Rumor Mongering: The Man With Moon Shoes

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 17, 2009 under Commentary, Rumors | 8 Comments to Read

First thing’s first: a little company policy.  During the regular season and the playoffs, I like to keep trade rumor talk to a minimum.  Confirmed, popular, or oft-repeated rumors will get a mention and perhaps some brief analysis as to the whys/why nots, but on the whole I like to stay away from the vacuum that is the rumor mill.  The offseason is a different beast entirely, and one that gives us the opportunity to leave no stone unturned.  I don’t want this blog to turn into a running thread of trade machine quick fixes, but some of these rumors deserve a bit of attention.

That said, the summer is a boring, desolate time.  There’s a lot of reading between the lines as fans get progressively more stir crazy.  In all likelihood you’ll find me sitting in a corner, twitching, with my eyes glazed over by the time September finally rolls around.  The long summer days practically beg for this stuff, and who am I to deny them their most base speculative basketball instincts?  As such, I’ll be dipping my toe into the pool from time to time, but still, I wouldn’t expect me to cannonball into the deep end.  Though, I must say, I am a wicked cannonballer.

Now on to the juicy stuff.

Chad Ford, ESPN:

The big trade rumor flying around…centers on the Hawks’ Josh Smith. Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks have been working hard the past few weeks to see whether they can find a taker for Smith…

The Hawks have had no problem finding teams interested in Smith. The issue is the whopping $6 million trade kicker attached to his contract. The trade kicker essentially would require the team that trades for Smith to pay him the $6 million immediately. In this economic climate, many owners will balk at the payment. “You are going to see very few owners willing to do things like that anymore,” one GM said. “I’m not saying he’s impossible to trade. There are a few owners like Paul Allen, James Dolan, Mark Cuban and maybe Daniel Gilbert who would pay the money. But there aren’t many.”

Josh Smith is a tasty find…for the right price.  He can bring a lot to a team, particularly one that needs athletic finishers and help on the defensive end.  When you boil down the basic Maverick needs to taglines, Josh Smith makes sense.  But diving a little deeper, and there could be some problems.  Nothing of cataclysmic proportions, mind you, but problems that may make you hold off on offering your first-born to the Josh Smith altar.

Any deal the Mavs are able to swing involving Smith would likely require some serious talent on our end.  Probably Jason Terry and Josh Howard.  As much as we’d love to believe that a salary dump would be enough to get it done, this is still a young stud.  He’s tremendously athletic and comes with a fairly reasonable price tag (pre-trade kicker) salary-wise.  There has been no explosion in Atlanta that would compromise the Hawk’s position in negotiations, and thus it’s fair to assume that it’s going to take somewhere around Smith’s market value to pry him out of Atlanta’s hands.  That value is not equal to Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse, no matter how you shake it.

Now, Howard could conceivably be packaged with Stackhouse in a deal that would relieve the Hawks of Josh Smith and Speedy Claxton’s dead weight of a contract.  Barring turning Jason Terry into their point guard again, that’s the deal that seems to make the most sense for Atlanta.  Even then, this trade is hardly fit to sail.  Howard and Smith are hardly on equal terms these days, so much of this trade (and these rumors, for that matter) hinge on Atlanta’s want to rid Mike Woodson of a headache and/or save some money.  I’m not about to tell you what Hawks’ ownership and management wants, and I’m not sure that they could either.  This development of the Hawks has been mired substantially by failings higher up in the management chain.  Mismanagement and confusion are the names of the game.  If I were to tell you that I had my thumb to Atlanta’s pulse, I’d be quite the liar.  So let’s just say that there are variables at work here that are beyond us.

I’m not concerned about Smith’s position.  He started his career as a natural three, and was moved to the four because of personnel and his inability to shoot.  If he had to play the three again, I have no doubt he could do so.  The biggest questions should dwell with Smith’s place on the court.  Not necessarily in terms of position, but rather in regard to the skills he brings to the table and the spots he occupies on the floor.  Offensively, Smith has no go-to moves when he’s farther than 1.5 feet from the basket.  He doesn’t post up particularly well, he can’t shoot threes or mid-range jumpers particularly well (a gross .349 eFG on jump shots), and to top it all off, he exhibits some generally poor decision-making on that end.  Get him the ball in transition, on a lob, or just an open cut to the basket, and he’s money.  Otherwise, expect a clank.

On defense, Smith is best equipped to guard forwards.  He doesn’t have the quickness to keep up with guards on the perimeter, and though he’s an excellent shot-blocker, that skill is negated when you’re acting as a human turnstyle.  So what does this really change about the Mavs’ overall team defense?  They have an improved defender on either the opponent’s 3 or 4, but still have limited means to prevent penetration.  That said, Smith could be a flat-out defensive weapon against the league’s better small forwards.  He won’t shut down LeBron James, but he could certainly be a sizeable road block against the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Hedo Turkoglu, or Lamar Odom.  Sometimes the key to a strong defense is to limit the opportunities of the second or third guy on the offensive end.  Forcing an opponent’s star to take on more and more of the scoring load likely means a drop in efficiency, which is exactly what the Mavs should strive for.  Apart from getting an elite defender at the wing positions or at point guard, the Mavs need to largely make do.  Smith would allow them to do that and then some.

