Josh Smith rumors, and NBA trade rumors in general, are very exciting because you think of how your team can improve by making any such deal. In Smith's case, and the case for the Atlanta Hawks, however, the rumors flying around only make sense in that other teams want the 27-year old forward from the Hawks.
There is a single, consistent trend when it comes to these reports that teams are far West as Phoenix and east in Brooklyn and Boston and everywhere in between are going to make a play for Smith.
That trend is the complete lack of any meaningful compensation to the Hawks for Smith.
Ken Berger has done a good job echoing our sentiment on Peachtree Hoops regarding what the Atlanta Hawks are looking for when it comes to dealing Smith:
The Hawks are believed to be seeking a combination of expiring contracts, young players and draft picks in exchange for Smith, whose expressed desire for a five-year, approximately $90 million max contract has cooled the market for him. Rival executives continue to believe that the Suns have been aggressive in their pursuit of Smith and other trades. But even with a potential lottery pick from the Lakers in the Steve Nash deal, execs are skeptical that Phoenix has enough attractive young players to complete the deal. The Nets and Celtics have inquired about Smith, but it's too early to say where those talks are going.
That's the holy trinity of trade value for a team re-tooling its roster after bumping their heads on the second round of the playoffs and casting off Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams the previous off-season.
It makes sense from Danny Ferry's position. Why cost themselves any chance of a true franchise player by taking back contracts that carry beyond this season?
Don't the Hawks have to get a definitive "No" on Dwight Howard and Chris Paul (getting more definitive by the day in Paul's case) before they blow away the room preserved by jettisoning Johnson and Williams?
You see the Boston Celtic rumors, and they involve sending Paul Pierce to Atlanta. Likely? Not from Boston's perspective nor is it particularly interesting to Ferry, who if he wanted cap space could just let the pending UFA Smith walk away?
How about the Milwaukee Bucks? Would Monta Ellis could terminate his deal and give the Hawks cap space, and would Milwaukee include what else with Ellis, who is a more of the same they had with Joe Johnson and duplicates Lou Williams? Any why would MIL be willing to include Larry Sanders or any young talent or picks when Ellis is likely to terminate in a weak FA class?
Even the Washington Wizards (per ESPN's Chris Broussard) have come out and said that they would be interested....but that Wall, Beal and Nene are off the table. Hey, great, that leaves Emeka Ofakor's last year of his deal...anybody?
That's just to name a few.
Included in all of this non-compensation are a few items about why it makes more sense to wait until the offseason to make a definitive decision on Smith.
1. The Dwight Howard situation as mentioned above.
The Hawks have to see if they can land Howard, slim a chance as there may be, before committing any kind of additional cap space for next season. This won't be able to be ascertained until the offseason.
2. Josh Smith's 15 percent trade kicker
Not a huge deal, but enough of a wrinkle to give overcapped teams trouble with matching up salaries to send back to Atlanta for Smith. Many times such deals or even rumors require a third team, which makes an in-season trade even more problematic.
UPDATE: Excellent point by PTH commentor hawksfanatic below regarding this -- I am posting it here for clarification on the trade kicker and its consequences:
If Josh was traded before the season started, then it would be $15.2 million. The trade kicker is for 15% of the remaining value of the contract. Josh has a salary of $13.2 million for this season and we have 58 days remaining on the 170 day season. So as of right now, the current remaining value of Josh's contract is $13,200,000*(58/170) = $4,503,529. This would give Josh a trade kicker of $675,529 to put his caphit for trading purposes at $13,875,529.
According to Larry Coon's FAQ regarding trade kickers, the effect is real, but given the remainder of deal now that there are only 58 days left it, it's somewhat moot.
And, as Coon notes, if Josh were inclined to accept the deal, he could waive his payment to make the trade happen, thus negating the issue.
So, in other words, I hate math.
3. Draft picks in a deal
As it stands today, the Hawks would have (2) picks already in next year's draft. Acquiring more for this draft adds the cap holds to the already strained space if they go for Howard. So there is no pressure to make a deal now to acquire next season draft picks when a deal in the offseason could yield that anyway, but would be alright with future years as well.
4. It's hard to find a value fit during the season
Teams that are in playoff contention that are buying are usually looking for someone they can bring in for 50 cents on the dollar to aid their run. Smith is not being positioned that way, so it makes finding a match harder - the offseason is far more conducive to such roster restructuring. Teams just don't want to do such a major deal in the middle of the season.
For Hawks fans, we need only think about The Human Highlight Deal for historical purposes from '94, when the Hawks were leading the East and then destroyed everything by dealing Dominique for Danny Manning.
Looking at the Berger summation it gets even tougher. Is there a team right now that would be able to package together that holy trinity of trade value that is also interesting in doing so for Smith? Judging from the lack of depth to the rumors in regards to what would be coming back to the Hawks you have to conclude that there is not.
So why all the rumors? Surely where there is smoke, there is fire, no?
Back to the numbers:
1. There is genuine interest in Smith, without genuine means of acquisition.
This is covered somewhat above. Teams simply don't have what the Hawks want for Smith, but they want to talk to the Hawks because if he is being offered for what they do have, they are in.
2. Josh Smith's representation is making noise in order to raise their client's free agency price in the offseason.
Success! With all these rumors about a great number of teams being interested in Smith, it sounds a lot more feasible that he gets the deal he wants in the offseason from somebody than it did about a month ago, right?
3. Danny Ferry is also making noise to raise interest in Josh Smith.
More teams interested = more return in a deal. Usually. We'll see.
4. Teams may be using the Smith scrum of teams involved in rumors to show that they are trying desperately to make a deal and improve their franchises.
Whether it's true or not is another story, but when you get that "Team A is interested in Josh Smith" and there are no particulars coming back to Atlanta, that's a good bet for a team leaking their so-called intentions out there for the purposes of forwarding the perception of being active.
It didn't look to me that an in-season deal was doable for Smith for my reasons listed - and it still smells that way to me. That's not to say there isn't interest from both Atlanta and other teams when it comes to Smith, just the deliverables involved in such a deal.
This deadline dance is the prelude to the more serious discussions that will likely occur in the offseason. It's not as if Josh Smith will fade in the pool of free agents either, given that his might be the third biggest name available after Howard and Paul.
And this symphony of rumors only helps to solidify that, along Smith's perceived value - In other words, mission accomplished.