After months of uncertainty surrounding Smith’s status with the team, it was believed he and the Hawks had reached the point of no return. Rumors were being fed left and right, and a parting of the ways seemed inevitable.
So what gives? Why didn’t the Hawks deal their tumultuous forward? Why must they prolong this overbearing saga any longer? Why is Smith still in Atlanta?
Well, the Hawks didn’t deal Smith because they’re smart. Really smart. Geniuses even.
Offers that were rolling in on Smith were hardly game-changers, and with the team set to have tens of millions of dollars in cap space this summer, there was no reason for them trade their star player while compromising said flexibility for pedestrian packages at the same time.
Just to give you an idea of how prosaic the proposed deals were, understand that, per Sam Amick of USA Today, the Hawks actually backed out of a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Atlanta pulled out of Josh Smith talks with Milwaukee late, kept pushing until the end. Should make for an interesting summer.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 21, 2013
What were the parameters of said accord, you ask? According to Ric Bucher of NBC Sports, they weren’t anything to get excited about:
Source: Atlanta Hawks blow up deal at last minute that would’ve sent Josh Smith to Milwaukee. Hawks would’ve re-
ceived Ekpe Udoh, Luc Mbah-Moute, Beno Udrih and a protected No. 1 pick. Can’t imagine the Bucks are happy having invested so much time in trying to make it happen. Leaves big question now if Hawks can do better this summer.
Atlanta would have been foolish to pull the trigger on such a deal. Ekpe Udoh and and Luc Mbah a Moute, neither of whom are posting PERs above 11.1, would have actually added payroll to next season’s docket while Beno Udrih is a backup point guard on an expiring deal.
Why would the Hawks agree to that? They were trading a superstar in Smith and not receiving either of Milwaukee’s four best assets—Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders—in return. Are you kidding me? As much time as I wasted covering this soap opera, I can’t even try to be livid with the Hawks. They did the right thing.
Of course, the “right thing” is not without risk.
Smith is set to explore free agency this summer, which means he can sign wherever he wants and leave the Hawks with nothing. The Hawks, however, can move him in a sign-and-trade, so they at least get something in return for his departure.
For those thinking that Smith can paint Atlanta into a corner by saying he’ll sign with Team A no matter what, thus forcing the Hawks to trade him there for whatever said faction is offering, think again.
Again, it’s not as if they’re over the cap. They have all the financial flexibility in the world moving forward and could simply dare Smith to sign for four-years and less money instead of going through a sign-and-trade where he can get five.
Also, don’t rule out Smith’s return to Atlanta. Stranger things have happened. The Hawks have a ton of money to spend on marquee names this summer, and if Smith sees they’re on the cusp of rebuilding around star-esque talents, he could warm to the idea of staying put, just like he did this summer.
Yes, it’s frustrating. The trade deadline was about as interesting as watching the Charlotte Bobcats practice and after being misled to no end, it’s only natural to have wanted this saga to draw to a close.
From a business perspective, however, Atlanta made the right call. This wasn’t the Orlando Magic turning down lavish offers for Dwight Howard after 18 months of toiling with a divorce. This was the Hawks doing what’s best for their franchise and their future.
A future that looks a whole lot brighter now that they didn’t trade Smith in what would have been the wrong deal.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.