Phoenix Suns Trading for Josh Smith Would Be Big Step Toward Building a Winner
The 27-year-old impending free agent has emerged as the latest target for a Suns franchise that has tried to acquire both Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon over the past year. With an uncertain future ahead of them following the offseason departure of Steve Nash, the team is desperately seeking a new face of the franchise, a role the club appears to have confidence in Smith filling.
The versatile forward will not be short on suitors, with Kennedy mentioning the Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks as other potential trade partners for the Hawks. But no other club may be able to match the blend of proven talent, financial flexibility and draft picks that the Suns can offer.
A Suns' package would almost certainly start with their 28-year-old center, Marcin Gortat. The 6'11", 240-pound presence could prove the ultimate complement for Al Horford, while also pushing him back to his natural power forward spot. With Dwight Howard in Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum yet to play a game for the Philadelphia 76ers, the Hawks could feature one of the premier frontcourts in the Eastern Conference.
The Suns have some intriguing options to bolster Atlanta's wings, with Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley leading that charge. Dudley is the safer of the two options, but the tantalizing potential of the 24-year-old Beasley could prove worth the risk for Atlanta.
Phoenix can sweeten the deal with any number of expiring contracts.
Wes Johnson brings the largest cap relief ($4.3 million), but has been virtually non-existent this season and would offer nothing more than future flexibility. If Atlanta wants a player with both an expiring deal and potential production, Shannon Brown (his $3.5 million salary for next season is not guaranteed), Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O'Neal are all possibilities.
The Suns also hold three valuable first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Their own selection may wind up as the sweetest (at 16-30, the Suns are tied for the sixth-worst record in the league), but picks from the Los Angeles Lakers (20-26) and Minnesota Timberwolves (17-25) grow more valuable by the day.
If the Suns can acquire Smith and re-sign him over the summer, Kennedy projects the club could still have nearly $20 million in cap space left over. The team would likely make a charge at one of the premier free agents (including Smith's friend, Dwight Howard), but a host of intriguing second-tier options exist at perimeter (Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala or O.J. Mayo) and interior (Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic and Paul Millsap) positions.
Phoenix has appeared lost at times this season, and the direction of the franchise remains unclear in the post-Nash era. The team recently fired head coach Alvin Gentry and promoted Lindsey Hunter to interim coach, with the latter being tasked with developing the Suns' young talent.
Should the Suns trade for Smith?
While this is far from unseen for a rebuilding team, it takes on a curious tone considering the lack of budding stars on the roster. Other than Beasley, sophomore Markieff Morris is the only regular contributor under the age of 25.
But that also means that this team has the veteran presence in place to complement a superstar (or two) and while there are reservations about Smith's attitude, no one is quite certain how he would handle the first move of his NBA career.
He's clearly worn out his welcome in Atlanta, but has done so while carrying a disproportionate share of the blame for any struggles of the franchise. He's longed for an embrace from the franchise and the fanbase, and the star-gazing Suns would make him their unquestioned leader for the near future.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver begrudgingly admitted that the team is in a rebuilding phase (via arizonasports.com), but he can gladly rid his franchise of the label if it can pull off this heist.
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