The Atlanta Hawks would be happy to talk a trade with you. After nine years of good-but-not-great service, ATL and Josh Smith appear to be traversing some pretty choppy waves. Just last week, Smith’s agent Wallace Prather came damn close to requesting a trade, venting “frustration” towards the organization’s recent swoon. This all comes from CBS Sports, who notes that “multiple rival executives confirmed that the Hawks have participated in trade conversations with several teams regarding Smith, a 27-year-old game-changing defender when engaged.” If traded, Josh could make the differences between a playoff run and a conference finals appearance.
We’ve been here before, folks. The relationship between Atlanta and their homegrown star resembles “that couple,” constantly threatening to step out on each other because they’re never quite satisfied, but stay together because they believe that their significant other can change. In Hotlanta’s case, Smith showed enough ability – and youth – to believe that, over time, he would develop a more consistent offensive game. From Josh’s perspective, this is his hometown team; surely a Joe Johnson-Al Horford-Smith nucleus would have allowed him to deliver a title in front of his friends and family.
But times haven’t been this bad since before Atlanta acquired the now-departed Johnson. Now without a proven scorer and still caught in NBA Purgatory (just good enough to lose a first-round series to Miami or New York or Brooklyn for the next two or so years), it could be time for Atlanta to gut their team a bit. Smith would be the first to go not just because he and the Hawks have fallen out, but also because of the value he’d fetch on the trade market. With a large portion of his potential still untouched, teams should be lining up to snatch Josh Smith.
We can speculate all we want, but I’d like to focus on one team in particular: the Golden State Warriors. One of the season’s pleasant surprises, the Bay Area squad features two of the league’s best shooters, but lacks the tough, physical grit to make waves in the playoffs, especially on defense, where they rank 22nd in the league in points allowed.
Enter Smith, who would represent a major upgrade over Harrison Barnes*, who would probably have to be included in some sort of deal with Atlanta. A squad with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson spreading the floor, David Lee patrolling the paint and hitting mid-range shots, and Smith plowing through lanes and playing explosive defense? Even Kevin Durant is staying up late for that. Maybe.
The writing is on the wall for Atlanta to ship away their embattled wing. Only time will tell if/where goes, but playoff teams like the Warriors had better be preparing their best packages for him. He could hold the key to a very deep playoff run.
* – Not so much because Barnes won’t become a good player, but because his game is so similar to Curry and Thompson. Adding a drive-first player like Smith to Atlanta’s wing would make them impossible to double-team.