Discussing Josh Smith and the Boston Celtics again
What made the Boston Celtics great in 2012 is that when they entered the post-season they knew exactly what they were as a basketball team. They were a primarily jump-shooting team that played their asses off on the defensive side of the court and were at their best when Rajon Rondo was dominating the basketball game and Kevin Garnett was looking to create shots in the low-post. They occasionally got great performances from guys like Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling and the back-up big man came down to whether Greg Stiemsma or Ryan Hollins was playing better.
There was a huge hole in the Boston Celtics and it was exposed in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics simply lacked the athletes to compete for the NBA Championship. The unfortunate thing for the Boston Celtics is that there isn’t a ton of options in free-agency to fix this hole if the Boston Celtics are preparing for their third “one last run” at the NBA title. The best athlete with basketball skills available through free-agency is probably Portland’s Nicolas Batum, except he is a restricted free-agent and the Trail Blazers have the right to refusal with him.
Fear not Celtics fans. Free-agency is not the only way to acquire assets after the draft. The Celtics could also trade for someone and there is talk that someone who would fit the Celtics quite perfectly could be available for the right price.
New Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry is currently settling into his new position and evaluating his options. His two biggest assets are shooting-guard Joe Johnson and forward Josh Smith. Smith is an interesting character. He has asked for his trade before from the Atlanta Hawks, he is an expiring contract in the summer of 2013 and he could be a huge piece for a team hoping to entice Dwight Howard to sign with them next off-season.
Now, Ferry has told other teams to back off Smith for the time being, but Ferry also wants to make his mark on the team now. They have yet to get past the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and they have thrown the same team out there year after year and there is real fear they may have peaked and may have to shake things up to make the next step.
It’s almost without question that Josh Smith is the most trade worthy Hawks asset and he also is an elite athlete. The Boston Celtics need an elite athlete in their rotation to almost certainly make a serious run at the NBA Finals.
So what’s preventing the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks from hooking up and making an exchange?
Sadly, for the Boston Celtics, the amount of assets they have may be lacking in an attempt to make a trade for Josh Smith. They currently employ a grand total of one expiring contract in 2013, and it isn’t a salary cap slaughtering piece of paper as it’s Sean Williams veteran’s minimum contract. Things would look bleak for the Boston Celtics.
There is something the Celtics could do. They could create a sign and trade with Brandon Bass and a chunk of draft picks in an attempt to lure Josh Smith. It has supposedly been discussed:
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) June 28, 2012
The Celtics did not pick up Brandon Bass’ option for the 2012 season after this season, this despite the fact that Brandon Bass was a major piece of the Boston Celtics run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The thought was that the Celtics would use Bass’ Larry Bird rights to sign Bass to a multi-year deal and not worry about the Salary Cap ramifications.
Shaking up the Hawks with Brandon Bass could be a good move for them. He would give them a phenomenal jump-shooting big man who also plays great defense and allows them to mix up their offense a little bit more and make them less predictable. They would also get a couple of draft picks that the Atlanta Hawks could use in future drafts allowing Ferry to start crafting “his” Atlanta Hawks.
The Boston Celtics, even without an agreement that Smith would be around past this next season, would still likely end up winners in a deal like this. It would make the Boston Celtics much more dynamic on the offensive end of the floor with their starting line-up possessing two guys who know how to get to the rim (Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith) two superior back-door cut scoring threats (Avery Bradley and Josh Smith) two post option (Kevin Garnett and Josh Smith) and one main scorer who can create his shot in pretty much every way (Paul Pierce). In addition, his athleticism allows him to be a better defender than Brandon Bass could be and his physical skills allow him to cover guys from the 3 all the way to the smaller 5′s in the league.
My favorite comparison to him is Shawn Marion 2.0. He may not be a great jump-shooting guy, but he is ultra athletic with a nose of getting to the rim and creating his own shot in the post. The Celtics biggest fear is that Smith is sometimes immature offensively and likes to play too much hero ball, but as with most guys this Boston Celtics organization has brought in to play in the green in recent years, it’s nothing that Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett can’t fix. After this season if he doesn’t return, it’s a nice amount of salary removed from the Celtics budget and if he does come back he is a nice complement to Rajon Rondo to move forward with.
Ultimately, if the Boston Celtics are going to attempt another run at the Larry O’ Brien trophy, they are going to need a high end athlete and a consistent bench scorer. That second piece exists out there on the current free-agent market. It’s going to take a little bit of creative management to get the other piece for one more Celtics run.
I think Josh Smith is possible.