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Josh Smith is quietly one of the more polarizing NBA stars in the game. You also may have heard that he could be traded and is looking for a big contract this summer. We asked the writers that know Josh best and those covering the teams linked to him to help solve the J-Smoove Riddle.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller, in his daily "Hook" column, asked and answered the question: What is Josh Smith worth? Ziller examined the contract math and Smith's performance and talents before concluding that trading for Smith and paying him big money is a gamble that might work out.
Of course, that just left us with more questions. So we fired up the Bat Signal and convened a roundtable. Included are:
- Jason Walker and Kris Willis of Peachtree Hoops, who've covered J-Smoove throughout his Hawks career.
- Tom Lorenzo and the artist known as Net Income from NetsDaily, who cover the Nets and their deep-pocketed owner.
- Dave King from Bright Side of the Sun, whose Phoenix team doesn't have quite the same level of Russian
- Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog, whose crazy Boston team is involved in every possible trade rumor this season.
- Mike Prada, national NBA editor for SB Nation who still covers the Wizards (not sure why) at Bullets Forever.
1. Josh Smith is a very polarizing player. On the one hand, he's a multi-tool guy who brings it on both ends of the floor in the prime of his career. On the other hand, he takes bad shots and isn't a "winner." Simple question: would you be OK with your team giving Josh Smith a five-year, $90 million contract?
Jason Walker, Peachtree Hoops: I would be OK from the Hawks' perspective if they weren't going to replace his value by divesting themselves of Josh. In other words, I would sign him to a deal if the alternative was to let him walk to another team for nothing in return and not sign any free agents to backfill his considerable production.
Net Income, NetsDaily: I wouldn't be okay with a max contract for Smith. There's a reason that Atlanta, who knows him best and has resources, decided to offer him no more than $37 million over three. Will he get more than that? Sure, but I don't even think Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to pay him more than $20 million a year when he is 31 or 32 and in his 12th and 13th year in the NBA.
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: Yes, I would pay him more than other teams are willing to pay. Smith is a face of the franchise, if not a "franchise player" who can sell tickets and get the Suns back on national TV. He's a high flyer in his prime, and by far would be the best player currently on the Suns' roster. Add in the right top-5 draft pick and other lottery picks, and there's a good future right now.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog: I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable with it, but I could at least see the reasoning by the Celtics if they did. You have to have stars in this league to win titles and you have to pay for stars. Josh Smith is the most available star-potential player out there and he happens to be best chums with Rajon Rondo. Both are ... let's call it "difficult to manage," but we've got one of the best personality-handlers in the business in Doc Rivers.
2. Smith is having a slightly down year in Atlanta and has seemed to personify the Hawks' recent reputation as a good team that has peaked. Do you believe that Smith could be a more productive player in a different environment or have we seen the best Josh has to offer?
Kris Willis, Peachtree Hoops: Smith is a high-level talent that is capable of stuffing the box score night in and night out. However, his decision-making has left a lot to be desired. Smith needs to be paired with a strong leader, whether it is a point guard or a strong head coach. If Smith could improve his decision-making on the floor, then yes he could make substantial improvements.
Mike Prada, SB Nation / Bullets Forever: Tough to say, because it's hard to figure out exactly what Josh Smith is. The central problem with Smoove is that he's an athlete that doesn't make decisions quickly. He's really good in the high or low post picking out cutters, and he's very good on the break, but he's not a good pick-and-roll player and he gets baited into taking out-of-rhythm jump shots way too much. If he took less time to survey defenses, he would be a lethal player, but as it stands, that shortcoming limits his strengths.
My sense is that this is the player that he'll always be. Atlanta's flex offense does a nice job of putting Smith in many spots where he should be successful, and this is the Smith you end up getting. Perhaps he'd put up better counting numbers on a faster-paced team that uses more possessions, but I don't think he's going to get significantly more productive than this.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog: I think it is possible. You are banking that Smith, put in the right environment, coached properly and given the opportunity to thrive, will blossom into the kind of megawatt star that his talent and potential have always hinted at. Maybe Rondo is just the kind of guy that can stare his buddy down and say "no, I'm not giving you the ball unless you start getting into the lane more." Maybe surrounded by all the Celtic lore and the legends around town will be just enough to make him check his ego and buy into whatever it is that Doc is preaching.
3. How much would you be comfortable seeing your team give up for Josh Smith this week?
Tom Lorenzo, NetsDaily: Really, anything outside of Brook Lopez should be up for grabs. Deron Williams won't be traded, and Joe Johnson will NEVER return to Atlanta, but I think Nets fans would be comfortable seeing any deal that doesn't include Lopez.
Mike Prada, SB Nation / Bullets Forever: Not very much. The Wizards, for example, are reportedly offering anyone but John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene, which is amusing on the surface because those are the only three Wizards players with much value. But when you consider Smith's impending free agency and the concern about handing him the five-year max, that's about as good as the offers probably should be.
Net Income, NetsDaily: The proverbial, at least on the NetsDaily forum, [Kris Humphries], [MarShon Brooks] and picks, is a starting point. Beyond those two, the Nets have three Europeans who a lot of teams like: Mirza Teletovic, despite his three airballs vs. Detroit, is generating a lot of interest, as is Toko Shengelia, who dominated the D-League and wowed NBA scouts in his tours there; and they have the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, a 6'8" shooting guard who is Europe's best scorer. I assume Atlanta would want one of them.
The question is how many picks would it take? The Nets can trade as many as four first-rounders. I assume Atlanta would want two of them. Since I would prefer Paul Millsap, I wouldn't want to give up a lot, but gun to my head, Hump, Brooks, one of the Euros and two picks, both protected.
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: I would only give up Marcin Gortat as a future asset, since he's wanting a new contract in a year anyway, and one of Markieff Morris or Kendall Marshall as the "young guy." No way I give up a first-round draft pick unless it's ridiculously protected, since the guy can walk in three months. Again, I don't want the Suns bidding against themselves.
Jeff Clark, CelticsBlog: If the Hawks are willing to part with Smith for a pick and some expiring contracts and if a third team is willing to get involved and take on the salaries of Jeff Green and/or Brandon Bass, Jason Terry, (plus toss in a Fab Melo for fun) then by all means, roll the dice. I just don't really find that scenario to be all that plausible. I'm personally not comfortable trading Paul Pierce and/or Kevin Garnett to get it done (for lots of reasons both rational and completely emotional). Of course, if Danny Ainge told me that he's committed to blowing up the team, then I'd have to hope for a return of at least someone of Josh Smith's caliber (plus other building block pieces).
Jason Walker, Peachtree Hoops: The Hawks have to replace the value Smith has provided and would provide over at least the next three seasons. The holy trinity of value is what the Hawks are looking for: young talent, draft picks and no cap-destroying contracts coming back.