As Thursday’s trade deadline came and went, the Atlanta Hawks left a large amount of the sports world scratching their heads, as they decided not to trade Josh Smith amidst weeks of trade speculation.
Atlanta had reportedly garnered interest from several different teams, including Brooklyn, Boston and Milwaukee. However, none of them were able to make a deal sweet enough to wow Hawk’s GM Danny Ferry.
According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, the Hawks backed out of a deal at the last minute involving the Milwaukee Bucks. The deal would’ve reportedly sent Smith to the Bucks, with Atlanta receiving Ekpe Udoh, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Beno Udrih and a protected first-round pick.
Most fans were well aware that Atlanta had no chance of receiving equal value for Smith at this point, but would this proposed trade really have been worth it? Well first you would have to understand Smith’s value.
How valuable is he? Well, it’s debatable.
This season, he is averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Smith’s statistics show exactly how much he affects games, as well as the rare versatility he provides. Those are great numbers, but do they tell the entire story?
Smith is notoriously known for his tendency to fall in love with his non-existent three-point shot. On the season, he is shooting just 34 percent from beyond the arc (40-for-117). For his career, Smith is only a 28 percent three-point shooter. Also, Smith hits exactly half of his free throws (Only 50.0 percent on the season), which is a very poor percentage.
How efficient of a player is Josh Smith?
ESPN Insider’s John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is an all-in-one basketball rating that measures a player’s per minute performance. Josh has a PER of 17.2, which is ranked 66th in the NBA. To put that in perspective LeBron James has a PER of 31.50, which is the league’s best.
Despite Smith’s spotty play, The Hawks are currently the sixth seed in the eastern conference, and have been in the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. Conversely, the five recent playoff years were preceded by eight seasons in the NBA Draft Lottery.
Now that they have effectively changed the losing culture of their franchise, do they really want to risk falling back into ineptitude?
It’s no secret Atlanta will have plenty of money to spend this offseason, as they have nine expiring contracts on their roster. Clearly their main objective is to sign multiple big-money free agents this summer.
In a year that will see the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Al Jefferson, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala test the open market, they are going to want to make their team look as attractive as possible.
What do I mean by that?
With Smith still in the lineup, the Atlanta Hawks will most likely make the playoffs for a sixth-straight season. In addition, a playoff team that still has Al Horford, Lou Williams, Jeff Teague (restricted FA) and the possibility of a re-signed Josh Smith looks way better than a non-playoff team, with Smith being replaced by the likes of Ekpe Udoh and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
No disrespect to those guys but along with the expiring contract of Beno Udrih and a late first-round pick, they are collectively nowhere near the enticing selling point to lure a potential free agent as Josh Smith would be.
Another interesting aspect of this story was the misconception that Josh wanted out of Atlanta because he wanted a max contract, and that reportedly wasn’t something that the Hawks were interested in doing. According to Sekou Smith of NBA.com, however, Smith never stated he wanted a max deal.
“I never asked for the max. Those words never came out of my mouth,” Smith said. Smith maintained that he was asked in an interview if he was worth the max, a notion he asserted, but he never asked for a max deal from Atlanta. He went on to add, “Atlanta will be on my list in free agency.”
The Hawks did the right thing by holding on to J-Smoove. Despite his shortcomings in terms of offensive efficiency, the positives of having him for the rest of the season and potentially having a shot at re-signing him, far outweigh the pros of obtaining marginal talent due to fear of losing him for nothing.
(All stats from ESPN.com and NBA.com)
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Written by Darryl L. Jones