Atlanta Hawks need to keep Smith

sports@macon.comMarch 17, 2012 

The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday, and the Atlanta Hawks actually made a move. Well, I guess you could call it a move, or maybe it was just an act of desperation that shows the situation the ownership group is facing.

The Hawks sold their second-round pick in the upcoming draft to Golden State. Who knows what the going rate is these days for second-round picks, but let’s hope they added some funds to petty cash in the Hawks’ offices.

Yes, it was kind of funny to see a team that needed cash do something like that. It was good for a quick laugh and a reminder to all of us how cash-strapped the Hawks are with this overmatched ownership group.

But thankfully, the Hawks avoided making a huge mistake at the deadline. If they had traded power forward Josh Smith, it would’ve been the biggest error since trading Dominique Wilkins for Danny Manning 18 years ago.

Smith is the last person who needs to go. He instead needs to be the face of the franchise. He’s an Atlanta kid. He has been on the team the longest. And if you watch him play, you know Smith really and truly cares about what happens with this team.

The highest paid player on the Hawks’ roster is Joe Johnson, who has the worst contract in the league. It’s the worst because Johnson should not be a max-contract player but instead a complimentary player. He can score and has his moments, but he is not a star.

The Hawks’ ownership group thought it was doing the right thing bringing Johnson back, but it was only trying to show it was doing something to help keep the team competitive. The owners thought if they let Johnson walk, it would be perceived that they didn’t care or want to spend the money, but they should have known instead it just wasn’t a good basketball decision to spend all of that cash on Johnson.

Half the time Johnson looks like he’d simply rather be somewhere else. He’s not one to put on the front of the team’s media guide, since it’s really common knowledge Johnson has never smiled in his life. That’s him. That’s his personality. That’s fine, but it’s not someone a team wants to rally its fan base around.

When Smith is on, like he has been the past few months, there is something different about this team. Smith has the energy that can help the franchise compete against good NBA teams.

It’s almost as if the injury to Al Horford earlier this season allowed Smith to find his way. We know they are very similar players. Horford only played center because the Hawks didn’t have one. But when the Hawks needed someone to pick up Horford’s offense, Smith stepped up and became Karl Malone.

And that’s what makes you know that when changes are made to this organization this summer, and make no mistake about it, changes are coming, the last person who needs to leave is Smith.

The Hawks need to do everything they can to find some team to take Johnson off their hands. Then it would help if they can find someone better than Marvin Williams to play small forward. That just needs to change.

And Horford, while a very good player, probably needs to be shopped to land a legitimate center. He’s not someone the team can easily trade, but since he’s so similar to Smith, he is expendable.

Smith has averaged almost 25 points and 10 rebounds per game in the past 10 games. It has been his coming out party, as he has showed everyone that he can be the leader of this team. If the Hawks surround him with the right cast of characters, they could actually go from being pretty good to great in the near future.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.

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