NBA PM: Top Five Destinations For Josh Smith
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Top Five Destinations For Josh Smith
As the Atlanta Hawks prepare for a summer of full-scale rebuilding, it appears that Josh Smith’s time with the team is over. His departure would spell a chance for the Hawks to either land some quality pieces to help their revamp process or to simply clear cap space to use in attracting free agents. Whether he leaves via sign-and-trade or free agency, you can bet Smith will be a player in demand this summer. Here’s a look at five teams who could really use him:
1) The Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks are desperate to put a contending team around Dirk Nowitzki before he retires, and the clock is ticking. The Mavs attempted to lure Smith away at the trade deadline, offering Atlanta anyone not named Dirk in an effort to add him to their mix. Expect Dallas to be at the top of the list of teams looking to sign him as a free agent. The Mavs have few assets to offer in trade, so if the Hawks opt to work a sign-and-trade for Smith the Mavs would likely be out of the running early.
2) The Houston Rockets – Another team with cap space that could use a little more star power is the Houston Rockets. Their top free agent target is, of course, Dwight Howard, but if Howard re-ups with the Los Angeles Lakers then the Rockets will be scrambling for a Plan B. Unlike Dallas, Houston needs a starting power forward, and Smith is really at his best when playing the four. For a team looking to push the tempo, as the Rockets always are, Smith would be a great fit due to his ability to change ends quickly and finish with flair.
3) The San Antonio Spurs – Former Spur Danny Ferry, now the GM of the Hawks, also got a phone call from his former team before this season’s trade deadline, as the Spurs were looking for an impact player to add to their mix before what they hoped would be a deep playoff run. The Spurs still need another front court presence, and Smith is the kind of player who could help extend Tim Duncan’s career by doing some of the dirty work in the paint and on the glass.
4) The Golden State Warriors – If the Hawks elect to use Smith as a sign-and-trade piece rather than simply letting him walk in free agency, the Golden State Warriors are a team that could swing a deal that would greatly benefit both sides. It seems likely that Smith will command something in the $10-12 million range to start his new contract, meaning the Warriors could send David Lee to Atlanta in a potential sign-and-trade deal. As great as Lee was this season, the Warriors are winning without him, and Smith’s game is practically tailor-made to suit what Warriors head coach Mark Jackson is asking his team to do. Meanwhile, Lee would fit right in with the slower, half-court-centric offense that tends to define the Eastern Conference. He and Horford would immediately become one of the best front lines in the East.
5) The Denver Nuggets – Rounding out our list is one of the NBA’s fastest teams. The Nuggets have seemingly been defined by their running game since the inception of the team, but under George Karl they have taken their running game to new heights. The Nuggets were first in the league in scoring this season at 106.1 points per game while the league averaged 98.1, and Smith’s penchant for blocking shots would only serve to further fuel Denver’s fast break offense. The Nuggets also lead the league in points in the paint at 58.0 per game to a league-wide average of just 41.7. Needless to say, Smith would only help that number go up. As great a fit as Smith would be in Denver, it sounds like the Nuggets are going to bring back Andre Iguodala and basically keep the band together as is. That said, if something goes awry with that plan, Smith would seem to be a natural fit in the Mile High City. Denver certainly has some appealing pieces to offer in a potential trade.
HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene contributed to this report.
Can The Mavericks Lure Chris Paul?
Last summer was supposed to be the Dallas Mavericks’ time to shine. Their management team opted to let most of the key free agents who took part in their championship team a year earlier simply walk away, hoping to nab several big names with the cap space that created. Unfortunately neither of their primary targets – Dwight Howard and Deron Williams – chose Dallas. Williams was so close to signing with Dallas that he and his wife had picked out a house in the area, but when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban skipped the meeting to film an episode of “Shark Tank,” Williams opted to return to Brooklyn.
With all of that now behind them, the Mavericks are once again facing an offseason in which they have plenty of cap space and hope to lure a couple of big-name free agents to keep Dirk Nowitzki out of the draft lottery next summer. At the top of their list appears to be Los Angeles Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
“Look, I don’t think there is any question if you look at some of the challenges we had last year, point guards are very unique, and it’s really hard to find those guys,” Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson said in a recent interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “That’s why we pulled out all the stops to try to get Deron Williams to come back home. Obviously, he opted to stay in New York. I don’t think there is any position as important as point guard regardless of what level you’re playing on. But hey, if you’re talking about the next if not equal, you talk about the big guy in the middle. You look back at history with Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and you go right down the list, and it’s very difficult to go deep in the playoffs without an inside presence, defensively certainly so obviously, those are two key positions.”
Nelson and Cuban may have their work cut out for them in trying to lure Paul, who is recruiting players to the Clippers and talking like a long-term citizen of the red side of Staples Center. It’s hard to see Paul leaving for Dallas, where the path to the playoffs is murky, at best, but Nelson believes Dallas offers a great deal to prospective free agents.
“Well, Dallas is a special market,” said Nelson. “You talk about all the things that comes with it. You know, warm weather, (state income) tax-free, incredible sports environment really second to none in the country, style of living, diversity of population, it’s really got everything in spades. The city itself is certainly a huge selling point. You move to ownership, and I think everyone understands the kind of passion Cuban manages this team with. He opens the checkbook and is willing to do anything to get that trophy back in town. You talk about coaching, and we’ve got. You talk about guys in the locker room in the last 12 years, they’re guys you want to go to war with. You know their names. Not just Dirk, but those are the kind of guys that win championships. Those are the kind of guys you want your kids to emulate and those are the kinds of guys we want in the Mavericks’ locker room. I think once you lay out the history, we put ourselves in good position.”
It remains to be seen just how willing Cuban is to “open the checkbook,” considering he wasn’t willing to pay the core group that won him his first championship in 2011. The new collective bargaining agreement has Cuban re-thinking his previous strategy, though as a direct result the team is currently short on assets to offer in trade and apparently relying on a free agent market that is likely to dry up quickly. Of the franchise-changing free agents, most are expected to stay put. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are likely to stay on their respective teams in Los Angeles, David West is Indiana’s top priority of the summer and he very much wants to stay, leaving Josh Smith as the only one likely to change teams. Still, the Mavs are optimistic they can put the right formula around Dirk to get him back to contention.
“Well, we go in optimistic every year,” said Nelson. “As you know, we’re blessed with great ownership that’s willing to do whatever it takes to get a parade back to Dallas. We’ll come in no differently this summer when the time comes and hopefully, we can come up with something good. We’ve always had pretty good success and have taken advantage of our cap space so we’ll put all those things to the test this summer.”
As long as Nowitzki is healthy and playing at All-Star form, the Mavericks are going to be a very competitive team. Unfortunately, the days of Nowitzki simply putting the Mavs on his back and carrying them to contention are likely over. The Mavericks must put a strong supporting cast around their all-world power forward this summer or this season’s results might look eerily familiar as the team prepares for another long summer in 2014.
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