According to Chris Broussard of ESPN Insider, the Atlanta Hawks are unlikely to re-sign Josh Smith during the 2013 NBA offseason. This comes after Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he felt he deserves a max contract.
With Atlanta's reluctance to re-sign Smith, a trade is the only option.
Per Broussard's report, general manager Danny Ferry has made his mind up on what the future holds for Smith in Atlanta. Despite their unparalleled cap room it appears as if the Hawks are inclined to let Smith sign elsewhere.
Executives across the NBA share the belief that this will lead to a trade (per Broussard):
Many executives around the league believe Atlanta GM Danny Ferry is intent on moving Josh Smith before the deadline. On Wednesday, three opposing GMs told me definitively that Ferry has decided not to re-sign Smith in free agency this summer and is trying hard to move him within the next week.
In spite of his phenomenal statistical output, we would be lying if we said we didn't see this coming.
Trade rumors have been swirling about Smith, with every whisper leading to growing speculation that he would be dealt. A major reason for this belief is Smith's status as a fringe star.
His statistics suggest he's a world-class player, but concerns about his shot selection, consistency and ability to lead have long existed in Atlanta.
As it presently stands, the Hawks are set to owe just $21,513,122 to players on the roster entering free agency. The luxury tax level in 2012-13 is $70,307,000, which means Atlanta could have nearly $50 million available to spend.
The question is, what trade would make the most sense with this number in mind?
Examining the Brooklyn Deal
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN New York, the Brooklyn Nets are "aggressively pursuing" a trade for Josh Smith. The reported offer includes power forward Kris Humphries and shooting guard MarShon Brooks.
Per Broussard's most recent report, the most common opinion across the league is that Brooklyn does not have enough trade pieces to get this deal done.
...some clubs believe Brooklyn's offer of Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks might be the best Atlanta gets. If that's the case, Ferry, who has interest in Brooks but not necessarily Humphries, may not budge and instead might keep Smith for the rest of the season.
"...he won't give him away, but if someone comes with a good offer, Josh Smith is gone. I don't think Danny takes the Nets' deal. I think someone has to do better than that.''
It's not hard to see why.
Humphries is set to make $12 million in 2013-14. Humphries averaged 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds in 2011-12, but that does not justify a contract that would severely cut into Atlanta's cap space.
Nor does it take into account the fact that Atlanta is desperate to move Al Horford to his natural position of power forward.
Per Marc Stein of ESPN, the Hawks are looking for a young center should they end up trading Smith. The only player who fits that billing on Brooklyn's current roster is Brook Lopez.
By trading Lopez, the Nets would essentially defeat the purpose of acquiring Smith.
This leaves Brooklyn in need of a third team to execute this trade. Until that team steps up to help with this potential mega-deal, it would be hard to imagine it getting done.
Brooklyn simply lacks the necessary trade pieces.
Examining the San Antonio Deal
According to Marc Stein of Yahoo! Sports, the San Antonio Spurs are interested in acquiring Josh Smith. News has yet to break on what the Spurs would offer or whether or not Atlanta is an interested party.
Just don't be naive enough to ignore Hawks general manager Danny Ferry's history with the Spurs organization (via ESPN Insider).
"Danny [Ferry]'s a Spur,'' one rival executive said, referring to Ferry's past work in San Antonio's front office.
The point the executive was making is that Ferry will not make a nonsensical trade. Not that he will play favorites.
With that being said, Ferry is quite familiar with the Spurs' organization and could be more inclined to send Smith there. It certainly doesn't hurt that he'd be out of Atlanta's conference, in the process.
So how could San Antonio draw up a trade that gauges Ferry's interest?
Second-year forward Kawhi Leonard is an option, as he's proven to be much more than athleticism and tenacity by developing a three-point shot. Tiago Splitter's expiring contract could serve as another interesting trade piece.
Chris Broussard of ESPN previously reported that San Antonio was big man DeJuan Blair, as well.
The question is, would San Antonio be willing to part ways with Leonard? Furthermore, would the Hawks accept three potential role players in exchange for a borderline All-Star?
Smith would strengthen San Antonio's ability to compete with the younger Oklahoma City Thunder, so the former is a possibility. Is the latter?
Must Do Something
The market for Josh Smith is not as attractive as the average fan may believe. The reason for this truth is the fact that Smith is set to become a free agent after the 2013 season concludes.
Unless J-Smoove is willing to sign a contract extension elsewhere, Atlanta may not get what they were hoping for. Even still, one thing is undeniable.
If they don't trade Smith for something, they will receive nothing in compensation.
For a team that's in a playoff-bound rebuilding process, that may not be viewed as such a devastating blow. After all, Danny Ferry traded star guard Joe Johnson for role players and expiring contracts.
So why wouldn't he attempt to make a move for the future with a player of Smith's caliber?
If he isn't in Atlanta's long-term plans, the Hawks must learn from the Cleveland Cavaliers. They cannot let a star player walk without gaining any form of compensation—even if what they receive is lackluster.
These next few days could define the Hawks as a franchise for years to come. A trade is the only way out.