It’s not that there won’t be a market for Smith, because there will be. Though Smith’s attitude and lack of experience on a contender could prevent him from landing the max contract he so desperately seeks, neither will be a deal-breaker for a team interested in acquiring a two-way star.
The problem then? Atlanta is going to have to come to terms with dealing him first.
Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, there’s a growing belief within the NBA that Smith is on his way out of Atlanta:
Expectations are growing that the Hawks will trade forward Josh Smith, a source said. Smith has averaged 17 points, 8.6 rebounds. 4.7 assists and 2.1 blocks this month despite the trade speculation.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has never been what you would call a big fan of Smith or his dramatics. Toss in the fact that he’s a major flight risk this summer, and the thought of Atlanta dealing him before the February 21st trade deadline makes plenty of sense.
But doing so dictates that the Hawks give up not just a player, but a blueprint they have spent so much time building. Remember, when they brought Joe Johnson back in 2010, visions of creating a big three with him, Smith and Al Horford ran through the minds of everyone in Atlanta.
Nearly three years later, the Hawks have yet to get out of the second round of the playoffs, Johnson is gone and Smith could be on his way out. That’s a lot to stomach, especially considering the return on Smith isn’t going to be Carmelo Anthony- or Chris Paul-like.
By no means am I implying that Atlanta is going to get screwed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was a strong possibility. Teams know that the Hawks’ back are up against the wall, that they’re relationship with Smith is deteriorating and that he’s liable to leave in free agency. Which means the road is paved for the Hawks to be low-balled and, if they’re desperate enough, ultimately accept an underwhelming offer.
This is more than about giving up his 16.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, and it’s more than about accepting the relationship between Smith and his team is fractured beyond repair. Instead, it’s about acknowledging the Hawks must enter a full-fledged rebuild for the first time in nearly decade. And that’s something they didn’t even have to cope with upon shipping out then leading scorer Johnson.
So, while we anxiously await Smith’s departure, bear in mind that said departure is anything but imminent. If Smith was making the call, maybe it would be. But he’s not. The Hawks are. And to them, he means just as much as Dwight Howard did to the Orlando Magic or Anthony to the Denver Nuggets. Right now, he was their best shot at remaining a playoff caliber faction.
And just like it was for the Magic, Nuggets and even the New Orleans Hornets, the Hawks aren’t readily prepared to break up a schematic that was supposed to help them contend for a championship.
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.