The NBA trade deadline in about a month or so away, meaning there will be tons of rumors thrown around; some legit and some more of the speculation variety. One prominent name to make a note of is Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, who has been the subject of trade rumors for the better part of the last three seasons. The Hawks should finally bite the bullet and deal Smith. Now.
While Smith is having his usual do-it-all type of season and averaging 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game and also stuffing the stat sheet with 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals. Smith’s shooting may still be shaky, but you can live with that some nights. Throw in the expiring contract and the fact that Smith is a virtual lock not to sign with Atlanta this summer, and you have a prime candidate for a trade-deadline deal.
The Hawks as an organization proved that they can remain competitive in the East after trading a star when they shipped Joe Johnson off to the Brooklyn Nets, so it’s not a stretch to believe the team can survive losing Smith, depending on what they get in return.
Atlanta is set at power forward–Smith’s more natural position–with Al Horford, Ivan Johnson and rookie Mike Scott, to a lesser degree. Where the Hawks are in need is at the center position. The Hawks have a roster with capable shooters and penetrating guards; a true post presence could open things up for the Hawks offense in ways they have been lacking for years.
The question is who would be a trade target? Believe it or not, the prime candidate on the market would be, wait for it, Los Angeles Lakers F/C Pau Gasol.
A Gasol-Smith swap makes sense for both teams, financially and basketball-wise. Gasol’s game is more suited for the post, which fills a need for the Hawks. Smith is more of a face-up hybrid power forward, which fits the Lakers both offensively and defensively.
Financially, Josh Smith makes $13.2 million this season compared to Gasol’s $19 mil price tag, meaning Atlanta would have to throw in a player to make the salaries work in the short term. Atlanta could include Devin Harris in exchange for Gasol to make the deal work.
Long term, the Lakers could re-sign Smith and his close friend Dwight Howard in the offseason, although they would be hit with a hefty luxury tax. The Hawks have a ton of cap space and could absorb the final $19.2 million Gasol’s contract and still have enough cap space left over to add more pieces. And if Gasol proves to be over-the-hill, they can let him go when his deal expires in the summer of 2014 and still have a ton of cap space to work with.
Josh Smith wants out of Atlanta. Los Angeles needs to part ways with Pau Gasol. This trade scenario appears to be a match made in basketball heaven.