The rumor that the Atlanta Hawks have talked with the Los Angeles Lakers about a Josh Smith-for-Pau Gasol trade is very, very interesting.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that right after the Lakers were knocked out of the playoffs, the Hawks contacted them about Gasol.
Now the caveat to that rumor is something big has changed since then for the Hawks. They now have a new general manager in Danny Ferry, whose ideas about Smith and Gasol might be a bit different from that of his predecessor, Rick Sund.
Let me say that I’m a huge fan of Smith’s. It’s my preference for the Hawks to build around Smith more than anyone on the roster. Yes, when it comes to the debate between Smith and Al Horford I pick Smith. While I like Horford a great deal, if I have to choose between the two, I’d pick Smith.
He’s just a tremendous talent, and I’m afraid if he leaves the Hawks he can be even better with another team. Smith has games that show you he can be one of the best big men in the game. Sure, he occasionally has a game where he frustrates you as a fan and makes you wonder if Horford is just better. But there’s too much to lose if Smith is traded.
He’s got a year left on his contract, and if Smith is determined to leave the Hawks, and if he continues to have a long-standing trade request still active, then Ferry might have no choice but to trade away his star forward. And if that is the case, the Hawks are going to have to get good talent in return.
Gasol would be a great talent. Yes, next year he’ll be 32, five-plus years older than Smith. But Gasol might be a better fit for the Hawks. Gasol might make Horford a better player, as Horford could move to power forward as Gasol would take over in the middle.
The fit with Horford at center and Smith at power forward often did not work. They duplicated each other too many times. But with the seven-footer Gasol in the lineup, even with him being a lean seven-footer, it would give Atlanta a different presence in the middle.
Gasol can play soft at times, but Horford provides that physicality in the paint that can compensate for that if it were a problem. And over the next two seasons, Gasol’s numbers might decrease a bit.
But Gasol is a very smart and talented player. Again, it’s about the fit, and the mix of this type of player surrounding the other returnees in the Atlanta starting lineup. And this would be an interesting combination. Would it be good enough to get Atlanta over that hump and past the second round? Who knows, but it would be worth a try.
The other possibility is for Smith to be traded before or during Thursday’s draft for younger draft picks. And look, that wouldn’t be a bad thing either. This is being called the best and deepest draft in a decade, so if the Hawks can take advantage of that to bring in additional talent, that will be an attractive option for Ferry if he decides to peddle Smith.
It sure would be good if Smith could stay, but with the volume of the rumors it seems he’s heading out of his hometown. This give Ferry his first big challenge as the general manager, and it could ultimately be one of the major things he’d judged on during his entire tenure in the job.
Either way, it sounds like the Hawks are going to be active for Thursday’s draft. That’s a good thing. There needs to be some change on a team that has been stuck in status quo for the last few years. If that means Smith is the one moved, Ferry better get a good return to make this team better.