The Atlanta Hawks are reportedly shopping Josh Smith around the NBA, seeing what they might be able to get in return for the 24-year-old combo forward. Despite his tumultuous, up-and-down Hawks career, it'd be a difficult choice for Atlanta to make, as he's truly a gifted player. His career averages--14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3.5 combined steals and blocks--attest to his versatility and all-around brilliance, and he's arguably the league's most talented current player to never make an All-Star team. But Atlanta may not have an alternative, all because of the regrettable decision it made last summer to award Joe Johnson a six-year contract worth $123 million.
The Hawks want to save money, and Jamal Crawford's $10 million salary coming off the books this summer isn't enough. Their other player with an onerous contract, Marvin Williams, isn't an attractive trade piece. No team is taking on Johnson's deal. Al Horford's five-year, $60 million extension is more than fair, so it wouldn't make sense for the Hawks to move him. And it's hard for a team in Atlanta's financial situation to justify paying Horford and Smith a combined $88 million.
If the Hawks wanted to keep Smith, they ought not have been so generous to Johnson last summer, however much they wanted to keep him in order to avoid sliding into lottery-level mediocrity. Now, trading Smith seems like the only possible way for Atlanta to save money.
Doing so could be a blessing, depending on what the Hawks receive in return. A competent starting center, for example, would allow Horford, who's earned two All-Star appearances despite playing out-of-position at center, to shift to power forward. Yet there are few obvious trade partners and targets for Smith, who's done nothing to dissuade Atlanta from trading him; according to Chris Mannix, Smith's "camp" has long sought a trade for its client, who feels unappreciated in Atlanta and is ready for a new start.
I don't think a new start is what Atlanta wants for itself. The Hawks could probably put up with some of Smith's attitude for a while if they could afford to keep him. But they can't.