My issues with Smith are largely at the offensive end.  He’s not simply a non-factor on offense, but has a habit of being a possession killer.  Also throw in what he would likely cost the Mavs: the departure of Josh Howard, Jason Terry, or both.  Both Terry and Howard are keys for Dallas on offense.  The Mavs were able to find offensive success this season largely due to the hyper-efficient nature of Dirk and JET’s games, but from watching the team it appeared that such success was hanging by the slightest thread.  Howard gave the Mavs a bit of breathing room with his ability to take over (or monopolize, depending on your perspective) the offense for stretches.  Substituting Smith for Howard removes the safety net, and substituting Smith for Terry could make the sky fall.  Howard’s inconsistency is manageable when he’s living the small-time life of a third offensive option, but he very well may drown in the responsibilities of being the second guy.

Annnnnd this was entirely too much for a bare bones trade rumor.  Definitely a cannonball.  Feel free to sound off in the comments, though.  What price is too high for Smith?  At what point does the offense begin to take a nose-dive?

EDIT: Some extra credit reading, in which SLAM’s Lang Whitaker, who knows a thing or two about the Hawks, tackles the idea of Atlanta unloading Smith.

  • Joe

    If Josh Smith is available and you don’t have to give up Dirk or a first rounder to get him, you absolutely trade for him. I would not hesitate to send Stack and Howard to Atlanta for him, or even Stack and Terry. Offense is not the Mavs’ problem right now, it’s their defense. Trading either Terry or Howard for Smith is a step in the right direction as far as that is concerned. You may lost about 5 points per game on offense, but how many do you gain on defense with a legit shot blocker and excellent help defender on the wing? Add to the fact that he’s so young and that the Mavs don’t have a #1 pick next year and you basically have to do it. Plus, I’m almost positive Josh Smith would be great next to Jason Kidd. Like “Kenyon Martin deserves this max contract for sure, sign him away from New Jersey” great.

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      Stack and Howard would be just fine with me, and even Stack and Terry would definitely warrant some serious consideration. I’d even be willing to include this year’s #22 in some scenarios. The point was more to discourage the thinking that Josh Smith might solve the Mavs’ problems just because he’s a great defensive player. He can add a lot defensively, but some of that will be balanced by his negative impact on the offense and his inability to guard five guys at once. The rest of the team is going to need to execute better on defense if anything is going to change, and though Josh Smith is a step in that direction, he’s not the end in itself.

      You’re right though, if Smith is available, the Mavs better be burning up the phones.

  • Brayden

    How much does having Jason Kidd at the point matter when considering the acquisition of Josh Smith?

    Seems to me that Smith would gain some offensive efficiency through dunks, cuts, and the like with Kidd at the healm instead of Mike Bibby.

    If we lose Kidd, however, what larger impact do you think this might have on Smith’s offensive value or overall value, if any?

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      Kidd’s impact on Smith would be absolutely tremendous. His looks at the basket would be much easier with a passer of Kidd’s caliber around. Because Smith struggles in creating good scoring opportunities for himself, any team that can provide him with easy looks is going to benefit greatly from his finishing ability.

      If the Mavs lose Kidd but get Smith, Josh’s offensive production could conceivably dip. Atlanta didn’t have a scorer of Dirk’s caliber, but on the whole the offensive talent was better in terms of creation and spacing the floor. Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, and even Marvin Williams, Flip Murray, and Al Horford are players that create opportunities and give Josh the chance to play off of them. Shooters were spacing the floor, and Smith’s limitations were based in his lack of shooting skill and poor shot selection. In Dallas sans Kidd, the Mavs would have limited manpower in terms of spacing the floor, and even fewer players capable of shot creation. Things could get ugly on the offensive end, which has been the only saving grace of the Mavs recently.

  • Joe

    Does trading for Josh Smith eliminate the possibility of trading for the #5 pick? I don’t know if the Mavs could handle a huge shake-up like that, but they definitely need it. You have to get young sometime, no better time than the present. If they could somehow turn Terry, Howard, and Stack into Smith, Etan Thomas, and the #5 (Brandon Jennings) and then sign someone worthwhile with the MLE (Ariza is probably out of the question, but what about Marquis Daniels or Matt Barnes?), I would be happy. I would be even happier if they could turn Bass around for an upgrade at center. I wonder if Phoenix would have interest in a sign-and-trade of Bass, Dampier, and whoever fills in the blanks (Barea? Wright?) for Shaq. I would be very happy with a 2009-10 roster of Kidd-Daniels-Smith-Dirk-Shaq-Jennings-Thomas-Singleton-Hollins. That team’s not going to win a championship, but it’s a step in the right direction in the shedding of salaries and influx of some youth.

  • Crawford

    I can’t figure Jennings out, I think if we trade for the #5 we need to wait until the last minute and see who is there. Is Jrue Holiday going unnoticed? I’ve just seen youtube stuff, but could he be Russ Westbrook?

  • Kirk

    Considering Howard has never learned to play with one of the greatest point guards in a generation (mixed in with all the other shenanigans and lack of consistency he brings to the table) this trade would make me happy. Kidd, even if only for a year or two, would make Smith a better player for sure. This would also give the Mavs a massive front line in terms of height and rebounding, as Dirk is an above average rebounder in-season (way better in playoffs) and rebounding is about all we pay Damp for.

    I like it. Make it happen Mavs. This current team has bored me since 2006.

  • Chaz

    This is a much better idea than trading up. Trading up is unaguaranteed. Some kids come in to the league and immediately have impact, but that’s usually on struggling teams. Courtney Lee did well for Orlando this year, but that’s not what got them over the hump. A beast like Josh Smith is a step in the right direction, but it definitely means putting off, at least until the trade deadline if not later, the two biggest concerns of the future at point and center.