HAWKSVILLE - There’s room in the Hawks’ locker room for another Joe. And certainly enough room for another Smith.
And if the early reports are true, ESPN’s Ric Bucher reported it first Friday afternoon, veteran power forward Joe Smith will indeed be joining the clan in the ‘ville on a one-year deal, possibly as early as this week.
The Hawks aren’t confirming or denying anything, per their policy on all free agent matters this summer. Sources indicate that Smith has indeed agreed to join the team but that no deal has been finalized yet and nothing has been signed. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that barring a last-minute catastrophe, this deal is going to get done.
It’s the answer to many questions for the Hawks up front. Smith is the veteran, spot up shooter, rebounder, locker room leader and wise voice for youngsters Josh Smith and Al Horford (in particular) the Hawks have been looking for. His addition will give the Hawks a solid two-deep depth chart up and down the lineup, leaving three to four roster spots up for grabs for the likes of Randolph Morris, Garret Siler, Othello Hunter and whoever else shows for training camp.
Josh Smith, Horford and Zaza Pachulia will be happiest about the elder Smith joining the fray. They need the assistance, on every front. They were without a veteran assist last season, a deficiency that was magnified during the playoffs against Joe Smith’s old team (Cleveland), which disposed of the Hawks in four games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
A versatile 6-10, 225-pounder, Smith plays bigger than his listed size. He always has, dating back to his days at Maryland, when he dominated the competition on his way to becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft. This is yet another summertime coup for the Hawks, who have bargained shopped their way back to the fourth spot on the Eastern Conference food chain behind Cleveland, Boston and Orlando (last year’s order but not necessarily the pecking order for this season). Seriously, for all the cash spent in other places, the Hawks used a prudent, cost-conscious approach to bring back the core of a 47-win team, while also adding two key veterans in Smith (pending the completion of his deal) and Jamal Crawford, not to mention promising rookie in point guard Jeff Teague.
Joe Smith isn’t an acquisition on the level of Rasheed Wallace (Boston), Shaquille O’Neal (Cleveland), Vince Carter (Orlando) or even Hedo Turkoglu (Toronto) for that matter. But he’s exactly what the Hawks needed at a position of critical importance. He’s also a fantastic insurance policy at an even better price, should injuries to Smith, Horford or even Marvin Williams become a factor the way they did last season, when all three of the Hawks’ young frontcourt studs missed considerable time last season with injuries.
So with basically all the heavy lifting done now, how do you rate the Hawks’ summer to this point? Good, bad or something else?