I Relent, Trade Josh Smith

You want to know my take on the Hawks trade of Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford and a first round draft pick for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong? Cool. Me too. Because I just don’t know what it is yet.

I want to give this a few games before making any jump to conclusions about how I feel about the deal the Hawks just made. I also want to wait and see if any more moves are made, as rumor as it the Hawks kept Zaza Pachulia out of last night’s game as they are still seeking a veteran center.

Now there are a couple of points to be made about the quest for a center. One, we obviously need one. Al Horford is an all-star center, yes. At power forward, he quite possibly goes from very good player, to great player. He could dominate from the four position, offensively and defensively. If for no other reason than that, getting a center seems the right decision.

However, there’s another side to that coin. And that side is the enigma that is Josh Smith. What do you do with him? You absolutely cannot play him at small forward. Even while playing the four, Smith too often floats around the perimeter waiting for an open jump shot or three pointer. And the shot is always open for him. Of course, there’s a reason for that. Nobody in the league respects his outside game.

It’s not to say it’s absolutely useless, he’s improved his shooting. But that’s not his strength, not close. It’s not where he’s most valuable. Ultimately, Smith on the perimeter makes the Hawks worse.

Josh Smith is an amazing athlete, one of the best in the NBA, and he creates havoc offensively and defensively, in the paint. The problem is getting him to stay there. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, or he can just use his athleticism around the rim. Shooting jumpers no longer takes advantage of his great advantage in superior athletic ability coupled with great size.

So we want to play him at a swing position? Yeah, that will not work.

And this is why I’m completely on board with a Josh Smith trade. If only there’s a taker.

I love watching Josh play, at times, most of the time. However, there are times, too many for a player as seasoned as he is, that he is maddening to watch. Too often he makes people ask, “just what the hell is he thinking?” All too often his effort is questioned, and people have valid reason to wonder if his head is even in the game. He should be past all of this by now.

Smith’s amazing athletic ability makes him an attractive trade piece, one would think. His ceiling is still ridiculously high. Perhaps he just needs a change of scenery. Or perhaps he just needs a coach who is willing, and respected enough, to ride him exceptionally hard, push him harder than he’s been pushed, and refuse to accept anything less than 100% mentally and physically.

Watching these Hawks play, it’s obvious they show up and play hard when they want to. The effort on defense and on the boards is extremely inconsistent. In other words, Larry Drew has minimal impact on the effort put forth on the floor.

So clearly, he’s not the guy who can reach Josh Smith. However, somewhere there’s a coach who can.

While I would absolutely hate to see Josh Smith finally “get it”, or “put it together” somewhere else and become the elite player we all know he can become, I’ve come to accept it simply will not happen in Atlanta.

And as long as we keep waiting on it to happen in Atlanta, we’re going to keep waiting on the Hawks to take the step from solid team to legit contender. As long as we’re waiting on that from Josh Smith, we’re going to see efforts like we saw in the first half against Phoenix last night, or against the Lakers, Bucks, Sixers and Hornets this year.

The Atlanta Hawks, as consistuted, aren’t going to take a step forward. In fact, they may be going from being blown out by a historical margin in round two, to not even getting out of round one, to perhaps not even winning a game in round one.

There are still plenty of nice pieces in Atlanta. Al Horford and Joe Johnson are a fine inside/out duo. Kirk Hinrich is a solid point guard, and Jamal Crawford is one of the best bench players, instant offense players in the league. Marvin Williams is a solid role player, albeit way too expensive to be a role player, and Damien Wilkins is a nice defensive player off the bench.

Josh Smith however is the one who can bring in the most complementing pieces to help this team, perhaps even bringing in a major piece that could totaly change the landscape of Hawks basketball.

We’ve all noticed over the last couple of seasons, it seems more and more the team goes as Josh Smith goes. When Josh Smith plays hard, plays with energy, and puts up his 20 and 10 type games, and is altering games on defense, the Hawks are usually winning, even against the NBA’s elite. When he’s not, we’re getting beat by 30 points.

Well, the saying still has some truth. As Josh Smith goes, so go the Hawks. And when Josh Smith goes, that’s when the Hawks will be able to go a little higher.


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