If Bryan Colangelo was smart, he would turn the Atlanta Hawks signing Al Horford to a contract extension into a win for the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors are an interesting team. It features a centre that prefers to stand on the outside and shoot threes, rather then bang with the big boys in the paint.
While it is true Andrea Bargnani has worked hard to develop a post game, and his man-to-man defence against opposing centres isn’t terrible anymore, he will never be among the game's most dominant interior players.
This puts Colangelo in an interesting position, as he is forced to acquire players to make up for Bargnani’s deficiencies.
Reggie Evans is doing a fantastic job over the first few games of the season, averaging 15 rebounds per game. I don’t expect his rebounding rate to remain quite so high, but it has been impressive so far.
Despite the addition of Linas Kleiza, Toronto’s biggest area of weakness is still small forward. Kleiza is solid and will likely have a good statistical season, but that really has more to do with the Raptors' overall lack of talent.
What the Raptors need to do is look in acquiring Josh Smith from the Hawks.
This is a move that likely would not happen until the February trade deadline, however, the Hawks signing Horford to a contract extension today has put everything in motion for Smith to be moved.
Atlanta now has Horford making $12 million per season, Joe Johnson at $18.5 million, Josh Smith at $12.5 million, and Marvin Williams signed for $8 million.
That is $51 million allocated to only four players. For a team that won’t be competing for a championship anytime soon, this is a situation that will need to be rectified.
Atlanta has reached a plateau. This is as high as the team will ever go, as currently constructed.
Johnson is an All Star, no question, but he isn’t good enough to be the leader on a championship team. Mike Bibby is past his prime. Williams will never live up to his draft position, 2nd overall. Horford is a double-double waiting to happen every night, but is really a power forward, not a centre in this league.
Finally, there is Smith. He is a great athlete, a shot-blocker and defender. He is the player most likely to be moved. Not because Rick Sund will want to move him, but because he will be forced to do so.
The Eastern Conference isn’t as weak as it has been in the past. There are the three contenders, Miami, Boston and Orlando. Then there are a few talented up-and-coming teams, in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Atlanta just isn’t good enough to get home court advantage in the playoffs and historically, teams have shown that if there isn’t a realistic chance at winning a title, paying the luxury tax is out of the question.
The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire at the end of this season. Owners are looking to lower maximum contracts and the salary cap. As a result, teams are going to be forced to make tough decisions and Toronto is in a prime position to take advantage of all of these factors.
Colangelo tried a few years ago to acquire Andrei Kirilenko from the Utah Jazz. It was unfortunate this deal fell through because Kirilenko, much like Smith, is a small forward who provides blocks, steals and defence.
If Smith does become available, management should not let such a player slip through their fingers again.
The Raptors have a number of assets, including a $14 million trade exception, the expiring contracts of Marcus Banks, Reggie Evans and Julian Wright, and multiple first round drafts picks in the 2011 draft.
Toronto may have to throw in an actual asset or two, either Ed Davis or DeMar DeRozan to sweeten the deal, but in order to acquire a talent like Smith, who would cover up a number of the team’s existing shortcomings, that is something the Raptors’ front office should seriously consider.