April 23, 2014

Josh Smith Possibly On The Trade Block?

Josh SmithGenerally I don’t raise my eyebrows at NBA trade rumors too much. This time of the year, you usually get so many names tossed into the ring that after a while, it all becomes a bunch of white noise. It seems like about 75% of the rumors thrown out there are generally unrealistic anyway, so it can sometimes be kind of tough to take them seriously. None the less, it can sometimes be fun to dream.

We’ve already heard the rumors about Rasheed Wallace, Charlie Villanueva, Shaq, Antawn Jamison, and even Carlos Boozer. This morning, it was a new name that really caught my eye and made me sit up a little bit. The name being thrown into the rumor mill this time was the Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith.

ESPN’s Chad Ford first mentioned this rumor in his Draft Buzz column [ESPN Insider link] yesterday afternoon. He wrote,  

The big trade rumor flying around (if you’re already tired of the Shaq-to-Cleveland talk) centers on the Hawks’ Josh Smith. Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks have been working hard the past few weeks to see whether they can find a taker for Smith.

The Hawks have some financial issues coming into the summer. Two key players, Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams, are free agents. So are a few others on the roster — Josh Childress, Zaza Pachulia and Ronald Murray. Although the Hawks would like to keep those players, they can’t afford to pay all of them. That has opened the door to the possibility of trading Smith, who, although talented, has a reputation as a difficult player to coach.

The Hawks have had no problem finding teams interested in Smith. The issue is the whopping $6 million trade kicker attached to his contract. The trade kicker essentially would require the team that trades for Smith to pay him the $6 million immediately. In this economic climate, many owners will balk at the payment.

“You are going to see very few owners willing to do things like that anymore,” one GM said. “I’m not saying he’s impossible to trade. There are a few owners like Paul Allen, James Dolan, Mark Cuban and maybe Daniel Gilbert who would pay the money. But there aren’t many.”

Any time a deal is financially motivated, you can count on the Cavaliers potentially being buyers as Dan Gilbert is one of the few NBA owners still willing to take on salary in his attempt to build a Championship team around LeBron. But how serious is this rumor? Well, if you want Hawks answers, why go anywhere else than to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s own Sekou Smith. In his Hawks Blog last evening, he wrote,

ESPN.com’s NBA Insider Chad Ford claims the big rumor of the day is that the Hawks are shopping Smith (I’ve had two Hawks sources insist to me this afternoon that they aren’t shopping Smith or anything like it, but what else do you expect them to say?), hoping to find a taker for their 23-year-old power forward (the one with the $6 million trade kicker and the love-him-or-hate-him debate stuck to his profile).

Normally, I’d take my garbage extinguisher and put down a silly, Hawks-related rumor before it starts burning. But not this one.

Even if the Hawks haven’t formally chatted up teams about the prospect of trading Smith, I know it’s been discussed internally. And here’s another warning, all those wanting to vote Smith off the island better be careful what you wish for. Aside from this being a win all the way around for Smith (if anything were to happen he’d get the $6 million, a move to a potentially better situation and he’d rid himself of all those folks groaning every time he does anything other than dunk or block a shot), it’s a huge gamble for the Hawks. There’s no way you move a player as young and talented as Smith without getting someone equally young and talented in return.

And Ford is absolutely right about one thing, there are plenty of teams that would love to snatch him away from the Hawks and plant him on their frontline for the next five to seven years and see just how much better he’ll get in that time.

I say this after having numerous conversations last summer and all season long with scouts and executives from teams around the league wondering just how good Smith might be if he played in another system (no one has ever seen him anywhere but in a Hawks uniform).

So while it doesn’t sound like the Hawks are definitively shopping Smith at the moment, they certainly seem to be open to thinking about it. If they are considering it even in the slightest, than Danny Ferry better be jumping on the phone and finding out just how serious/desperate they are to shed Smith’s $10.8 million salary this season.

Before anyone gets too excited about this, though, we should note the money quote from Sekou Smith above: “There’s no way you move a player as young and talented as Smith without getting someone equally young and talented in return.” I’m not sure you can really find anyone other than LeBron that fits that description on the Cavaliers.

