The Atlanta Hawks don't need to trade Josh Smith.
With the star forward set to explore free agency after the season, there seems to be an increasing urge for the Hawks to move him before he moves himself over the summer.
Chris Broussard of ESPN.com even reports that there is a "60 percent" chance Atlanta deals him prior to the trade deadline.
Our question then must be: Why?
For the Hawks to trade Smith, it's going to have to be a package that blows them away. They're set to have nearly $40 million in cap space this summer, and they're not about to jeopardize that type of flexibility just because.
They'll need some significant talent in return.
Remember, this isn't a Dwightmare-esque fiasco Atlanta is dealing with. Should Smith leave, it has the financial means to rebuild immediately. It won't have to suffer through as grueling a process as the Orlando Magic.
And with leverage like that, the Hawks don't have to sell Smith on the cheap. Teams are going to have to pony up some serious assets.
Which factions are equipped enough to make such an offer, knowing they'll have a legitimate opportunity at retaining Smith beyond this season?
And which teams present the best fits possible for the tumultuous forward?
Atlanta doesn't need to deal Smith, but if the right deal comes along, that changes everything.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82games.com unless otherwise noted.
Atlanta Hawks Get: C Chris Kaman, SF Shawn Marion and future first-round pick
Dallas Mavericks Get: F Josh Smith and SG DeShawn Stevenson
I boarded this train in a past article and have yet to hop off.
If there is any a team that has any kind of leverage over the Hawks, it's the Mavericks. They have the ability to chase Smith this summer, so they don't need to trade for him.
Just like Atlanta doesn't need to trade him.
That said, if the Hawks are looking to capitalize off his departure in any way, this is a deal they should consider.
As Chris Broussard noted, Atlanta is in the market for a center not named Zaza Pachulia.
While Kaman isn't what you would call a defensive stopper, given the right amount of playing time, he's someone who can average 15 points and eight boards a night. He also would allow Al Horford to play more power forward.
Though Marion's contract isn't up at the end of this season like Kaman's, he's only on the books through next year. He would also replace some of the defense and rebounding void Smith would leave. As an expiring contract, Marion is also someone the Hawks could flip in a sign-and-trade over the offseason if needed.
For Dallas, it acquires a star in his prime to pair along with Dirk Nowitzki. Smith's defensive presence would be welcomed on a Mavericks team that ranks No. 27 in points allowed (102.8) per game.
Admittedly, this trade does add about $5 million to the Hawks' payroll in 2013-14, but that's what the first-rounder is for and the added cash hardly cripples them.
This trade may not scream "pull the trigger on me now," but if it's another big Atlanta craves, the Hawks could do far worse than Kaman.
Atlanta Hawks Get: C Spencer Hawes, SF Evan Turner and SF Dorell Wright
Philadelphia 76ers Get: SG Anthony Morrow and F Josh Smith
The Sixers are looking to shake things up, and this would certainly be a shakeup.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Philadelphia is currently gauging the league-wide value of Turner, and I'm of the mind there could be a home for him in Atlanta.
With the Hawks in need of a versatile presence to replace that of Smith's, they couldn't go wrong with Turner. He's averaging a career-high in points (13.6), rebounds (6.7), assists (4.5), steals (one) and three-point shooting percent (39.1) and has emerged as one of the better defenders in the league. Holding opposing shooting guards and small forwards to a combined PER of 12.8 is no joke, after all.
The difficult part here would be getting Philly to part ways with Hawes. If Andrew Bynum's return is indeed imminent, this perhaps becomes slightly easier. Given the state of Bynum's knees though, no guarantees exist there.
Still, acquiring a talent like Smith might be too hard to pass up for the Sixers. He's a more refined version of Thaddeus Young, and the two could split time manning the small and power forward spots.
Should Bynum be able to make a successful comeback, Smith gives Philadelphia two superstars to build around. He also provides them with a sound Plan B, should Bynum not pan out.
Stealing the league's leading three-point shooter from Atlanta may not be out of the question for the Sixers if they give up Hawes, yet the Hawks wouldn't bat an eye at relinquishing Morrow. And his 37.8 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc still increases the potency of a lackluster perimeter offense.
Sure, the Hawks don't have to trade Smith at all, but Philadelphia is one of the few teams that can satisfy all of their purported requirements.
Atlanta Hawks Get: SF Corey Brewer, SG Wilson Chandler and C Timofey Mozgov
Denver Nuggets Get: C Johan Petro and F Josh Smith
Zach Lowe of ESPN's Grantland noted the Nuggets as a potential destination for Smith, a destination that we would be hard to argue against.
Smith gives the Nuggets another athletic fiend, who's more of a superstar at this point than Andre Iguodala. The Nuggets are one of the fastest-moving teams in the league, and per teamrankings.com rank first in fast-break points per game.
Ergo, Smith would fit right in.
