Although Josh Smith has seemingly been on the trade block forever, it looks like there are a few more players trying to be moved before the deadline.
Danny Granger, who hasn't played a game this season, is another proven player who is probably going to be dealt, as Paul George's emergence and David West's play has made him less valuable to the team.
Smith has been on the trade block for several years, but the Hawks always pull back at the last second. Once again Smith is the talk of the NBA after he was thrown out of practice Tuesday and suspended for Wednesday's game against Brooklyn. His agent says Smith is frustrated, but hasn't demanded a trade.
The Hawks have been fielding calls, but have been reluctant to trade him because they believe Smith's presence in Atlanta could be a powerful lure for Dwight Howard this summer. But with Howard's situation up in the air, the time seems right for the Hawks and Smith to move on. Dallas, Houston, Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and the Lakers are all potential suitors. The biggest question is: What is the price tag for a mercurial forward who is entering his prime and will be a free agent this summer?
Even though it's been obvious that Smith has been on the trading block for multiple years, it's interesting to see the Atlanta Hawks risking their future on hopes of luring Dwight Howard to the the team if Smith remains on the team.
Howard hinted multiple times that he would like to stay in Los Angeles, but his words probably don't mean much after the drama he put the Orlando Magic through last season as he changed his mind countless times about staying in Orlando.
Maybe Smith and the Hawks know something that we don't? I won't be surprised if Howard decides to bolt L.A. and return to his hometown to play with one of his best friends. In that case, it would certainly be a chance that the Hawks are willing to take if they can succeed in pairing Smith with arguably the best center in the NBA.
But if the Hawks are completely wrong and they let Smith walk away for nothing, that would set back the franchise for numerous years. Though Smith has been troubled lately, he is still one of the most talented forwards in the league with a unique skill set that every team would love to have.
Danny Granger is another player who is possibly going to hit the market very soon once he returns to the floor and proves he can still play. Chad Ford also predicts that:
Danny Granger, F, Pacers
Granger has missed the entire season with a knee injury, but the Pacers are eyeing his return in late January or early February. If they can get him back into the swing of things quickly -- and get his trade value up -- expect them to try to flip him fast now that Paul George has replaced Granger as the alpha dog of the team.
Indiana needs a long-term replacement for David West, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. So if the Pacers could get a young power forward or another young point guard for Granger, I would expect them to make a deal.
Granger's situation is much different than Smith's, as he hasn't expressed any frustrations or exhibited unethical behavior with the Indiana Pacers' organization. The problem is that his backup last season, Paul George, is now proving that he is one of the league's bright young stars and the centerpiece for the Pacers' future.
On the other hand, Granger's ceiling is relatively low and will turn 30 years old by the end of the regular season. Even without Granger for the whole season thus far, the Pacers still have the third best record in the Eastern Conference and they may honestly be better off dealing him for another quality veteran or some young pieces to build with going forward.
Of these two borderline All-Stars (I know Granger has been an All-Star before, but just not recently), Smith would unquestionably demand a max or near-max multi-year contract if he were to sign with another team. Granger—at this point in his career—doesn't deserve the maximum salary, so other teams would have an easier time keeping him if he does leave Indiana.
Although there's no denying Smith's talent and defensive prowess and Granger's offensive skill set, which team would be willing to go as far as signing them to such a big contract?
Enter the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets have been active in trade rumors since this past offseason, and they aren't going to stop seeking potentially favorable deals unless they know they have constructed a championship contending team.
The Rockets are currently on a six-game losing streak, and it's more obvious now than ever that James Harden needs another high-caliber player who can ease the scoring load on offense. Both Granger and Smith can boost the Rockets' into perennial playoff contenders.
Right now, the Rockets are in the midst of slipping out of playoff contention so you can bet that Daryl Morey is looking to strike a deal that will shake up the NBA.
By stockpiling lottery picks and young prospects, the Rockets have possibly the most to offer to the Hawks or Pacers for Smith or Granger, respectively, out of any other trade partner in the league. The Rockets currently have a logjam of young talent at the power forward position, which appeals to both teams.
Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Royce White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are all young prospects with good potential who may interest other teams that are looking to put in the time and effort to develop them.
Out of these five players, Royce White has the highest ceiling but his future in the NBA is still up in the air. Both Terrence Jones, a major contributor to the Kentucky Wildcats' championship run less than a year ago, and Donatas Motiejunas have limitless potential, but neither of them see much court time.
The Pacers could get some youth and athleticism at the power forward spot to help David West, and the Hawks will definitely have a hole to fill at the 4 if they were to jettison Smith. The one problem for the Rockets is that they would have a difficult time trying to make their rookie contract salaries match up to either Smith's or Granger's.
Smith would be a perfect fit for the Rockets as he is a proven defensive presence who can fill in nicely at the 4. His offensive game isn't exceptional and is far from polished, but he can definitely put points on the board when called upon.
Granger isn't a terrific, game-changing defender like Smith, but he's still solid on that end of the court. His offensive abilities and shooting is much better than Smith's as well. He can score from virtually anywhere on the court to ease the burden on Harden, and could spread the floor to create driving lanes for him and Jeremy Lin.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Rockets are undoubtedly the biggest players in the trade market. With the lowest payroll in the entire league, the team has more than enough room to sign both Smith and Granger if they wanted to. But are those the type of players who will transform this team to championship contenders? Probably not. As the NBA model of a "moneyball" team, Daryl Morey knows which players' contracts will be worth the investment and which contracts will hurt the team.
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