HAWKSVILLE - If you believe what you read, and I’ll warn you that you can’t always do that where NBA rumors are concerned, Josh Smith’s name is generating some serious buzz on the trade rumor mill as the NBA draft approaches.
ESPN.com’s NBA Insider Chad Ford claims the big rumor of the day is that the Hawks are shopping Smith (I’ve had two Hawks sources insist to me this afternoon that they aren’t shopping Smith or anything like it, but what else do you expect them to say?), hoping to find a taker for their 23-year-old power forward (the one with the $6 million trade kicker and the love-him-or-hate-him debate stuck to his profile).
Normally, I’d take my garbage extinguisher and put down a silly, Hawks-related rumor before it starts burning. But not this one.
Even if the Hawks haven’t formally chatted up teams about the prospect of trading Smith, I know it’s been discussed internally. And here’s another warning, all those wanting to vote Smith off the island better be careful what you wish for. Aside from this being a win all the way around for Smith (if anything were to happen he’d get the $6 million, a move to a potentially better situation and he’d rid himself of all those folks groaning every time he does anything other than dunk or block a shot), it’s a huge gamble for the Hawks. There’s no way you move a player as young and talented as Smith without getting someone equally young and talented in return.
And Ford is absolutely right about one thing, there are plenty of teams that would love to snatch him away from the Hawks and plant him on their frontline for the next five to seven years and see just how much better he’ll get in that time.
I say this after having numerous conversations last summer and all season long with scouts and executives from teams around the league wondering just how good Smith might be if he played in another system (no one has ever seen him anywhere but in a Hawks uniform).
They won’t have to wait much longer to get a look. My sources inform me that Smith is headed to Las Vegas next month to participate in the USA Select team’s summer workout. He’ll be working with the same elite team of young stars that Al Horford worked with last summer as they helped prepare the Olympic team for their gold medal march in Beijing. (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala, Rodney Stuckey, Kevin Martin and O.J. Mayo were some of the other young stars on that squad. Personally, I’d love to see Smith in that mix and see what kind of things he might do in that set up. Doesn’t sound like the kind of cat I’d be trying to get rid of, but hey, it’s not my call).
Something tells me that any NBA team wondering what Smith looks like free from the backcourt dominated system the Hawks run will be sitting in that gym in Vegas next month taking some serious notes as well. Horford earned raves from folks in attendance, many of whom asked later why they didn’t see any of that from him during the season.
It’s a legitimate question, especially for players that aren’t the No. 1 offensive option on their teams during the NBA season like Durant, Martin and Iguodala are on their teams.
Look no further than the recently completed NBA Finals for proof that patience (with talented but still developing young players) is a virtue that most teams would be wise to embrace.
Orlando had Trevor Ariza on their roster just as he was coming into his own but they couldn’t wait. It had to sting his old teammates watching him help the Lakers usher the Magic out of the Finals in five games. In fact, outside of Kobe Bryant and Derrick Fisher, the Lakers’ other main players during the series were all basically someone else’s cast offs. Miami sent Lamar Odom packing (albeit for Shaquille O’Neal). And Memphis foolishly gave up on Pau Gasol (swapping him for Kwame Brown, two passes to Six Flags over Georgia and a lifetime supply of Twizzlers … or something like that).
I’m not suggesting that teams should never trade away young talent. There are certainly times when a parting of the way works for both sides.
I’m only warning that you better know exactly what it is you are doing when you enter this realm (and we still don’t know for sure if this is only idle chatter, speculation rooted in some real conversations or just 226 words of complete nonsense designed to stoke the pre-draft flames).
Either way, the Hawks are on the clock (draft and otherwise) between now and training camp. And it appears that we aren’t the only ones watching to see what they do.