NBA Trade Rumors: Trading Josh Smith to Lakers Shouldn't Be an Option for Hawks

Tim KeeneyContributor INovember 20, 2012

February 14, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith (5) controls the ball against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Hawks should entertain the idea of trading Josh Smith, but not for what the Los Angeles Lakers are offering. 

Yes, the Lakers, who had the most active, critically-acclaimed offseason since, well, Miami had a pretty decent one in 2010, are still reportedly interested in making some moves.

The news comes from ESPN's Marc Stein:

Chatter about a Pau Gasol-to-Atlanta trade simply won't go away. It won't go away mostly because my ESPN colleague Bill Simmons, after hearing Magic Johnson suggest it on the set of "NBA Countdown," keeps throwing it out there like he did in this week's "BS Report" podcast with former Suns general manager Steve Kerr.

Only one problem.

Sources say that the Hawks, at present, have no interest in parting with Josh Smith and Kyle Korver even if the Lakers were willing to surrender Gasol. Or Smith and lesser parts for Gasol.

For now, let's assume the proposed deal is big man for big man. Josh Smith for Pau Gasol (although, it's important to keep in mind that Kyle Korver is having an incredibly efficient season for the Hawks—.671 true shooting percentage—and shouldn't just be seen as a throwaway). 

Even if you predicate Gasol's slow start to 2012 being nothing but a result of a small sample size, there's no doubting that he took a major step back last year.

The Spaniard shot .501 from the field, which was his worst mark since 2003-04. He averaged a career-low 16.7 points per 36 minutes. He rebounded and distributed like his normally reliable self, but his ability to protect the rim (1.3 blocks per 36 minutes) was the second worst it has been in his career.

Smith, meanwhile, who is having an equally atrocious start to his season, is a a much different player. 

Despite their similar scoring, the current Hawk forward is much worse on the offensive end, simply because he is far less efficient in almost every aspect on that end of the court. But his versatility, athleticism and defensive ability (in terms of blocking shots and racking up steals) are all on another level than Gasol.

When it comes down to it, it depends on the style of play and surrounding pieces as to who you would choose between Smith and Gasol.

But that's if all other variables were controlled, which they aren't. 

Gasol is six years older and has a whopping 8,412 more NBA minutes on his legs. If he hasn't already, he'll soon enter the down-slope of his career while Smith is still in his prime. 

Because Smith is set to hit free agency next summer, the Hawks would be smart to at least shop him around while they can guarantee getting something for him. But Gasol, who is owed just under $40 million over this season and next and wouldn't provide a significant—if at all—upgrade, isn't the right target.

Moreover, because the Lakers don't have many movable pieces to sweeten the deal, it would be in Atlanta's best interest to look elsewhere for a deal.