With the trade deadline a week away, the San Antonio Spurs have been rumored multiple times to make a deal. Moving Dejuan Blair and acquiring Al Jefferson from the Utah Jazz were the first moves to be mentioned, but now the Spurs name has popped up in the Josh Smith sweepstakes. While Smith thinks he’s worthy of a max contract, the Atlanta Hawks don’t seem the be the team that will give it to them. Of course the Joe Johnson-$120 million offer happen so I wouldn’t put anything past the organization.
If the Spurs want Smith they key piece in a trade will likely be second-year forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumored deal was Leonard and big Tiago Splitter for Smith, but that just doesn’t seem like enough to trade for an all-star caliber player. At the moment the Hawks have little depth at the small forward position outside of Smith and Splitter would be the second big man they have, so if they’re looking at potential then it sounds good, but for the Spurs there are many questions.
Nearing the end of the Big 3 era, the Spurs are looking to win now. For years we’ve been proclaiming the Spurs window as closed. And each year, while not winning an NBA championship, they’ve proved us wrong. Going into all-star weekend this team has the best record in the NBA at 42-12. While things look the same from the exterior, they’ve gotten better defensively. At this moment, San Antonio has the third best defensive rating in the NBA behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers. Last year before the break the Spurs were ranked 16th. Defense isn’t an issue. Neither is offense.
This team is also old. Well the core is old, the role players are solid. They won’t have all the chances in the world to win the Finals, but if they could, this year is looking like his best bet. Only the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder stand in their way and Smith would create problems versus both teams. Imagine Blake Griffin or Serge Ibaka guarding Smith for 30-40 minutes a night. And if they face off against the Miami Heat, Smith’s length and athleticism against Lebron James would really help.
And trading key pieces to their playoff run for a slightly above average isn’t the best move for Tim Duncan and company. Unless this is the last stand for the Grizz. Wanting a max contract makes it unlikely that Smith would return to the Spurs especially when there are teams that’ll give him the money *looks at Houston Rockets*. This summer the Spurs will have $41 million left in cap space. If Manu Ginobili decides to not retire, add his contract to that number. It’s unlikely that Stephen Jackson and Dejaun Blair will be returning, so around $44-$46 million seems right for the team. I can’t imagine Greg Popovich keeping Smith around long term. It just doesn’t seem like them. For years the Spurs have kept their core and surrounded them with quality role players. Smith is a star in this league, whether some like to hear it or not, and his offensive decisions just don’t seem to fit into this scheme.
With the offense being initiated by Tony Parker, the ball movement on offense is key to how this team goes. It’s how they remain a top-3 regular season team despite the stars talent declining. Smith and his decision making, which is sometimes erratic, could mess up the movement. Most importantly, less spacing will be available with Smith on the floor. No matter how many times Smith wants to shoot the ball, he’ll never be a 3-shooter. Just ask the fans of Phillips Arena. But at the age of 27, it seems like he’d be able to change. While he isn’t young, he’s old enough to realize that his career will be over in some years to come and he has to do whatever he can to fit in with a championship caliber team. And if anyone can get it out of him it’s Popovich.
But in the short-term of things, Smith would be a great fit. Add Josh Smith, one of the best and most versatile big man defenders in the NBA, to an NBA lineup that features Tim Duncan you’ll easily have the best defensive front court that any team in the NBA. Maybe Smith stops settling for mid-range jumpt shots and begins to use his height and speed as a constant mismatch. But if these things happened as of now, he’d have multiple suitors waiting in the off-season to offer him the max. His athleticism could be used also. Instead of a young Leonard matched up against Kevin Durant in the playoffs, Smith, who’s 6’9 could easily replace him. He’s not going to stop Durant, but using his weight against his actual defense could pose problems for Durant for years to come.
The lineup would likely be Tony Parker – Danny Green – randomHawksforward – Josh Smith – Tim Duncan. No matter who you’re playing that’s a solid lineup. With Parker playing at an MVP-type level and Duncan having one of his best seasons in three or four years, Smith wouldn’t look bad. But between the money and offensive restraints he adds to this team, things just don’t seem like they’d fit. But this is me slightly questioning Pop’s genius as a coach and that’s not something I can do ofter. I just can’t see Smith conforming to that offense. What I can see is Pop’s facial reaction after Smith hike’s up another three and bricks.
But whether we like things or not, the odds Smith end up with the Spurs will show how much value he’s ultimately worth. If Leonard x Splitter is enough to get Smith, then Smith’s level will have reached Rudy Gay-status: value’s dropped enough to where each player gets “lowballed” on offers. And it might not be Smith’s fault. The Spurs are in a good place though and I don’t have the feeling like the end of the Big Three is close which will probably make Smith less likely to join the club. It’d have made a nice lineup on NBA 2K though.