The trade rumors surrounding Atlanta Hawks star forward Josh Smith have picked up steam on a daily basis, now with as many as 12 different teams expressing interest in Smith, and up to at least four teams making significant offers to the Hawks. Although Smith hasn’t exactly been a pillar of strength and leadership during his career in Atlanta, the truth is that he’ll be better off no matter where he goes.
Josh Smith has spent his entire basketball career (and life) in Atlanta. He grew up in my old stomping grounds of College Park, Ga. and has played for the Hawks since being drafted out of high school in 2004. There have been a few ups, and quite a few more downs during Smith’s time with the Hawks, and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, both sides have pretty much resigned to the fact that it’s time to part ways.
The thing is, Smith has gotten a bad rap while in Atlanta. I’m not disputing that some of this reputation as being a problem in the clubhouse isn’t by his own doing, but on the court, his numbers are hard to dispute. To me it seems that Smith has just been a victim of poor timing (and his own poor judgement) during his 10 seasons with the Hawks.
Smith is not a carry-the-team type of superstar, but he’s a guy that can compliment a true superstar like few others in the NBA can right now. Through the 2011-12 season, Smith averaged 34 minutes, 15.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Those are some hard numbers to replace. If you take numbers like that and put them on the court with some of the top point guards in the league, that creates some seriously spectacular offense.
But J-Smoove has never had one of the top point guards in the league on the court with him. For that matter, he’s never had a real superstar on the court with him. The closest thing that Smith had to a legitimate star as a teammate was Joe Johnson, and for the most part, I’d consider Johnson more like Smith – a complimentary player who can bring a lot, but can’t carry a team.
Smith still has some say about where he does and doesn’t go, and I’m sure that given his age and the small window available for him to finally make a run at an NBA Championship, he’ll only want to be traded to a serious contender. Whoever that contender is–whether it be the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets or other team–I have a feeling that Smith will flourish with a band of new teammates and a change of scenery.
Josh feels he’s a max contract guy, and at the end of this season either some team is going to have to ante up to retain his services, or Smith will end up as a year-by-year contract journeyman at the end of his career.
With the NBA trade deadline less than 24 hours away, the trigger will more than likely be pulled before long. The Hawks will miss Smith’s numbers, although they may not miss the headaches that have come along with them.