The Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith debacle is starting to heat up once again. The dominant combo-forward is not just eyeing free agency after his contract releases him in the 2013 offseason, but open to a trade in the coming months before next season.
Despite spending his entire career in Atlanta, the disgruntled star has been looking for a "fresh start" for quite some time. Earlier this year, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Smith's discontent with the Hawks organization and requested a trade. It has become quite clear since being drafted with the 17th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks are definitely not a match made in heaven. This is somewhat shocking to Hawks fans because Atlanta is Smith's hometown.
Smith, according to HOOPSWORLD.com, is searching for a franchise with a championship-caliber roster. The Hawks, on the other hand, have been a slightly above-average organization during Smith's tenure with the team. This season, Atlanta was eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
There is no denying Smith holds immense value in the Association, especially to a contender. The 26-year-old possesses a will to succeed and vast potential. While his leadership abilities have always been under scrutiny, Smith knows how to fill up the stat column. During this year's truncated schedule, the 6'9" power forward averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 boards and 1.7 blocks per contest. Despite these incredible contributions, Smith still didn't make the All-Star team, a major disappointment for the Hawk and the city of Atlanta.
If the Hawks do put Smith on the trading block, there will be numerous organizations checking on his availability and price.
Teams that could make a play
The Orlando Magic are in a state of flux. Not only are they trying to fin a second star to appease franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard, but they are trying to determine the respective futures of coach Stan Van Gundy, GM Otis Smith and Most Improved Player Award recipient Ryan Anderson.
While unlikely, there is a chance the Magic could acquire Josh Smith, Howard's childhood friend and former AAU teammate. A tandem of Howard and Smith would be a defensive force to be reckon with. Additionally, Smith would finally provide a skill set that includes creating his own shot, something the Magic have desperately lacked.
Nonetheless, the Magic, to obtain Smith, would in all likelihood have to ship a package comprised of Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson and a plethora of draft picks. Sure, the cost is expensive, but if it helps convince Howard to stay in Orlando then it is a good investment.
The team that ousted Smith's Hawks from the playoffs may be a viable option for the power forward. The Boston Celtics, who have been linked to Smith in the past, have many questions surrounding their roster—none bigger than determining if their core is too old for one last title run.
If Boston's fails in its current attempt at the Larry O'Brien Trophy, expect changes in the Celtics organization.
The "Big Three," consisting of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, is definitely in its twilight years. All three of these former stars are averaging relatively low numbers for their standards this season and aren't nearly as dominant as they were in the past.
Sure, the roster is still playoff-worthy, but there is no doubt this squad needs an infusion of youth. Besides Rajon Rondo, who is arguably the NBA's most underrated player, the Boston Celtics have no young prospects within the franchise.
Josh Smith would definitely add two qualities to the Celts that the team desperately lacks: youth and athleticism.
To acquire Smith, however, GM Danny Ainge would probably have to ship either Allen or Garnett, a few role players and maybe a draft pick or two.
The future would look much brighter for Boston with the duo of Rondo and Smith leading the way.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently competing with the Oklahoma City Thunder to advance to the conference finals, are trying to maintain their stranglehold on top of the West that they have possessed for years. However, it seems their grip on the top is loosening, as young teams like the aforementioned Thunder, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers look like the new faces of the West.
Where will Smith be at the start of next season?
If the Lakers want to boost their chances to win a title before Kobe Bryant retires, the Lakers should pursue Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. Smith, who is an excellent defender and can create shots off the dribble, will help solve many of the team's woes.
However, acquiring Smith would come at a steep price, as they would have to give up power forward Pau Gasol, Kobe's running mate for the last two championships. In my opinion, a Gasol-for-Smith swap would be beneficial for Los Angeles.
It has painfully obvious that the Lakers are too slow, due to being so gigantic, to hang with the "young guns" of the West. Both the Nuggets, in the first round, and the Thunder, in the second round, have exposed this troublesome flaw.
Smith, unlike Gasol, is a fantastic athlete who could help L.A. keep up with the fast-pace teams in the conference.
The Brooklyn Nets, formerly of New Jersey, may not be a perfect option for Smith, but if the power forward is extremely unsettled in his current location, the team could become an attractive destination.
The organization is obviously searching for a new identity. Behind All-Star Deron Williams, the franchise is vying for playoff success, a foreign experience since the glory days of Jason Kidd.
Due to being in a large market and already possessing two stars, Gerald Wallace and Williams, the Nets could have a bright future ahead of them if they add Smith.
However, the team would have to ship, most likely, Brook Lopez, an offensive-minded center, to acquire Smith.
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