At this point, let’s just write the names of seven NBA teams on little scraps of paper, stick them on the wall and chuck a dart at them with our eyes closed. Wherever the dart lands, the Atlanta Hawks‘ Josh Smith should go there.
There have been many teams to be mentioned as possible destinations for Smith. Recently, one of those teams has been the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks could have some interesting pieces for the Hawks. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein:
On Bucks/Josh Smith talk: Hawks’ interest believed to start w/Monta Ellis, since Monta could play next to Jeff Teague, whom Hawks still like
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2013
A trade centered around Monta Ellis should be enough to entice the Hawks to swoop in and pounce. He’s a good player, there’s no doubt about that. There aren’t many shooting guards out there who have a quicker step than Ellis. He can score in bunches, that’s for sure.
The only problem with the former Golden State Warrior is that, because of his small-ish size, he’s a terrible defender. Because of that, he wouldn’t be the starting guard on a contending team. He’s better fit to come off the bench. It’s just too bad he’s refused to be the sixth man since his early days in Oakland because he’d really have something to offer if he changed his mindset of being a starter.
Ellis would be the centerpiece. And since the salaries going each way have to be identical, there is another player that could entice Atlanta even more if he were included. And when we remember the Hawks’ desire for a promising young center, one guy comes to mind.
Enter Larry Sanders.
While he’s not exactly a dominant offensive center, he’s more than capable of terrorizing teams on the defensive side of the floor. In fact, he’s averaging 3.2 blocks a game, and that’s with only about 25 minutes of playing time a night. Imagine if he played starter minutes? The VCU product has been a pleasant surprise in his third year in the league, as he’s averaging 8.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Constructing a trade package involving those two players, and the salaries would match up very closely to Smith’s $13.2 million per year.
The trade is in place, now who gets the better deal? Would you rather be the Bucks getting Smith, or the Hawks receiving Ellis and Sanders? Or better yet: Would you rather be those two teams trying to re-sign either Smith or Ellis when they become free agents?
This is a difficult decision, but I think I’d rather be the Atlanta Hawks. It’ll be extremely tough for Milwaukee to re-sign Smith to a long-term deal. The reason is simple: Milwaukee is a small-market team that won’t be contending for the NBA championship anytime soon. I doubt Smith would want to stay there. But don’t get me wrong. I think Smith would make a huge impact with the Bucks. He’d provide the kind of defense left behind by Sanders but also be a threat on offense. He would surely take some of the pressure away from Brandon Jennings, and maybe most importantly, stop him from taking so many shots.
I’m just not sure if Smith’s presence would be able to lift the Bucks to a better playoff seed.
Atlanta, as a city in a larger basketball market, would have an easier time retaining players. Ellis also has more time left on his deal, so the Hawks would have his services longer. As for Sanders, he’d be a nice fit on a club in need of size. His presence would liberate Al Horford from the center position as well. He’d finally be able to slide over to the power forward position, which is more natural to him.
Even though I think the Hawks would get the better end of the deal, that doesn’t mean I’d want to be in their shoes.