The key to this trade would be Atlanta’s level of desperation. Having Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, and Flip Murray all being free agents, and still trying to bring Josh Childress back home is a lot of money to have to spend for sure. Marvin Williams has a $7.335 million qualifying offer which I imagine will be accepted. At that point the Hawks will have $48.22 million already locked up. If the Salary Cap comes in at the reduced $57.3 million mark as the league projected back in February, that would leave the Hawks with a little more than $9 million to sign their free agents. The Hawks can use Bird Rights on Bibby and Pachulia if they wanted to in order to go over the cap, meaning that signing everyone could be possible, but for a team that doesn’t want to go into luxury tax territory, it could be tricky. That’s where shedding Smith’s contract could come in handy for them.

If they are desperate to trade Smith to save the money, they could get better players in return from teams other than the Cavaliers, but how many teams are willing to take on the $6 million trade kicker? For the Cavaliers, it’s a no-brainer. They are already over the cap and heading back into luxury tax realm again this year anyway, and so if Dan Gilbert is willing to spend the money, and all indication are that he is, then the trade kicker is really pretty irrelevant to the Cavs. The Cavaliers could also have a nice trade asset in the form of Ben Wallace should he decide to retire. If he retires, the Cavaliers could trade his whole $14 million contract to the Hawks, who could turn around and buy out Wallace and thus save the money up front on his contract.

A Smith for Wallace deal wouldn’t work one for one, obviously, but perhaps if Atlanta truly wanted to move Smith, Ferry could come up with a creative package. Perhaps he could pull off another miracle 3 team trade. Or perhaps something along the likes of Josh Smith and Speedy Claxton (another player the Hawks are rumored to be looking to move) for Wallace and JJ Hickson. This would allow the Hawks to save the money they are looking to dump and they would also get a young player in Hickson with the potential to grow into a good player.

For the Cavaliers, this would be a move that would instantly improve the lineup on both sides of the ball. We all saw first hand in the Atlanta series just how imposing and intimidating Smith can be on defense. And while he had, at times, a somewhat poor offensive series against the Cavaliers, don’t be deceived….Smith is an excellent offensive player who would give the Cavaliers a serious post scoring presence that they so sorely lack. For all the open outside shots that Smith missed against the Cavaliers, he was able to completely shred the Cavaliers’ interior defense in that series, and he was still the Hawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs this year. Smith is a player who has extreme quickness and athleticism, has pretty solid post moves and can blow by defenders in getting to the hole on drives, can block shots, is an adequate rebounder, and knows how to score. He makes questionable mental errors from time to time, but some people implied that Mo Williams was a bit of a head case and un-coachable when the Cavaliers traded for him last summer, and we saw how quickly LeBron and Coach Brown were able to gel with him. Given a new team to play with, one with strong leadership and a high level of chemistry, it would be incredibly intriguing to see how Smith’s game could blossom in Cleveland. He’ll be 24 next season, and he’s signed to a reasonable amount through 2013, giving the Cavaliers another long term piece to the puzzle and further adding to the stability of this roster. For a player who has had a +15 PER in every season of his career and over the last 3 years has put up 16.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.43 blocks per game, he would certainly be an exciting addition in the wine and gold.

A lot (and I mean, a LOT) of factors would have to work out just right for there ever to be a scenario where the Cavs and Hawks could get serious about trade talks for Josh Smith. As has been pointed out, the Hawks would certainly be looking for a great deal of young talent in return, and that is something the Cavaliers don’t have to offer. But if we allow ourselves to dream for one minute, we can hope for a scenario where the Hawks decide to keep Bibby, Williams, Pachulia, and Murray and bring Childress back from Greece. If that happens, and the Hawks have to get rid of Smith’s salary, then the Cavaliers could eventually become a player after all other options have been exhausted. One can hope, anyway.

  • mgbode

    sign-n-trade AV, Hickson, Sasha, #30 for Josh Smith, Speedy, #19….

    $8mil/year for AV I believe gets it within NBA parameters.

    hickson gives them another young, cheap big guy

    with Speedy, his $5.7mil salary counts on the cap but insurance pays 80% while sasha only has $1.5mil gauranteed that would be included against the cap creating more cap-space for ATL to resign it’s players

    Cavs get Josh Smith and can possibly go after a wing player that we consider the best fit for this team at #19 (whether it be Earl Clark, Sam Young, or Terrence Williams, etc).

