Josh Smith, Boston Celtics a Perfect Marriage on Paper but Not in Reality
According to what Racine Journal Times reporter Gery Woelfel has been hearing, the Celtics are "salivating" over Atlanta's free-agent-to-be. Woelfel adds that Boston "would be receptive" to part ways with Brandon Bass and Jeff Green to bring Smith to Beantown.
Despite losing three key performers from its rotation to season-ending injuries (Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa and rookie Jared Sullinger) in a two-week span, Boston has continued its climb up the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics have won eight of their past nine games, reaching the No. 7 seed in the East and sitting just 2.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Brooklyn Nets.
But while their recent play has reached Hollywood levels of inspiration, there are legitimate concerns as to the remaining healthy players supporting a lengthy playoff push.
With Rondo out of the equation, the Celtics' top three scorers are all at least 35 years old (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry). The NBA mileage has piled up on the legs of all three players, and a grueling 82-game regular season only keeps that odometer turning before the playoffs even arrive.
Smith is far from a perfect player, but he's about as versatile as they come this side of Miami Heat megastar LeBron James. And the 27-year-old is on pace for perhaps the finest statistical season of his nine-year career, averaging better than 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal per game. He's the only player in the NBA with a 17/8/4/2/1 average this season.
But simply desiring Smith and actually landing him in Boston are two entirely different things.
The only thing certain about his future is his desire for a jackpot max contract offer over the summer (according to Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Given that the Celtics would seemingly only acquire Smith to bolster their championship hopes over the coming seasons, the team's big three would likely stay in place. And that means the $40-plus million owed to Garnett, Pierce and Rajon Rondo next season would be staying as well.
Not to mention the fact that the team's offseason decision to give Terry the full mid-level exception hard-capped them at $74.4 million for this season. Under the league's current collective-bargaining agreement, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge won't have an easy time making any trades work, let alone a deal of this magnitude.
But for all of the impediments standing in the way of this reported deal on Boston's end, there are several roadblocks on Atlanta's side
Unless Ainge can convince the Atlanta Hawks to accept a deal that even an amateur fantasy-hoops leaguer would veto, this rumor could be finished before it ever really started.
My favorite quote of Woelfel's article was how Boston "would be receptive" to sending Green and Bass to Atlanta in the process. Of course, the Celtics would be receptive to this idea. I'd be receptive too if I had the chance to commit grand larceny free of the threat of any criminal or civil sanctions.
In terms of pure ability, Smith brings more to the floor than Bass and Green combined.
Green is a 26-year-old, five-year veteran still holding his most value in potential not yet realized. He's good for the occasional highlight finish or flashes of production but has failed to establish any consistency since joining the Celtics at the 2011 trade deadline (10.1 points in 24.2 minutes per game with Boston).
Bass, meanwhile, is a scoring forward who frankly hasn't proven he can be an efficient scoring threat. He's never been a great rebounder (career 5.2 rebounds per 36 minutes) or strong defender.
Yet, somehow, the Celtics decided that these two were both worth heavy financial commitments. Like $40-million-over-the-next-three-years-type commitments (assuming Green opts in on his $9.2 million player option for 2015-16).
And now Ainge is trying to unload his economic blunders onto Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry, in exchange for one of the league's most exciting, versatile players no less.
There's nothing to suggest that Ferry's willing to play ball.
What should the Hawks do with Smith?
Since taking over the reins last summer, he's worked to put Atlanta into the prime cap-space territory that it's just months away from realizing. He jettisoned Joe Johnson's horrific contract (nearly $70 million for the next three seasons) to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a horde of expiring deals.
According to salary figures from hoopshype.com, Atlanta's financial commitments are just $48 million for the next three seasons combined. Yet, we're supposed to believe that Ferry will essentially double the team's payroll in exchange for two fringe starters?
Ferry is right to field offers for Smith, considering the uncertainty of the player's future in Atlanta. But there has to be an offer better than this available to him.
And remember, the Hawks don't have to trade Smith. There's still a chance they could re-sign him over the summer, particularly if they feel that it would help their chances of bringing Los Angeles Lakers center (and fellow 2013 free agent) Dwight Howard back to his hometown.
And if they don't want to keep Smith around, the cap space accompanying his departure would prove a far greater gain for the franchise than what the Celtics are offering in return. The 2013 free-agent market (via hoopsworld.com) is loaded with talent beyond just Howard and Smith. The Hawks could even save their money for what could be an unprecedented free agent class in 2014 (via hoopsworld.com).
Between now and Thursday's trade deadline, Ferry will have to consider several trade offers for his star forward.
But this clearly is not one worth consideration.
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