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Trade rumor season is in full swing as we approach January 15 (when most players become trade eligible) and for the first time in a while it seems the Hawks could be major players on the market. I offer up two possible trades the Hawks could make, as well as some upcoming free agents we could target not named Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.
Guess what Hawks fans? It's everyone's favorite time of year: TRADE RUMOR SEASON!!! Yes, it is the time for the masses to take to blogs and Twitter and show off their latest findings on the wonderful ESPN Trade Machine. If you've never used it, then you haven't lived (Oh, the fun I had with it while Joe was here). The trade machine is wonderful for many reasons, but mainly because it takes away the guessing game about what trades are legal (salaries, roster sizes, etc.) and you can be as ridiculous as you want and make trades that would never happen but make you feel good (i.e., all the Joe trades over the years). For many of you, you've probably stopped reading this and are off in fantasy land trying to make a four-team trade that brings the Hawks Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis in return for Josh Smith, Devin Harris, and Johan Petro.
For the rest of you, let's move on and focus on a few potential trades or (looking to the offseason) free agent pick-ups that realistically could occur. Both trades involve Anthony Morrow and Josh Smith. Why? Well, Josh is fairly obvious, if we decide that we don't want to retain him then logically, we will move him (I can not emphasize enough how this is hypothetical), and with the recent emergence of Jenkins and Korver solidly in the rotation, Morrow appears to be pushed out and has value as a sharp-shooter for teams desperate for shooters. Disclaimer #1: These are not actual rumors. These are "realistic" based on whether would be reasonable for both teams and work out under the salary cap restrictions. Disclaimer #2: I refuse to discuss any Dwight Howard or Chris Paul possibilities due to the whole "realistic" thing, so, sorry; we won't be looking at them. Disclaimer #3: These trades could not occur until January 15th, when players traded for or signed in the offseason are able to be moved.
Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's get to it.
Josh Smith and Anthony Morrow to Minnesota for Kevin Love and Derrick Williams
If I had presented this trade before the season, people in Minnesota would have lost it. Love was their franchise player and seemed to be the cornerstone of a franchise on the up-and-up. However, he has recently been in the news for slamming ownership for not giving him the coveted five-year deal, appears disgruntled, and Wolves fans have turned on him. In Smoove, the Wolves would lose some rebounding, but with Pekovic there, they can afford that. Josh gives them a better defensive presence than Love, and would be able to run many of the same high-low sets Love was proficient at because of his athleticism and great high-low passing. The Wolves are also desperate for some three-point shooting and Morrow, who seems to be losing favor quickly in the Hawks rotation, would be able to come in and give them a shooting option.
For the Hawks, they receive a great rebounder in Love, and offensively, shouldn't skip a beat if not improve some. Defensively, they would downgrade, but any move involving Josh will result in a defensive loss. Love is more prone to taking long jumpers like Josh, but has a better history with making them and also plays with more physicality in the post than does Josh on the boards. Love, having broken his hand twice this year, is risky especially with how poorly and frequently he jacked up threes in Minnesota (20-of-91 which is 21.9%?!!). The Hawks offense would put him in the mid-range and the post more frequently, which would cut down some on the threes and put him in better shooting areas. Here is his mid-range shot chart from this year, which, in a down year, is much better than Josh (you didn't think I'd do this article without a shot chart did you?)
Williams is being run out of town by Wolves fans because he's shot the ball horribly and was supposed to be the scoring option opposite Love which hasn't panned out. However, he has some skills and Williams could work in Atlanta coming off the bench, or giving us the option to go bigger in the starting lineup. He adds a needed true small forward and has the length to competently guard the three. If asked to be the third or fourth option on offense, he might be better suited to produce for the Hawks.
While I don't see this trade as a total winner for either team, if situations deteriorate with each teams' stars and if the Hawks decide they would rather move Josh than keep him, I feel that this trade would provide both teams with good pieces. Love's contract is not too terrible (he is on the under six-year max which averages about 15 million for the next two years with a 16 million dollar player option in 2015-16), and Williams is still on his rookie deal so the Hawks would have him for five million next season and a team option just over six million the year after. This deal would still allow the Hawks enough cap space to make a play at a big free agent in the offseason and addresses some needs.
Josh Smith and Anthony Morrow to the Nuggets for Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and 1st round pick
This trade isn't as ideal as the Love deal, but it would fill some needs and keeps our cap space open for a free agent pick up and fills some needs.
For the Nuggets, they give Andre Miller (the king of lobs) a combination of Kenneth Faried, Smoove, Andre Iguodala, and Javale McGee on the same squad and overtake the Clippers for the Lob City title and become the greatest League Pass team in NBA history (This is a dream marketing team in "Mile High," so many possibilities). Their front court would be formidable, Faried finally plays the three, Josh and McGee would block all the shots and make for many laughs (I think I'm more excited about this for the Nuggets, hmm). Also, as established earlier, Morrow can shoot and he would help them out tremendously on a team filled with sub-par outside shooters.
For Atlanta, they would finally be able to move Al to the four, something both fans and Al himself have been wanting, and would have quite the center rotation with Koufos (having a very good year) and Zaza Pachulia. Koufos has an ORTG of 121 (!!!) and a DRTG of just 102 and shoots a very efficient 58.9%. Gallo gives the Hawks a wing scorer that can shoot the ball from deep (although, like Love, he's having a rough year from beyond the arc) and he has improved his skills off the bounce. Danilo also is a very good passer from his small forward spot as he has an 11.3 AST% and just an 8.6 TOV%. His defense is definitely his weak point, but he has 0.9 DWS, which is admittedly helped by playing along-side Iguodala and Faried. A lottery protected first round pick would give the Hawks 3 picks in the first round which they could move in another trade, gamble and trade up, or find three more players to fill out the roster.
