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Mission impossible, or "...so you're saying there's a chance?" (or "nah, I'll pass")
In case you've missed it, Josh Smith may be available via trade. Before we all run to the Trade Machine and bring out our best offers, let us dial it back and consider why he's available (and why the pricetag might not be as high as you might think).
First of all, the Hawks are struggling and probably looking at a rebuilding project.
The Hawks will have a huge amount of cap space for this summer's free agent frenzy. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are targets No. 1 and No. 1a right up until both re-sign with their current teams or another team. Things could get interesting after that when Smith may be the next best player available. Danny Ferry will have plenty of questions facing him from who the head coach of this team will be to whether or not Smith is worth the sizable investment it will take to re-sign him.
That brings us to the second point. Smith is a free agent this summer, so any team trading for him is going to either a) risk him walking in the summer or b) going to have to commit big money to him.
Which brings up the next point. Smith, for all his talent and star-potential, has been a maddening tease for NBA fans and especially the Hawks. You get the feeling that he's got the talent to be one of the top 10 players in the game but manages to come up short for any number of reasons that appear to be focused from the neck up.
And that, of course, brings us to the last point - one that has been on display in recent days. Josh Smith isn't always easy to manage. In fact, he can be downright ornery at times - like he was (apparently) when he was suspended by the Hawks this week for conduct detrimental to the team.
All of those points add up to a lower than you might think pricetag for an All Star in his prime. Does that mean that the Hawks will make a deal before the deadline? Not necessarily. Does it mean that the Celtics have a shot? Well, I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm not sure how realistic it is.
First of all, there's no shortage of teams interested in Smith.
Unless Ferry were able to land either Paul or Howard this summer -- a long shot in both cases, even though Howard, too, is from Atlanta -- someone in his position might decide it's best to parlay assets into players now. Among the teams that would appeal to Smith are Dallas, Houston and Memphis, a league source told CBSSports.com.
Chad Ford adds the Celtics and a few other teams to that list.
The Hawks have been fielding calls, but have been reluctant to trade him because they believe Smith's presence in Atlanta could be a powerful lure for Dwight Howard this summer. But with Howard's situation up in the air, the time seems right for the Hawks and Smith to move on. Dallas, Houston, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and the Lakers are all potential suitors.
So what do the Celtics have to offer? Let's put aside (for the moment) including any of the current big 3 and look at deals that allow us to keep that core together and add Smith. ESPN's Kevin Pelton comes up with this idea (and promptly shoots it down).
Celtics fans would love to add Smith to their lineup, but it's difficult to see the Hawks front office being equally excited unless Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo is involved. Boston doesn't have a true expiring contract on the roster (Pierce's partially guaranteed deal comes closest), and Atlanta likely isn't interested in Green's exorbitant deal.
You could argue that Jeff Green is a poor man's Josh Smith with a better attitude and a cheaper contract. Getting Courtney Lee would be a bonus and if it takes a draft pick or Fab Melo to make it work from a value perspective, that's fine with me. I just don't think that anyone in the league looks at Jeff Green's contract and considers that positive value at this point and I can't see Atlanta (wanting to maintain that cap flexibility for this summer) signing up for that.
It might make more sense if you got a 3rd team involved to take Green. But then the question becomes "if a team has the room to add an expensive small forward like Jeff Green, why not just go for Josh Smith themselves?" Well, the only reason I can think of is the challenge of re-signing Smith in the summer. If someone like, say, Cleveland wanted to get in the mix, they know that Smith would never sign there and obviously Green is already signed up. A deal like this gets turns Luke Walton into Jeff Green who could thrive in a larger role on a rebuilding team.
Looking over Pelton's trade ideas for other teams, the Hawks are likely to get several offers that include cap space, young players, and probably a draft pick in return. So again, the Celtics would likely have to offer up a first rounder to stay in the bidding. If the Hawks or a third team prefers Brandon Bass to Green or Jason Terry to Courtney Lee, I'm sure adjustments could be made accordingly. Just about anyone on the roster could be had for a price. Speaking of which...
Now, if you really want to get nuts, the Celtics could entertain Rondo and even Pierce scenarios. Chad Ford insists that everything in on the table so it is worth bringing it up (even if I really, really don't want to). You could argue that adding Rondo's buddy Josh Smith just gives the Celtics too many guys that "can't shoot" (don't shoot me for that comment please - I think they'd thrive running the floor together but that's just me). So a Rondo package could bring back some serious value and could trump the other offers.
Or if we can't get a 3rd team involved and the Hawks really want cap flexibility, Paul Pierce's contract is only partially guaranteed for next year. So he could be valuable from that perspective. Again, I personally think he's got a LOT more value to this current team than he does as a trade chip, but that's a larger topic that I'll probably discuss another day.
Another important question to ask ourselves would be "is Josh Smith worth all the trouble anyway?" For all the reasons stated at the beginning of this post you could make the argument that he is not. I've seen him compared to a more athletic Antoine Walker. Can we bank on building around Rondo and Smith for the future? The Hawks haven't exactly gone very far with Smith and Horford as the foundation. Still, talent wins in this league and Smith has oodles of talent. We already know he gets along with Rondo (important) and you would imagine that Doc Rivers would be able to "get through" to him enough to maximize his talents better than most any other coach. I think it is at least worth the gamble if we can make it happen.
So is Josh Smith to the Celtics possible? Let me put it this way. It seems like a long shot, but if anyone is creative and tenacious enough (and perhaps obsessive enough) to get something done, it is Danny Ainge. He'll just keep calling and calling and calling. If it can get done, he'll do everything he can to get it done. Still, a lot would have to fall into place and a lot of that is out of Danny's hands. So don't hold your breath.