Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith is not on trading block

Smoove isn't leaving the Highlight Factory anytime soon. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

Smoove isn't leaving the Highlight Factory anytime soon. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

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.

MC

89 comments Add your comment

Brazil_Boy

November 5th, 2010
1:42 pm

Great post!! Move Crawford though!

Jerry West

November 5th, 2010
1:44 pm

I Heart Atlanta

November 5th, 2010
1:51 pm

Jerry West

November 5th, 2010
1:52 pm

Damn, well, almost. Good read, I broke this down to some Hornets fans the other day. Amazing how fans overrate their team’s players. “We’d give up Ariza, but not David West.”

jc

November 5th, 2010
1:57 pm

Kind of ironic!!!! While Sund wants to get to a Championship caliber with the core group, the only one of the core group that we could move and potentially get us to that level is Smoove. Moving him is an offseason move, though. Plus, who knows if there will even be a league next year. Be happy with 5-0 and lets see if we can trade a pick or Jamal near the deadline to get a big.

Sautee

November 5th, 2010
2:01 pm

Personally I never ever thought that rumor had legs.

Thanks MC for checking it out.

And one question: Does Sund consider Jamal as part of the sacred core?

I see PG as by far our weakest link, and that’s from a long time Bibby fan. Unless Teague can improve to become a starter by mid-Jan. then I’d say shop Jamal Crawford for a starting PG. Preferably a defensive minded one.

J from the A

November 5th, 2010
2:01 pm

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
2:02 pm

Sund likes the team as constructed and wants to see if the core can grow to the point of becoming a real championship contender.

THE SACRED CORE!!!! I guess the good news is that the Sacred Core may be shrinking from ~10 this year down to a more practical number (any team that hasn’t won a 2nd round playoff game in 2 years shouldn’t have more than 3-4 players in it’s core).

With Jamal’s “Contract Toe” injury, it will be interesting to see if he remains in the Sacred Core.

Brayne Varner

November 5th, 2010
2:04 pm

chad ford has always been full of sh**. If anyone gets traded, it would be jamal due to his contract. But, i wouldnt be surprised to see him finish the season with the hawks, depending on how we fair in the standings later in the season.
Eventually jordan crawford might be the new bench spark we need. not anytime soon though.

Barton

November 5th, 2010
2:06 pm

Yeah that’s what I figured. Also, great post game interview of Josh after this past game against Detroit. He was very articulate, knew what he was talking about, and gave a shout to the fans to fill up the highlight factory, really stressing the importance of the fans bringing energy to the building. This guy should be as big a part of the Hawks future as Al Horford. I would not have said this about Smoove in any other year, but his behavior these past two seasons has really been fantastic and I hope he continues to grow as person in this positive direction (AND a jump shooter – how bout that effortless three in the corner with the defender running at him!)

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
2:09 pm

And I’m glad to hear that Pape “Speed” Sy’s contract isn’t guaranteed next season. Although someone may want to translate that fact to him fairly soon, before he trades in his chapeau for a baseball hat.

wolverine

November 5th, 2010
2:17 pm

You would have to entertain the carmelo scenario, if plausible.

BrittishAnger

November 5th, 2010
2:19 pm

Letting Smoove go would be the worst decision the Hawks had made since trading away ‘Nique; for all the problem child issues we have to deal with from Smith from time to time, there is no denying the talent the chap has and that putting it into another team’s stable would only make us look stupider in the long run for doing so. Good article Mike, kudos and a bag of popcorn for you ninja…..

KevinM

November 5th, 2010
2:22 pm

I could accept moving anyone on this team…the one exception being Smoove. I just think there are so few guys in the league who bring excitement to the game and who continue to improve each year.
I know, I know, he wants to show off his jumper, and I know he doesn’t treat every possession like its his last, but Smoove just fills up a stat sheet and makes big plays.

