The Atlanta Hawks need to avoid adhering to the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
A few reports out there suggest that the Hawks—who enjoyed a third consecutive very good, not great, season—are looking to move small forward Josh Smith, perhaps to the Southeast Division rival Orlando Magic. According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com
"A source also said discussions between Atlanta and Orlando with Josh Smith going to the Magic are 'totally legit.' Executives say the Hawks have expressed an eagerness to move Smith and would like to shed salary in the process."
If the Hawks don't like the way Smith plays or think he's the wrong fit for the team, that's fine. But reading that "shed salary" statement makes me think they are planning on signing one of the free-agent prizes in 2011 or 2012 and to build a superstar collection like Miami, Boston and Los Angeles before them.
After all those are the big markets and Atlanta—the home to TNT's NBA coverage—and it's reasonable that they'd think of themselves as a "big market."
But given the current state of their roster, I don't think they need two or three superstars, a la Wade-Bosh-James or Pierce-Allen-Garnett.
There may not be a future Hall of Famer in their lineup, but the roster is really deep, one of the deepest around.
Say what you will about Joe Johnson, but he is a scorer and has moments of brilliance. And if they bring back Jamal Crawford, the backcourt is very dangerous with Kirk Hinrich.
But it's the front—of which Smith is a key part—that I think stands out and gives them a better chance of competing with those superstar duo/trios in New York, Boston and Miami.
Al Horford is an excellent offensive option and Jason Collins was pretty impressive defensively in the postseason. And Keith Benson (Oakland University) was a real steal for them in the second round of this year's draft.
And if they keep Smith along with Marvin Williams, they have two versatile scorers who can play on the wing together or one at a time.
Look at how Dallas won the title this year. Yes, Dirk Nowitzki was the star and the cornerstone of that franchise. But they don't defeat the Heat without Jason Terry coming off the bench and shining, DeShawn Stevenson hitting a handful of clutch threes, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea playing exceptional down the stretch and Tyson Chandler playing the best basketball of his career.
For a few years now, superstars teaming up has been en vogue thanks to what the Celtics started in 2008. Maybe the Mavs have set a new blueprint for success, much like the one Detroit followed to a title in 2004-05.
That's the same model I'd like to see Atlanta utilize in the next few years and it all starts with keeping Josh Smith, who can be a big part of the puzzle, but not the only one.