Brewer is having the best season of his career under George Karl and would be hard to part with, but Smith stands to improve Denver's 25th-ranked defense more than the former ever could.
What about the Hawks?
Well, they would save a little over $4 million this season and get a budding center in Timofey Mozgov, who has proved he can be effective on defense. His touch around the basket is raw, but he runs the floor well for someone his size.
In Chandler and Brewer, Atlanta would receive two athletic wings that can both score and defend. Smith's absence would leave a gaping defensive hole, but it's one that these two could fill nonetheless.
Just as importantly, the Hawks have the option of parting ways with both Brewer and Mozgov after this season should they see fit. Chandler is on the books for another three years, but the third is a team option.
Provided he remains healthy, he really could impact Atlanta's attack on both ends of the floor and be well worth the $13 million he's guaranteed after this season.
If the Hawks ultimately opt to move Smith, a package of this caliber is definitely one worth considering.
Atlanta Hawks Get: PF Paul Millsap (Utah) and C Nikola Pekovic (Minnesota)
Los Angeles Lakers Get: SF Kyle Korver (Atlanta), SG Brandon Roy (Minnesota) and F Josh Smith (Atlanta)
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: SG Raja Bell (Utah) and PF Pau Gasol (Los Angeles)
Utah Jazz Get: SF Devin Ebanks (Los Angeles), PG Luke Ridnour (Minnesota) and PF Derrick Williams (Minnesota)
Few packages would be as enticing to the Hawks as one built around Millsap and Pekovic.
Some would consider it interior overkill, but both players come off the books upon season's end, and the move would give Atlanta a chance to experiment with some different lineups.
Moving forward, the Hawks could re-sign Millsap, keep Al Horford at center and use Pek as sign-and-trade bait, or they could keep him and part ways with Millsap.
Ignorant though it may sound, we just know the Jazz are going to deal either Millsap or Al Jefferson. Per Ric Bucher of NBC Sports, Utah is keener on dealing the former over the latter, rendering him obtainable.
The Jazz are also in need of some backcourt help and have already shown an interest in Ridnour. Williams gives them a big to come off the bench behind Derrick Favors, while Ebanks would be an throw in.
A first rounder may even have to find its way over to Utah as well.
As for Minnesota's part, they've attempted to acquire Gasol already this season, and given Ricky Rubio is such a huge advocate for his abilities, it's possible the team wouldn't be scared off by his recent injury. Bell's prowess from beyond the arc coupled with his defense also gives the Timberwolves what they thought they had in Roy.
Speaking of Roy, he's a necessary burden Los Angeles must take on if they wish to land Smith. He may not play another game in his career, but his contract only runs through next season, so it at least wouldn't jeopardize the Lakers' future cap space.
Korver is an obvious gem in Mike D'Antoni's system. His 46.4 percent clip from deep leads the league, and he's a solid rebounder for his position.
Smith would cost the Lakers some serious coin in the long run, but he's arguably better suited to be the stretch 4 than Gasol is. Los Angeles wouldn't have to worry about staggering Smith and Dwight Howard's minutes as much, and the two are known friends, which will aid in the team's pursuit to retain Howard this summer.
This would be one of those few deals that can be argued to meet the needs of every team involved.
Which is never a bad thing.
Atlanta Hawks Get: PF Patrick Patterson (Houston), C Nikola Pekovic (Minnesota) and PG Luke Ridnour (Minnesota)
Houston Rockets Get: SG Malcolm Lee (Minnesota) and F Josh Smith (Atlanta)
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: SF Carlos Delfino (Houston), PF Donatas Motiejunas (Houston) and PF Terrence Jones (Houston)
This would be one of the best deals the Hawks could negotiate.
They get the center they pine for in Pekovic and a promising talent to come off the bench in Patterson. They also receive Ridnour, who the Timberwolves are reportedly shopping. He's a decent playmaker and will cost roughly half of what the underwhelming Devin Harris is costing them this season.
In Smith, the Rockets would land that second star to play alongside James Harden.
Houston averages 96.1 possessions per 48 minutes, the most in the NBA. Playing a stretch forward like Smith best suits such a high-octane offense. His shot blocking and general defensive awareness will also be a huge asset to a Rockets team that is second-to-last in points allowed a night (103.2) as well.
In addition to shopping Ridnour, the Timberwolves are approaching a financial dilemma with Pekovic. He's set to hit restricted free agency and they don't appear ready to pay him $12 million annually.
Though the general consensus seems to be a sign-and-trade over the offseason is more likely than a mid-season deal, Minnesota could change its stance knowing it's getting a promising big in Motiejunas.
As the worst three-point shooting team in the league, the Timberwolves could also use the deft outside touches that both Delfino and Jones would provide.
Though the potential of this deal hinges on a number of things, nothing is more important than whether or not Atlanta is willing to invest in Pek. If the Hawks see him as a center for the future, they can justify dealing for him now.
And then paying him over the summer.