Could we get more for him to any other player? I think so. But with us having Sund and him pledging his allegiance to the core, we better find a way to enjoy this team because they don’t sound like there is going to be any tweaking to improve this team. Perhaps Smoove future is at the 3, but I think him defending the rim keeps us playing at a high level.

So next year’s draft: Needs – PG and C

And the best goes on.

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
2:35 pm

AJ,

Jamal has never been a part of the sacred core. He was a modest upgrade over Flip (significantly better offensively, noticeably worse defensively), and that’s all. If Childress was expendable, then Jamal definitely is. The core is and always has been Joe, Josh, Al, and Marvin. Everyone else is expendable, even Bibby (I’d bet) if moving him could land us a better PG. The core has never been greater than 5, much less “~10.”

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
2:43 pm

nire, that sounds right in theory but it doesn’t translate given the Summer of Sameness. MC previously stated that Jamal was considered a member of the core. We brought back dang near the entire group from last year (including 4 of the top 5 bench players). We held pat despite obvious needs for a quality perimeter defenders (at both PG and SF). They even hired a new coach based on his familiarity with the sacred core. As much as I’d like to think this magical core is 3-4 players, I’m not convinced that Sund has reached that conclusion.

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
2:44 pm

And, btw, even those 4 guys are expendable if the price is right. If Miami called us tomorrow and said “we’ll give you LeBron for Joe,” I promise you that JJ would be on the next plane to Miami. But the list of better players than JJ in the NBA is about 10 names long, and the list of SG/SFs is about 4-5 guys long. If Orlando offered us Dwight Howard for Horford, same deal. Al is a top 5 center already. Same with Josh at PF – he’s easily top 10 at his position. For Marvin, the list gets significantly longer than for the other 3, but the problem is coming up with a plausible trade (ie where the salaries match and the other team would accept it) including him.

In the NBA, no one is expendable except Kobe, Dwight, and LeBron. The “sacred core” idea has never been that all 4 guys are utterly untouchable. It’s a recognition that it makes little sense to shake up a team that’s still young and improving unless you get a clear upgrade. And it’s tough to come up with trades that would give us a clear upgrade involving any of those 4 guys.

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
2:46 pm

That leaves guard Jamal Crawford as the only core player for Atlanta not signed beyond this season.

http://www.ajc.com/sports/atlanta-hawks/horford-hawks-agree-to-711370.html

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
2:48 pm

AJ,

Just because we didn’t make any big trades this summer doesn’t mean that we aren’t willing to if the trade would clearly improve the team. The same could have been said about the 2007 offseason for the Hawks, but we traded 4 of our holdovers to get Bibby midseason anyway. So you can’t honestly argue that the mere fact that we didn’t get rid of a player means that they must be part of the core.

The idea behind the “core” strategy seems simple enough: “Don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes. Only make changes if it clearly will improve the team.”. It’s nothing more, nothing less. And frankly, given how young our roster still is relative to other playoff teams, it makes sense.

ryan

November 5th, 2010
2:50 pm

Keeping these guys together is a good thing because more they play together the better they will get they may have to make some minor tweaks i would like the Hawks pursue Billups or Prince .

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
2:50 pm

AJ,

And that proves…what? MC called him a part of the core, but that’s not the same as Sund saying it. And even if Sund did say it, that doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. All it would mean is that we won’t trade him unless we’re getting a clear upgrade. Fine by me.

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
2:54 pm

nire, MC has previously stated that in his opinion, Sund includes Jamal in his definition of “the core”. I can’t find it (yet), but I know that I read it in this very space here. I didn’t like it and was dismayed to read it… but that’s what the beat writer thought at the time. I’ll keep looking for it… but this is an old discussion (members of the Sacred Core… which even includes Zaza), and there is an internet record (somewhere) of those exchanges with MC.

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
2:56 pm

AJ,

Again, even if that were true, all it means is that we won’t trade them unless we can clearly improve the team. Why is that a bad strategy given that we’re still a relatively young team?

Grandad

November 5th, 2010
2:57 pm

A pg, believe it or not, is easier to find in the draft
than a really good Big. [we have passed over many pg's]
I cannot recall us passing over an elite Big.

