The Dallas Mavericks are out of the Western Conference playoff picture at the moment, continue to struggle with a set rotation, and have no star to pair alongside veteran and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
A quick fix for that problem presents itself at the NBA trade deadline—Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith.
According to Marc J. Spears in his most recent Yahoo! Sports NBA power rankings piece, the Hawks are looking to trade their embattled star, according to a source with knowledge of that information:
Expectations are growing that the Hawks will trade forward, a source said. Smith has averaged 17 points, 8.6 rebounds. 4.7 assists and 2.1 blocks this month despite the trade speculation.
Are you listening, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson?
Heading into Tuesday night's matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Mavericks had a 19-25 record, but have shown signs over the past few weeks of coming to life.
After a horrendous 2-13 stretch from Dec. 12 to Jan. 9, the Mavericks have won six of their last eight games and are showing some propensity to both play better defense and get into a rhythm offensively. Also, the two losses to Oklahoma City and San Antonio were by a combined nine points, giving management hope that the current roster makeup is good enough to at least make a run towards the postseason.
It's hard to envision this team competing with the upper echelon of NBA teams, though, and since the Mavericks have struck out on Deron Williams, Rudy Gay, LeBron James and Joe Johnson over the past few summers, they are still looking for someone to pick up the Nowitzki slack.
Nowitzki is making last year's "down season" look like an All-Star campaign. Granted, he's returning from injury and still trying to establish chemistry with a team that has little consistency from last season, but his shooting numbers are at as low as ever (41.5 percent from the floor), and his free-throw percentage (78.3) is also the second-worst of his illustrious career.
Dallas needs a star, or at the very least a collection of superior talent to take pressure off of its aging star.
O.J. Mayo got off to a hot start and made people forget about Nowitzki for the first part of the season, but he's cooled down considerably since becoming the No. 2 option, and often defers to Vince Carter or Darren Collison in the half court.
Rodrigue Beaubois continues to toy with fans, while youngsters Jae Crowder and Jared Cunningham aren't ready to start on a playoff team just yet. On the other hand, Elton Brand and Chris Kaman have always been one-year fixes, and Shawn Marion continues to climb the age chart.
With Smith in the fold, Dallas would have a valuable scoring presence that also plays stellar defense and could slide in at the power forward in smaller lineups. He's also younger than most of the Dallas roster—something that can't be overlooked for an older franchise.
Of course, there are obstacles.
Dallas doesn't have enough long-term draft picks to offer Atlanta, and the crop of international talent that Nelson currently has sitting at his card table is an assortment of guys that might never reach the NBA. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry would need an offer that included draft picks.
Also, Smith is in the final year of a $13 million contract. He's been quoted as saying he wants a max contract (h/t Sports Illustrated) and Dallas would be in a position of weakness on that front after trading assets to keep a guy for just half a season.
The question then becomes: Is Smith worthy of max money? And how much is Dallas willing to give up to get him? On the flip side, what is Atlanta looking for in a potential trade? The Hawks are very much alive in the Eastern Conference playoffs—they wouldn't want to blow it up with no explanation and no assets in return.
There are hurdles to every trade. Smith obviously wants out of Atlanta, and it seems management is ready to move on without him.
In Dallas, a city with a lone star that is somewhat fading, Smith would be an heir apparent to the Mavericks throne. Nelson and Cuban should take a hard look at the 27-year-old, and decide if he's the player that they can build a future around.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.
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