A painful financial lesson was forced upon the Atlanta Hawks shortly after they signed shooting guard Joe Johnson to a six-year, $120 million maximum contract in 2010. They couldn’t get through half of the deal before shipping him off to the Brooklyn Nets, and there’s another potential fiscal problem on the horizon: forward Josh Smith thinks he should get the same kind of money.
“I feel like I’m a max player,” he said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Max players aren’t monetarily defined in the same way that they were at the time of Johnson’s signing, but they still command a lot of cash. Jeff Schultz writes:
Smith has lived with trade rumors for more than two years. But there's a greater sense of urgency to them now because his contract is expiring and Ferry, in the middle of a rebuilding project, might not want to overcommit to one player.
That makes the Denver Nuggets a perfect trade partner, as they might just have too much individual talent for its own good. Of course, over-committing is undesirable by definition, but the Nuggets have enough pieces as a result of trading away Carmelo Anthony in 2011 to make a play for a big-name player in the trade market.
Here’s how they can make that happen:
Denver Nuggets get: Josh Smith (F, Atlanta Hawks) and J.J. Redick (SG, Orlando Magic)
Atlanta Hawks get: Danilo Gallinari (F, Denver Nuggets) and Kosta Koufos (C, Denver Nuggets)
Orlando Magic get: Wilson Chandler (G/F, Denver Nuggets) and Anthony Randolph (PF, Denver Nuggets)
Wilson Chandler and JaVale McGee don’t get 20 minutes of run per night, but should flourish with starter’s minutes and defined roles. Chandler is a 13.6-PPG scorer with 205 starts (272 games) under his belt in seven NBA seasons. He’s averaged 30-plus minutes a night in his career.
McGee has started 153 games, but Atlanta may find Nuggets starter Kosta Koufos more attractive from a cap perspective; he’s making $6 million over the two seasons following 2012-13. McGee will be pulling in $34 million in the three seasons after this year concludes.
Adding a seven-footer in Koufos to the lineup would give Atlanta the opportunity to slide Al Horford to the 4. Danilo Gallinari also gives the Hawks a weapon to build around offensively; he has four years left on his deal.
Bringing in Smith would lend the Nuggets another high-level finisher on the offensive end, as well as an elite defender that can guard multiple positions on the other side of the floor. What it wouldn’t do, however, is provide them with a shooter to stretch the floor for guys like Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala to attack the rim at will.
J.J. Redick does just that.
That’s why it would be advantageous for Denver to pull off a three-team trade. Gallinari (36.4 three-point percentage) leads the team in threes made per game with 1.9. “Mid-range Shawty”—J-Smoove’s self-appointed misnomer of a nickname—isn’t going to make up for that.
But Redick will.
While Smith is shooting a career-high 2.2 three-point attempts at 29.1 percent, J.J. is tossing up 5.9 threes nightly at 39.8 percent: a net-positive in terms of the team’s primary marksman. If Coach Karl can restrict Smith’s low-percentage shots, Denver should enjoy a net-positive effect on its offensive efficiency.
Redick’s play-making skills have been on display in his 41 games (six starts) in 2012-13, as well.
In 31.4 minutes per game, the off-guard is averaging 4.4 assists—0.5 fewer than Kobe Bryant and 0.1 fewer than Dwyane Wade. The 6’4” playmaker with aerial support skills would allow head coach George Karl the flexibility to go with a larger backcourt than the Andre Miller-Ty Lawson combination. At 90.1 percent, he is also one of the league’s best free-throw shooters.
Denver—and its dead-last team free-throw percentage—could use Redick. Perhaps his proficiency from the line could become contagious: No Magic player with more than 2.0 free-throw attempts per game is shooting worse than Glen Davis’ 72.7 percent from the line this season.
Four Nuggets players (Lawson; 71.5 percent on 3.5 shots, Iguodala; 61.4 on 3.5, Kenneth Faried; 60.7 on 3.7 and McGee; 59.0 on 3.0) fit that description.
In return for Redick, whose deal—like Smith’s—expires at the end of this year, Orlando would receive the services of Chandler and Anthony Randolph. The word most frequently used to describe Randolph’s NBA exploits is probably “potential”: the long 6’11” power forward has only started 37 games in his five years in the Association, but has career per-36 numbers worth checking into as a rival GM.
While having worn four different team uniforms, Randolph is averaging 17.1 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 2.2 BPG per 36 minutes over 186 games—and he’s still 23 years old. The rebuilding, post-Dwight Howard Magic could benefit from Randolph's talent, while the threatening Nuggets utilize the skills of veterans Redick and Smith.
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