First, a disclaimer: The Hawks aren’t apt to trade anybody this summer unless it’s Marvin Williams (or Josh Childress) as part of a restricted-free-agent sign-and-trade. But the matter of dealing either Joe Johnson or Josh Smith keeps arising, and Ian Thomsen of SI.com addressed it in his Mailbag last week.
Thomsen argues that, of the two, Smith should be the one to go. First, because Johnson will be a free agent next summer and therefore wouldn’t elicit full value. Then this: “Smith is an upside talent who may yet mature to become an All-Star. He isn’t there yet, while Johnson is the bird in the hand. It wouldn’t make sense to trade a 27-year-old All-Star at his peak because such reliable talent is extremely hard to find.”
A word about Mr. Thomsen: He’s a really good guy and a really fine writer, and he’s among the very few in our industry who are taller than I am. (I believe Ian is 6-foot-6.) But I’ll disagree with him on this one. I wouldn’t trade either, but I’d trade J-J-J-Joe before I’d think of dealing J-Smoove.
I say again: In two years Smith is going to be the best player on this team (and that’s if Johnson is still here). He’s one of the great talents in the sport, and he’s becoming one of the better players. And he’s 23. We forget that sometimes. We forget that Josh, who bypassed college, is just six months older than Al Horford.
I’m like everyone else. I wish Josh wouldn’t shoot so many jumpers. (At least until he spends a summer learning to shoot jumpers, the way Dominique Wilkins once devoted an offseason to the mastery of the bank shot.) I wish he got along better with Mike Woodson. I wish his rebounding average hadn’t declined by one per game last season. I wish a lot of things.
But my biggest wish for the Hawks is that they use this summer to add talent. Subtracting Josh Smith would be the worst of all moves. He’s a keeper, not a castaway.
Further reading: Esteemed colleague Sekou Smith offers his incisive take on the Josh Smith situation.