This is a tumultuous offseason for the Atlanta Hawks. Coming into free agency, the Hawks still only have 3 players signed for 2014, and 3 draft picks, one of which (Our 16th overall pick, Lucas Nogueria) we don't know is coming over for the 2013/2014 campaign.
Josh Smith will be entering his 10th season of NBA play in 2014, and it will most likely be his first not in a Hawks jersey. One of the biggest discussions this offseason amongst the Hawks faithful has been about who we will bring in to replace Smoove at small forward. Common names are Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer (both from Denver) and I wonder if they are really a suitable replacement for Josh.
We all know the knocks on Josh. He takes way too many jumpers, he has a tendency to turn the ball over a lot, and he can be lackadaisical. Josh made just over a quarter of his 3's last season, and hoists far too many of them. However, it is easy to forget all the great things Josh brought to the Hawks. Last season Smith averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG. Add to those 1.8 blocks per game and 1.2 steals per game, and the fact that Smoove is one of the NBA's elite defensive players, and you have a magnificently productive and versatile player who is only 27. Josh is not someone who is easily replaced.
Now, let's consider Andre Iguodala, the most common name associated with the Hawks trying to fill their hole at the wing. Iguodala is regarded in the league as an elite defender and a savvy veteran. However, statisically he pales in comparison to Smoove. Iguodala averaged just 15.1 PPG, 5.3 RBG, and 4.9 APG in his 2012/2013 campaign with Denver. He also averaged less blocks (.7) than Josh. He also shot a lower percentage (.451 compared to .465 for Josh) and suffers from issues of shot selection. Iguodala is 29, and is going to go for a max contract in all likelihood. Why would we want to tie up a bunch of cap space on a player who is aging and inferior to the guy we are replacing?
Let's look at Corey Brewer now. Brewer was a bench player for the Nuggets last season, so naturally all of his averages will be lower than Smoove's. However, Brewer suffers from many of the same problems that Josh suffers from. Poor shot selection, inconsistency, turning the ball over too often. Brewer also bring significantly less defensive prowess than either Iggy or Smoove. Why should we want to sign a guy like Corey Brewer when we are supposed to be rebuilding?
My answer to the Hawks small forward question is an in house one. I propose that the Hawks start Mike Scott in the 2013/2014 season at small forward. Scott showed tons of promise late last season when he got significantly more playing time. He showed how versatile a scorer he is by employing a very consistent mid range jumper (ala Al Horford) and showed some solid post moves. Scott also made up for how raw he is on the defensive end of the floor with sheer effort and tenacity. Scott is entering his second year in the league and is going to turn just 25 on July 16th. I believe that if given the opportunity, Scott would shine as a starter in this league. Moreover, starting Scott would save the Hawks a bunch of cap space that could be put to good use next season when the Hawks could go after wings in both a very good draft class and free agency.
If the Hawks are in for a downgrade at small forward, why not take a cheap risk on a guy we know has a lot of potential?