This trade is less ideal than the first, but gives the Hawks a different dimension by moving Al to the four and continues to give them options in the draft and with cap flexibility heading into this offseason, something coveted by Danny Ferry.
The trades are much less likely, especially because I think Ferry does value Josh and wants to keep him. So let's move on to free agency (the non-CP3/D12 edition) and the more likely possibilities for the Hawks this offseason.
Each of these moves is based off of a few premises. First, Josh Smith is resigned for the max or close to the max (hopefully just under it, but that's another discussion) which will be about 15 million in 2013-14 on a back-loaded contract. Second, Kyle Korver is signed to a two or three year deal worth 5-5.5 million per year (mid-level contract similar to Lou's). Third, Ivan Johnson is extended the 1.2 million dollar qualifying offer (or possibly a multi-year deal worth that much per year). Finally, and most importantly, Zaza Pachulia is given a multi-year deal worth 5.5-6 million dollars per year (this is imperative to retain him). With those contracts, the Hawks would have between 45 and 46 million dollars in cap space tied up. A safe assumption for the cap next season is between 60-65 million, for the purposes of this, we will say 60 with the tax level at 72 (which means the MLE + minimums + Josh's contract due to Bird Rights' can go up to 72 before reaching the tax). Assuming the Hawks do not want to hit the tax (Ferry has said he can, but no team wants to), the Hawks would have 26 million to play with before hitting the tax. If we assume 7 million of that will go to rookie and veteran minimum contracts, then we are going with the Hawks having 19 million dollars in cap room this offseason.
Should Iggy opt out of his final year (worth just over 16 million) he will be the best shooting guard/small forward on the market. Iguodala will likely look for max money, but his performance early this year may mean he's available for slightly below that. If the Hawks can get his services for just under the max (around 13/14 million a year) I think he could be a great fit alongside Horford and Smith both defensively and offensively. Iggy is a shut-down defender on the wing and is able to guard both shooting guards and small forwards, which gives us lineup flexibility with Korver, Williams, and Jenkins at the two guard spot. He has been, historically, a quality offensive player, but has seen his efficiency slip some in Denver, but that has been partially due to what seems to be some discomfort with his role there (he and Gallinari are too similar and often Iggy is forced to play farther from the basket and more off the dribble than he would like). The big IF in this equation is his willingness to take a smaller salary, which will be more dependent on the rest of the league's perception of him. While he's a very good player, his status as a "max" guy is in flux, and if he finishes this season without showing improvement it's a very distinct possibility that he falls out of that coveted "max guy" strata.
Should the Hawks decide they really like going with a big lineup, Al Jefferson could be there man. The Jazz will bring back either he or Paul Millsapp, but unlikely that they bring both guys back due to a log-jam in the frontcourt along with young studs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Jefferson would give the Hawks great size on the interior and a rebounding presence. The biggest question would be whether we want Josh playing small forward all the time, or whether we want to continue playing him at power forward. If the answer is play big with him at the three and move Horford to the four (again, where he would prefer playing), then Jefferson could be our man and would give us the deepest and probably the best frontcourt rotation in the NBA. Jefferson would probably move near the top of our list should the Hawks not retain Josh as he is probably the best center available that hasn't been on a Lakers training table in the past two years (sorry Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard). Jefferson would probably get a contract in the 12 million dollar range and could bolster the Hawks frontline (he might be one of the few actually taking a paycut in free agency from his ridiculous 15 he's making now).
(I included Jefferson here and not in the trade section because I feel like if a trade were to occur, Ferry would look for a more long-term option to replace Josh, not another one-year deal)
The old vet keeps plugging away as the best shut-down defender at shooting guard and could come in and be a nice cheap free agent option for the Hawks, should they decide to go with the approach to get multiple "good" players, instead of searching for one "max/great" player. Allen makes 3.3 million currently, and would probably cost about that much in free agency. Allen is a great defender and would give the Hawks a cost-effective shut-down man on the perimeter to go along with their shooters. He would also open up the cap-room for the Hawks to bring back the next player on the list.
Teague will be a restricted free agent, and while we will throw him the 3.4 million dollar qualifying offer just to keep him restricted, there is no chance he will take that. Teague will be looking to get a contract similar to that of Jrue Holliday or even Ty Lawson which will fall in the four year/40-44 million dollar range. Teague will hit a market with a high demand for a dynamic point guard, and, once Chris Paul makes his final decision (likely LAC again), Teague will be in that next tier of PGs looking to cash in (with Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, and Darren Collison). Teague's status is what makes the Hawks' situation regarding targeting Paul so difficult. If we go after Paul, Teague will likely get an offer early and if Paul drags his free agency out, we could lose the chance to match an offer on Jeff AND not get Paul, which would leave us in the hunt for one of the other, lesser PGs like Jarrett Jack (an interesting option and a former Yellow Jacket), Eric Maynor or CJ Watson. We know what Teague can do, and it will be an interesting choice whether we throw all our eggs in the CP3 basket and let Jeff go elsewhere.
This will be the most exciting trade deadline in recent memory for Hawks fans, and will be the most anticipated offseason in a long time (this year's offseason was extremely exciting, though highly unexpected). While these potential moves seem to make sense, with Ferry at the helm, as we've seen, we never know. He may have a trick up his sleeve to get us one of those premier guys, but as I see it now, Paul will be a Clipper (barring a late-season collapse) and Dwight will be somewhere outside the Deep South.
Parting Shot: What free agent or trade possibility (not involving CP3 or Dwight, let's be creative guys) do you think the Hawks should pursue (one of the ones I mentioned or come up with your own)?