  • Chris M

    I really don’t think the Cavs could even dream about getting anyone better than Smith. Sure, I cheered during the Hawks series every time he took a shot outside of 15 feet, but he is an absolute terror in the lane. He and Lebron on the court at the same time would be an impossible matchup for any team in the league.

    Now I’d like to know Atlanta’s asking price.

  • http://Cursedcleveland.com CursedClevelanddotcom

    I can’t imagine Josh Smith ever hoisting a championship trophy over his head. (Although I said that about Lamar Odom). Smith has some of the worst shot selection in basketball, and that’s saying something. He literally got booed off his home court in game four against the Cavs.

    Great athleticism, but mentally, he’s just not there.. I’ll pass.

  • david

    i wouldnt mind going after marvin williams. id rather have him the varejao

  • dwhit

    This would be fantastic if it worked out. Call me a lunatic, but I’d prefer Smith over Bosh even.

    That said what are the percentages of this actually going down? 0.5%? Worse?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    I understand that he is extremely gifted. He can penetrate and elevate with the best of them. I question his desire and heart. Now it’s possible that playing with LeBron is enough to bring him in line mentally. But when the best way to defend someone is to let them shoot at will…

  • http://Cursedcleveland.com CursedClevelanddotcom

    I’d add Rick that he is an atrocious free throw shooter.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    Isn’t the best way to defend LeBron “let him shoot at will”?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    I’d add that 2 years ago he shot 71% from the line. And 4 years ago he shot 72%. Far from “atrocious”.

    I’d also add that Shaq and Dwight Howard are atrocious FT shooters. Not sure what that really has to do with anything.

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeus

    Josh Smith is a player with the natural talent to be the best power forward in the league, however, the player he reminds me most of is Drew Gooden in the sense that he’s dumb as rocks. I could imagine Lebron James wanting to shoot him every time, he launches an ill-advised jump shot from 20 feet away from the hoop. However, he’s the third most athletic player in the league behind Lebron and Howard and he’s a beast down low. It would be intriguing as hell if the right deal fell into our laps.

  • AMC

    I’m not sure about Smith as the right fit – I’m also concerned about his mentally checking out of games, and he has a mid-range game that needs major improvement.

    This story though foreshadows what I think is going to be a CRAZY NBA offseason with the vast majority of teams scrambling to shed salary. I think it’s going to be a target rich environment for teams that are willing to spend and be creative and the Cavs have shown they are willing to do both.

    Should be fascinating to watch…

  • Mark_NYC

    Ben Wallace also is a defender and rebounder, and an atrocious free-throw shooter, but Josh Smith can actually score a little bit and is great in transition. So adding Smith would be like getting a cheaper Ben Wallace-plus, in my opinion.

    Plus, I think Mike Brown and LeBron can limit Smith’s mental mistakes by reducing his offensive portfolio. With LeBron, Molante and Gibson taking our 3-pointers and Zydrunas taking jumpers on the pick-and-pop, we won’t need Smith to do any of our outside shooting. Tell him to just run the floor, get garbage baskets on putbacks, and post up every so often. I think it’s a strategy that has a realistic shot at working, if Ferry can find a way to make the contracts work for the team.

  • Chad

    And to think this article didn’t even have to be written if we had a good GM during the 2004 NBA Draft. With the 10th pick of the 2004 NBA Draft the Cleveland Cavaliers select a crappy version of their 2003 2nd round pick.

    I remember Josh Smith was supposed to go right around 8-12 in the draft, but questions about his maturity dropped him down to 17. Imagine if we could have pulled off a trade with Toronto to get their pick and take Iguodala like they wanted to. Because Rafael Araujo really turned out to be a steal for the Raptors. Hey, but he did help the Brazilian basketball club Flamengo to a South American League championship

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    The Hawks were a team NOTORIOUS for their lack of leadership. They had no identity, and they tended to play without much of a gameplan. Get Josh Smith in Cleveland where there is a clearly defined leader and a clearly defined offensive identity, and the results would probably be a lot different.

  • http://Cursedcleveland.com CursedClevelanddotcom

    “I’d add that 2 years ago he shot 71% from the line. And 4 years ago he shot 72%. Far from “atrocious”.

    I’d also add that Shaq and Dwight Howard are atrocious FT shooters. Not sure what that really has to do with anything.”

