After the fact, Comcast Sports’ Ric Bucher reported, "Atlanta Hawks blow up deal at last minute that would've sent Josh Smith to Milwaukee. Hawks would've received Ekpe Udoh, Luc Mbah-Moute, Beno Udrih and a protected No. 1 pick."
According to Bucher’s sources, the Hawks could have pulled the trigger on this trade, and down the road, they will be kicking themselves for missing this opportunity. None of the three players Atlanta would have received would make a major impact for the team this season, but that was never a realistic goal in a trade for Smith.
The versatile forward is 27 years old and in his ninth NBA season. The time to talk about his potential has passed; this is as good as he will get.
Currently, he is averaging a team-best 17.2 points while also chipping in 8.6 rebounds. His length and athleticism allow him to play either forward spot and be effective defensively.
However, he has never made an All-Star game and he will be a restricted free agent after this season. The Hawks may find themselves in a position where they either have to match a max contract or let Smith walk for nothing.
The prospect of another team offering Smith a max deal this offseason should worry Atlanta general manager Danny Ferry. If that happens, he will look foolish for turning down the trade with the Bucks.
As USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt notes, “The team is already nearly $40 million under the salary cap headed into 2013-14 and has nine contracts that expire after 2012-13.”
Ferry has done well to give himself a blank slate to build around Al Horford. If Smith walks this offseason, then he will still be in this position.
However, had he gone through with the rumored deal, Udrih would have been included on the list of players with expiring contracts, he could have exercised a team option on Udoh’s contract and Mbah a Moute would still be on the books for two more years.
The Hawks also would have had a protected first-round pick to help with the rebuilding process.
While the team would have taken a hit this season by trading Smith, it would have maintained its roster flexibility and added Mbah a Moute—a quality defensive role player—and a draft pick to help reposition itself as a top team in the Eastern Conference.
Ultimately, a rebuilding period for the Hawks is inevitable, and Ferry would have been in better position to complete this process had he dealt Smith to the Bucks.