Also, I’m not ready to give up on Teaguer yet.
Reconstucting his confidence, while gaining experience,
and working on his jumper = three things at once.

Quite a conundrum we have;
as I see it, right now Sund *[LD] is deciding which player
is the more important long term:
Marv or Jamal.
I think that if we re-sign Jamal it would be
at a # closer to or lower than Marv’s contract anyway.
If Marv continues to play well, look for him to be traded
for an expiring contract @ the TD. *[Shane Battier] perhaps.
If Houston were to continue their struggles.

hawks_4_life

November 5th, 2010
3:05 pm

6-0 baby lets go!!

Ramon

November 5th, 2010
3:07 pm

Nire, we’re really not that much of a young team any more. Josh and Marvin are both on their 6th and 7th years in the league. That’s not relatively young any more. But I get what you are saying though. But Sund has called JC1 part of the core. But as you said anyone on the roster is available for the right price. And I do think some of the fans underrate the players on the team. For instance I’d rather have Marvin than Ariza or Artest. Because his defense is comparable (Artest is becoming overrated as he gets older), and Marvin’s shooting percentage is way higher than either one of those.

Has anyone noticed what Dorrell Wright has been doing in Golden State? I don’t know if its the offense or not, but the man is producing!

Hawks_4_life, how is Daye working out for you? lol

Astro Joe

November 5th, 2010
3:07 pm

nire, no GM should make a trade unless there is an upgrade (even if you’re trading Claxton)… or you take a surplus skill and fill a hole. The expiring contract of a SMOY could have filled some holes in the summer where we spent a 1st round pick on a SG and gave $120M+ to a SG. And that was BEFORE the same SMOY asked for a trade. Not to mention the promise of a more diversified offense that wouldn’t be so dependent on iso-skills. I don’t know for a fact that Sund didn’t try to make a trade to fill a hole, and no one knows for sure that he did. I just know that we have the same poor perimeter defenders we had last year and a smallish back-up SF who obviously can’t defend his position terribly well (despite exceptional effort). So he was either incompetent or ineffective at utilizing an asset that became expendable during the summer.

O'Brien

November 5th, 2010
3:09 pm

nire,

I think Wade and Durant are also on the non-expendable list with Kobe, Dwight, and LeBron.

AJ,

With Jamal’s “Contract Toe” injury, it will be interesting to see if he remains in the Sacred Core. .

I wonder if his preseason injury was a “Contract Back” injury?

Also, this goes back to your statement about Rick and the ASG running an experiment. They changed the coach first, so now they will observe the players for this season.

Depending on the results, they will decide what needs to be changed for next season.

Mo and Jamal’s deal will expire, and Bibby will be an expiring, so he will have more value to be traded if necessary. Plus by then, they should have a pretty good idea of Teague’s capabilities.

Steve

November 5th, 2010
3:11 pm

Lets be honest, the group that we have today is a very good team but we still don’t stand a chance against a big team like Orlando. I love Horford but he can’t shutdown Dwight. I think our ceiling is still the same as it was last year…2nd round of the playoffs, maybe even conference finals (depending on playoff matchups) but we’re not making it out of the East. Why? Because we don’t have a true center that can really bang with Dwight.

Personally, I’d love to see us try and move Marvin but reality is that he has no value in the market and no team would be willing to swallow that contract. We should have tried to move him during the 08-09 season (when it looked like he might be a real 3pt threat) and people thought that he may still have upside. But thats behind us, so he’s staying put. So why not move Josh if we can get a quality big man in exchange? If you watch him play, he relies almost exclusively on his athleticism and as he ages, thats the first thing thats going to go. He can’t shoot and he’s not a very good ball handler and those things are not gonna change. Why not move him for a true big such as a Marc Gasol. He’s a true center, 7′1, young, talented, and has a ton of upside. We can then move Horford to PF where he could abuse guys with his size. Horford may not be as “exciting” as Josh, but he can do just as much as him and probably more at PF.

