6 NBA Teams Guaranteed to Target Josh Smith in 2013 Free Agency
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The 2013 NBA trade deadline came and went, and Josh Smith is still in an Atlanta Hawks uniform despite wide-spread speculation that the Hawks would accept the best available offer to prevent getting nothing at all.
Apparently, Hawks GM Danny Ferry felt that it would be better to roll the dice on a potential sign-and-trade this summer than to sacrifice Smith for pennies on the dollar.
To be sure, there will be a number of teams in the bidding to obtain Smith as a free agent. But only a handful of teams are realistic targets for Smith, who was reported by Ken Berger of CBS Sports.com to be seeking a max contract this summer.
A quick power forward who is a superb shot-blocker, Smith's skill set could enhance a number of teams' hopes of contention or serve as a great cornerstone in a rebuilding effort.
Salaries Sourced from Hoopshype.
Houston Rockets (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $40.1 Million)
Kevin McHale's offense would be a perfect fit for Josh Smith.
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ESPN.com reported that the Houston Rockets acquired Thomas Robinson Feb. 20, but it's uncertain as to whether Rockets GM Daryl Morey intends to keep Robinson or whether he'll seek a more developed power forward to drive the Rockets quicker into title contention.
They were said to be in the running for Smith in trade talks, but Morey backed off because he was unwilling to give up Chandler Parsons or Omer Asik in a potential deal (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports).
The Rockets are the NBA's youngest team, so there really isn't any hurry to contend. Parsons and Asik are clearly part of their long-term plans.
But there's no time like the present for most NBA GMs, and Josh Smith could bring the Rockets closer to contending in the West far sooner than the 21-year-old Robinson.
The Rockets have been cutting salary in preparation to make a big run at a free agent this summer, and if they strike out on Dwight Howard (which is expected), they could turn their attention quickly to Smith.
Smith's speed and ability to finish would mesh well in Houston's high-octane offense, and the lobs would run a plenty as James Harden and Jeremy Lin push the ball in transition.
Off-hand, the acquisition of Smith makes a lot of sense for Morey and the Rockets, and they're one of the most likely destinations for him as a free agent this summer.
Milwaukee Bucks (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $40 Million)
Josh Smith seems to want to play with Monta Ellis, but will he stay?
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It was unclear what the Bucks were willing to offer Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry in exchange for Smith, but John Hammond's refusal to make any of his good players available was likely the killer in the deal.
Hammond may have to go out and get Smith in free agency instead, but let's be clear: Milwaukee isn't exactly on the top of the list when free agents are planning their future. It's cold there, the Bucks rarely do more than sniff the playoffs and Milwaukee is one of the smallest markets in the NBA.
What would Smith's attraction to Milwaukee be?
While the Bucks will have the cap room to sign Smith, expect them to be spurned by yet another high-profile free agent.
Phoenix Suns (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $51.3 Million)
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Per Hoopsworld, the Phoenix Suns were said to be the front-runners to obtain Josh Smith, and Hoopsworld mentioned assets that the Suns could package in a deal. The assets mentioned included Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and a first-round pick. If a deal involving these assets was offered, Morey may have made a mistake by not taking it.
Instead, he's going to lose Smith this summer without reaping any of the benefits that might have come from acquiring a serviceable NBA center (Gortat), and/or a glue guy (Dudley) and/or a first-round pick.
Still, the Suns are likely to make a strong push for Smith this summer. They've been seeking an explosive scorer who is exciting and can help fill seats.
The Suns have struggled with attendance all season, and they likely feel that adding a former slam-dunk champion could only help their cause of both improving attendance and becoming a winning ball club.
Indiana Pacers (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $49 Million)
The Pacers have thrived without Danny Granger, which makes him more than expendable.
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The Indiana Pacers aren't in as much of a cap-favorable situation as some of the teams that will pursue Josh Smith are, but with David West's $10 million due to come off the books, the Pacers could be in to make a push for Smith.
Any deal with the Pacers would likely require a sign-and-trade, and Danny Granger's future in Indiana has been in question with the emergence of All-Star Paul George. George is a younger option than Granger and has a similar skill set.
The Hawks may entertain ideas of a sign-and-trade to send Smith to Indy for Granger. It's not as much of a longshot as it may seem: Granger is still a good high-volume shooter, and assuming he recovers fully from the knee issues that have plagued him this season, he could pair nicely with Al Horford and Jeff Teague.
Acquiring Granger would give the Hawks some direction in a rebuild that to this point has failed to take a definitive shape and form.
Cleveland Cavaliers (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $32.6 Million)
Superstars attract superstars—as the Miami Heat and L.A. Lakers proved.
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Kyrie Irving's talents should help lure free agents to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's owner Dan Gilbert's hope, and "Uncle Drew" is a great facilitator who could greatly enhance the talents of any number of free agents that could land in Cleveland.
Pairing Irving with Josh Smith would create quite an exciting stir in Cleveland, a fanbase that has been struggling to find reasons to get excited since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.
The Cavs are also in the most favorable cap situation to offer Smith a max-contract if that is what it takes. They'll pursue some of the other big names most likely (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson), but Smith is as likely an option as any.
Dallas Mavericks (Estimated 2012-13 Payroll: $48.5 Million)
Mark smiles smug, but he'll spend the bread to improve the Mavs.
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The "Bank of Cuban" has been open for quite some time, and though Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's first choice will be L.A. Lakers center Dwight Howard, acquiring Josh Smith is a real option for a team whose immediate prospects are unclear with a declining Dirk Nowitzki and no other real franchise talents.
It's not necessarily that Smith is a franchise-changing talent, but he's been on the cusp of being an All-Star for most of his NBA career, and Cuban has the opinion that he's able to turn potential All-Stars into legitimate ones.
The Mavs only real piece in the rebuilding effort is O.J. Mayo. Mayo's a high-volume shooter who needs the ball in his hands, and Smith isn't. That's what makes a pairing of the two pretty favorable.
While Smith may jack some ill-fated long two-pointers from time to time, he wouldn't be the type of player who would take away from Mayo's game. That has to hold appeal to the Mavs as they try to form an identity in Dirk's declining years.