year, the Hawks will have plenty of possessions to go around after the 16 shots Josh Smith puts up per night is being shot in a different arena’s baskets. If Brooks embraces the chance and becomes a quality contributor, then the Hawks come out pretty well off in the deal, and if he fails to duplicate the promise he displayed in his rookie year, they can decline his team option on a very minimal salary at the end of next season.
Hawks fan can be understandably be frustrated when I say this is probably the best offer Atlanta will get, but if the Rudy Gay trade set a precedent for anything, it’s that teams will not give up a lot for a player if they’re aware the team wants to move them. Gay was a player with years left on his contract and a team that was bound for the playoffs.
The rumour mill is hitting fever-pitch as the deadline draws closer, and Atlanta will probably wait till the final hour before pulling the trigger on a trade. However, if they take the alleged packages Milwaukee or Phoenix is putting together over Humphries/Brooks, Atlanta are missing out on the best deal they’re going to get in the tiresome J-Smoove Saga.