Atlanta’s final game of the season, a 83-80 Game 6 loss in Boston, was probably decided on a 20-foot jump shot from Josh Smith. For everything he improved on this year, for the way his numbers jumped (18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds a game), a near All-Star season still had to end in the worst way possible. Perhaps no player in the league takes more criticism over his seemingly random, floating jumpers as the Hawks’ power forward. Taking a jumper is a cop out for the NBA player most likely (outside of LeBron) to record a quadruple-double. Smith missed that shot against the Celtics, the Hawks lost the game, and Atlanta finished their fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs with yet another early exit.
If it wasn’t already obvious, it is now: the Hawks have peaked. And with the roster currently constructed the way it is – over $137 million still committed to Joe Johnson and Al Horford – there’s only one way to go.
HOOPSWORLD reports that “sources close to Smith maintain the veteran would wholeheartedly welcome a change of scenery if it meant going to a team ready to make deeper postseason runs.” All season, there were rumors Atlanta was shopping Smith, in part because Orlando was trying to keep Dwight Howard and what better way to convince the Big Fella of staying than to get his best friend: Atlanta’s uber-athletic, multi-talented 6-9 forward?
The Hawks should jump at a deal now, and do it before the start of next year. Smith’s contract is set at $13.2 million for next season, and then he’ll likely want to test free agency. Johnson is almost impossible to trade, and dealing Horford doesn’t make sense when anchors are so hard to find (you saw what the Hawks frontcourt looked like without him in the first few games of the playoffs, right? Straight-up ugly.). Boston would probably come after Smith. They have before, as has Orlando. Dallas could. The Lakers. Portland. Miami. New York. The suitors would be lining up.
If Atlanta plays out the string, I can guarantee another first or second round exit, followed by a summer where Smith will be flirting with any pretty team that comes calling. The Hawks can’t let that happen.
Should the Hawks trade Smith now?
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