Ramon

November 5th, 2010
3:15 pm

Steve, Horford/Gasol would be a worse defensive front court than Josh/Horford. And being that this team does have offensive talent but limited defensively. You only move Josh if you’re getting a player back who is as good as he is defensively and offensively..

O'Brien

November 5th, 2010
3:15 pm

Ramon,

Its the GS offense thats helping with their “nimbers”. Monta Ellis is averaging about 30 ppg and 6apg. Curry is averaging 21 and 9.

Rodney Carney who I liked as a SF backup (signed for the minimum by GS), is averaging 9 points and 4 rebs in 18 mpg. Dorrell Wright, who you mentioned, is averaging 21 and 6.

What does Dorrell Wright and Rodney Carney have in common? They are both legit backup SFs, and in my opinion, they would have pushed Marvin more.

Ramon

November 5th, 2010
3:23 pm

O’Brien, I really think that Evans caught Sund off guard by deciding not to opt out last summer. Not many players would have decided against becoming a free agent to lock up a long term deal before the CBA expired. I’m thinking Sund wanted to trade Evans’ contract for two minimum contracts.

Has anyone told Sund that the NBA allows you to sign a player to a 10 day contract now? Is he aware of this maneuver? lol

Ramon

November 5th, 2010
3:25 pm

MC, when healthy, does Marvin dominate at practice? I mean is he normally a bright spot on the court? And is he aggressive there?

hawks_4_life

November 5th, 2010
3:26 pm

Ramon you know very well how its working out, sucks lol.

Steve

November 5th, 2010
3:26 pm

Ramon, good point. I guess I just don’t feel that Josh is that great of a defender. Yes he blocks a lot of shots, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good defender. If you watch him, he half @sses it a lot.

niremetal

November 5th, 2010
3:33 pm

Ramon,

Good points. Just to clarify – I wasn’t saying that we are a “relatively young team” period. I was saying (which I made clear at 2:48 but not at 2:56) that we’re young relative to other playoff teams. If you look at the teams that won 50+ games last year – LA, Cle, Bos, Orl, Den, Dal, SA, Uta, Pho, Por, and OKC – the only teams that aren’t older than us are Por and OKC (Uta is a bit older, but not much). Swap Miami for Cleveland and you’ve got this year’s contenders and make the same statement. I know it sounds odd because the “core” has been around for several years now, but amazingly enough, we are still among the 10 youngest teams in the league and among the 3-4 youngest teams that have a shot at winning a playoff series.

hawks_4_life

November 5th, 2010
3:35 pm

Great news my fellow hawks I have a mission stateside, if only the hawks were playing where Ill be. Anyway can wait to be back in the great USA.

PS I predict tonights mvp of the game is going to be Teague.

Dr. Warren

November 5th, 2010
3:38 pm

I say we aren’t as bad off as everyone imagined this summer. We have one of the most stable teams in the league, and we are clearly getting better. Getting better from a 53 win season is exciting, and if the Hawks can evade Orlando in Rounds 1 and 2–big if–they may be able to slip into the Semi-finals. Dwyane Wade is injury prone, remember.

Ramon

November 5th, 2010
3:49 pm

Nire, I get what you’re saying. In that regards we are pretty young.

Steve, if you don’t think Josh’s defense changes each game we play, then I don’t know what to say. When Josh has 2-3 blocks in the first 3 quarters of a game, watch and see how timid the opposition is about taking shots in the lane. Its almost how Deion Sanders was in his prime (one man’s island). Josh gets credit statistically for the blocks he gets. But he doesn’t get credit for how many of the other team’s player know not to penetrate the lane or baseline when Josh is in the game. Deion got credit for his interceptions but didn’t get credit for QBs going entire quarters without throwing on the right side of the field.

rjt

November 5th, 2010
3:51 pm

remember the ASG way of doing business – they will eventually do what they now deny.

