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Former NBA slam dunk champion Josh Smith could be leaving Atlanta and packing his bags for Boston. The 2010 NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection has the Celtics on a short list of teams for his services.
According to reports, Smith has not requested a trade, but has told friends that the Celtics, Nets, Rockets and Magic are his preferred destinations should the Hawks trade him.
“The relationship has run its course,” said a league source.
Primarily because of money. The Hawks have payroll issues and Smith’s two year, $25.6 million contract is much more easy to move than Joe Johnson’s five year, $110 million contract. Also, the fact that Smith is coming off one of his best seasons averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists makes him much more appealing.
Here is the $65 million question. Yes, kinda. Under the current CBA, the Hawks could trade Smith straight up for Ray Allen. Smith is set to make $2.5 million more than Allen this upcoming season, but current rules allow for a team over the cap to take on up to 125 percent, plus another $100,000 of salary. Now if the Hawks wanted Kevin Garnett, who is set to make $21 million next year, the Hawks would probably have to include Kirk Hinrich in the deal.
Yes! I understand that the Big Three won a championship, but that was the past and they are not getting any younger. With Garnett set to be a free agent next year, the Celtics might as well get something for him. If you can get one of the most athletic players in the NBA and one of the top power forwards, you have to make that deal.
Also adding a player who is just 25 helps the Celtics build for the future. For the next decade, the Celtics could be set at the point guard position and forward positions. A deal for Ray Allen may not be the best trade however. The main reason is that the Celtics need a center and losing Allen would hurt their perimeter game. The intriguing deal is Smith for Garnett. Garnett is aging and Smith still has plenty of basketball left in him. Yes, there would be a slight drop off in defense, but not much, after all Smith was the runner up for defensive player of the year in 2009-10.
From a basketball standpoint, no. What team would want to trade away a 25-year-old athletic forward who is in their prime for aging veterans?
From a business standpoint it makes a little bit more sense. The Hawks know they are handcuffed to Joe Johnson and his awful contract, because of that they need to shred cap somewhere and Smith is where it could be. Now would the Hawks want to rent veterans for a year just to clear some cap? It seems so, but renting veterans is not going to help them make a push for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul. The fact that they overspent for Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams has now put them in a place where they may have to deal one of the best forwards in basketball.
Did I forget to mention that after 2011 the Celtics will only have $29 million committed to three players? Well that’s right, only Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley will be under contract as of right now. This means they have excellent cap flexibility and can make a push for a max contract.
Danny Ainge is not the type of GM that will sit back and not deal a guy because the fans like him. Ainge is going to do what he thinks is best for the Celtics. The Big Three still have value, and a year from now that value will diminish. If you had a 2003 Mercedes Benz, wouldn’t you trade it in for a 2009 Lexus? See where I am getting at? Allen and Garnett represent the Benz: they still have value, were good at one point, but now it’s time to get maximum value.
All things considered, the deal only gets done if the Celtics think Smith can be an impact player on both sides of the ball. It’s worth nothing that Smith and Rondo were roommates at Oak Hill Academy. Keeping Rondo happy is important and so is winning basketball. Josh Smith will give the Celtics the best chance to win basketball games.