Atlanta Finally Ready to Blow Up the Core?
Joe Johnson ($18 mil) and Josh Smith ($12.4 mil) for Pau Gasol ($18.7 mil) and Metta World Peace ($6.7 mil)
Johnson has $107 million left on his contract and Smith has $25.6 million left on his. Gasol has $56.9 million left, while World Peace has $21.7 million left.
Yes, Johnson is more overpaid than Michael Bay at this point. While he obviously never should have been paid lead-man money, Johnson is an All-Star talent. From purely a basketball perspective, he could still be an asset to a contender. The things he does well — shoot, create and defend — are exactly what the Lakers need next to Kobe. Adding Smith, the second-most athletic power forward in the league behind Griffin, would give an old Lakers team a badly needed face-lift and tummy tuck. (What, you thought one plastic surgery procedure was enough? This is L.A. we’re talking about!) Yes, this is a lot of money to take on, but with Kobe’s cap figure rising insanely (he’s making $30 million in 2014!), they may as well go all in and chase one more ring before he retires. Again, they can afford to.
For Atlanta, let’s call Josh Smith the Johnson tax. Atlanta gets out of Johnson’s horrendous contract and effectively frees up cap space a year earlier. While L.A. obviously wins the deal in terms of talent, Atlanta would save about $54 million. If Artest opts out after this season, that they would save $69 million. I mean, he probably won’t, but if he hates playing Atlanta, he could. Remember Mike Bibby leaving more than $6 million on the table last year to join the Heat? It’s not unprecedented. Atlanta could go forward with a Teague-Horford-Gasol core. Throw in Artest, McGrady and Heinrich, and at the very least, it’s a far feistier crew. Or they could simply flip Gasol in a salary dump and get out of Marvin Williams in the process. That way, they’d save money, bottom-out and build around Teague (23) and Horford (25), who is under contract until 2016 anyway.
Doesn’t that make far more sense for Atlanta than to stay with this leader-less group that peaked two years ago? Why keep it together?