I haven’t said much about the Josh Smith trade rumors because there’s nothing to them. You can guess how well that approach worked.
It started with Chard Ford’s ESPN.com blog post, which he based on league GMs looking at Atlanta’s roster and speculating that ASG can’t afford to keep Josh, J.J., Al, and Marvin together after this season (Rick Sund said he never heard from Ford).
That led to more speculation but still not much in the way of hard news. And as these things tend to go, the secondhand speculation aspect of the original “story” gets lost and suddenly the rumor is the Hawks are looking to move Smoove. (Rule of thumb in these cases: Beware the question mark headline.)
It’s not true. Sund didn’t want to comment on the rumors, which is his usual policy, but Smoove confirmed that team management reassured him he’s not on the trading block.
“They didn’t need to,” he said. “Some people just want to make it interesting and put lies out there on blogs and stuff to amuse people.”
He said he doesn’t read magazines, newspapers (ouch) or blogs (dang). But as you can imagine people around him do and reporters ask him questions and so he’s aware of the speculation. He said it doesn’t affect him, though.
“I’m here to play basketball,” Josh said. “People just throw things in the air and see what they can get out of it.”
It’s not hard to disconnect the dots that Ford’s GMs (you see what I did there?) tried to make.
First, the finances: Atlanta’s payroll this season is about $69 million, right up against the tax threshold. Next season the Hawks have roughly $64 million committed to eight players when including the $12 million Horford will make in the first year of his extension and subtracting potential free agents Jamal, Mo, Twin, Etan and Josh Powell (Pape Sy’s deal is not guaranteed for 2011-12).
The Hawks would have to add their first-round draft pick’s salary and four other players to reach the league minimum of 13. But it’s not like they need to start shedding salaries to avoid paying the luxury tax next season because, as it stands now, they will be under the threshold next season, too.
The more relevant question is how will they be able to improve the team next season with rotation players Jamal and Mo gone and little wiggle room under the tax. (The new CBA might help answer that question.) That leads to the other part of this equation. Sund likes the team as constructed and wants to see if the core can grow to the point of becoming a real championship contender. Whether you agree with that philosophy or not, Sund has consistently said that’s how it’s going to be.
So then why would the Hawks re-sign J.J., extend Al and then suddenly be “forced to put Smith on the market soon” as Ford speculates? They wouldn’t. They aren’t.
The Hawks have built their core and now will wait and see what happens. If they are struggling in January, then maybe all this speculation would make more sense, but right now the Hawks want to see how far they can go with this group. And if they make the East finals or otherwise show real progress, then they would have to decide just how much they are willing to spend to add more pieces to the core next season (and, again, the CBA is going to play into that).
Now if some team came along and offered a top 5 or 10 talent for Smoove, then of course Sund would consider that deal just like any other sane GM. But Sund is not looking to move Josh and the Hawks aren’t under any pressure, financial or otherwise, to trade him or any of their other core players right now.
So I suggest you do as Smoove does and shrug off the speculation, focus on basketball and see how this all plays out.