    So wouldn’t that worry you that it’s gone down to 58% this last season. How many guys regress like that? Isn’t that sort of telling? As for what he did four years ago, is that really that relevant? Do you care how LeBron shot three pointers four years ago?

    And I’m sticking by 58% from the stripe as being atrocious. I guess we’ll have to disagree on that.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    No, I do not think 1 down season for a 23 year old kid indicates a trend. There are always outliers.

  • Ricky

    I think the 58% is a little misleading, he had a stretch during the middle of the season where he missed like 13 straight FTs I think it was, and was in just a slump at the line. Without that slump, he would have done just fine. Look at his FT% in the playoffs, 73%. Not too bad

    Defensively, not only is Josh Smith quick enough to guard Rashard Lewis, he is strong enough and big enough to guard KG in the post. He would make this team so much better defensively against the top teams in the league. Offensively, he can score. He might be dumb, but he can score. We also could be a good fastbreak team with LeBron and Josh Smith on the same team, that is if we ever ran a fastbreak

    If it is at all possible to steal Josh Smith from the Hawks, we have to do it. We lose cap space next year but he is young and has loads of potential

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    Ricky’s got it – he can guard Rashard. He can bang down low with KG if he has to. He can be reigned in with a guy like LeBron in charge.

    I think of two things and get giddy about this:

    1) Defense – think about having LeBron, Delonte, and Josh Smith on the perimeter on defense. Filthy.

    2) Blocks – fat blocks. I mean, like, orca fat.

    And there would be slam dunks too.

  • Jeff

    As much as I love the Cavs and would love this trade, if anyone thinks we can get Smith for Ben Wallace and Sasha and the swap of picks is crazy. There is no way that will happen. Not even if we threw Hickson in there either.

    I know the Cavs didn’t want to trade Delonte in the Shaq deal, and I don’t necessarily blame them. He would have to go in this trade though. He is the only younger guy we have with good upside.

    I don’t know how we make this trade, but I would do it if it didn’t require Mo or Lebron obviously. That’s about it. I would trade anyone else on this team to get better.

  • Ricky

    They don’t really need Delonte West though, they have Joe Johnson and Flip Murray and they do well there, so I’m not sure how he would fit into this trade short of a third team being involved that is looking to strictly cut cost and is willing to part with a decent prospect in order to do so. JJ definitely has to be involved though, and I’m cool with that since we are getting a stud in return

  • Ricky

    ESPN trade machine has Josh Smith as a BYC player, that goes away now that the season is over, right?

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    Personally? I’d rather part with Mo than Delonte. He was the only one playing hard the entire playoffs.

    And you’re right about Delonte not fitting on that roster well.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com RockKing

    @Ricky: After June 30th, it goes away.

  • Mark_NYC

    Denny, was that a “Usual Suspects” reference in comment #18? If so, hat’s off.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    That it was sir, that it was.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Back in that barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois…

  • Andrew S

    Everyone is worried about trying to guard Rashard Lewis, but he is not the problem in our matchup with the Magic. If you watched the Lakers series (and to a large extent the series with the Cavs) you will notice that Lewis was not exactly burning past Varejao, he was getting wide open threes because Varejao was supposed to help double Howard. The Lakers had Odom and Ariza on Lewis and he was held largely in check outside of one game.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but its clear that the Cavs need a guy who can possibly guard Howard 1 on 1 occassionally, and they need to switch up the defensive plan on Howard. I know people said the same things about Mo as they did about JS, but every year we here about how much of a cancer JS is. I never heard that about Mo.

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  • Kevin Boedicker

    I wanted this trade for Josh Smith ever since I heard it. The name of Ben Wallace wasn’t really in as many scenerio’s as Anderson Varejo & JJ. Hickson but Pavlovic was. Since the trading of B.Wallace & Pavlovic to the Suns for Shaq all that would need to complete this trade would be someone in the slot vacated by Pavs trade west. The upfront money due Jo.Smith in the trade shouldn’t be a problem for Owner Dan Gilbert. Now of course what this does for the future could be even greater Imagine L.James, Jo.Smith, Shaq, M.Williams, D.West for this year next year L.James, Jo.Smith, Bosh, M.Williams, D.West. Not sure what the bench will look like but 2 years of those that lineup could very easily produce back to back championships