Greg

November 5th, 2010
3:53 pm

MC, can you confirm that AL is indeed getting $12M flat per year, instead of an incrementing or decrementing pay schedule over 5 years?

Tokyo Tom

November 5th, 2010
4:01 pm

Was at the Pistons game on Wed- liked what I saw out of the rotations & think that the team will not be burned out by the playoffs which led to the 2nd Round blowouts the past 2 years; JT reminds me of Spud Webb, needs to work on defense & driving to the basket but played real hard and can develop into a starter; Marvin played with a lot of grit, got hurt on a hustle play that I see few players go for these days; Like JJ & Bibby, I like our chances this year to win 50+ games and win at least a couple of games in Round 2 because of the burn out factor and that this team (coach) can better handle the adversity from injuries when they hit this year, would not be surprised in they make it to Conference Finals or even beyond no matter what fix the NBA will put in

STRETCH

November 5th, 2010
4:01 pm

Jamal is the odd man out, the writing is on the wall. I mean, WHO else is there???

westurd

November 5th, 2010
4:02 pm

MC,
Story backed up with facts and quotes….and most of all LOGIC. Love the work you are putting out man!

Now GO HAWKS!

truthspitter

November 5th, 2010
4:04 pm

Cool post to reassure some. On the other hand, if you know which sites to go to in order to check salaries you knew that Ford was way off basis to start with. On the other hand, Marvin, Jamal, Bibby, Teague, Jordan and Zaza should be made available for the correct deal. Meaning if you can get better by giving up someone other than your true core of Smoove, Horford, and Joe you should. Finally, it is quite disrespectful to Smoove, Al, and Joe to keep putting Marvin in the same class with them.

truthspitter

November 5th, 2010
4:09 pm

Grandad

November 5th, 2010
2:57 pm

A pg, believe it or not, is easier to find in the draft
than a really good Big. [we have passed over many pg's]
I cannot recall us passing over an elite Big.

Also, I’m not ready to give up on Teaguer yet.
Reconstucting his confidence, while gaining experience,
and working on his jumper = three things at once.

Quite a conundrum we have;
as I see it, right now Sund *[LD] is deciding which player
is the more important long term:
Marv or Jamal.
I think that if we re-sign Jamal it would be
at a # closer to or lower than Marv’s contract anyway.
If Marv continues to play well, look for him to be traded
for an expiring contract @ the TD. *[Shane Battier] perhaps.
If Houston were to continue their struggles.

Bynum is a big and he is elite (top 5 Centers) when healthy. We took Marvin #2 when Bynum was still on the board. I am sure there are more but that jumps out to me.

Grandad

November 5th, 2010
4:15 pm

In Basketball, the Ultimate Team Sport:
Do not dismiss stability, longevity, and playing together,
as well as understanding teammates idiosyncrasies, and reasoning.
When the discussion revolves around the retention of the core.

northcyde

November 5th, 2010
4:30 pm

Memphis values Marc Gasol just as much, if not more, than we value Josh smith. Teams don’t trade good centers for good PFs. Gasol may be the 2nd most important player to the future of the Grizzlies, next to Rudy Gay.

As for the Smith trade rumors, I never believed them at all. Like I said when the riumors started, Jamal and Mo are the expendible ones, not Smith. “Reporters” like Chad Ford simply don’t do their homework, or too lazy to do it.

Grandad

November 5th, 2010
4:42 pm

truthspitter

Touche!
+ You proved my point!
Elite Bigs are hard to find.
[even an inj prone one like Bynum]
I’m certain we passed over some others as well,
but I don’t think we passed on an elite Big
that was “ranked/known” to be a can’t miss.
(as we did on numerous pg’s)
Please don’t make me say their names. Rhymes with Haul & Billiams
In other words, pg’s are more abundant all through the draft:
A.Brooks, R.Rondo, T.Parker, D.Collison, K.Lowry, & L.Williams.
If I’m correct we passed on all these fellas.

trez

November 5th, 2010
4:51 pm

dont trade josh smith