Friday, July 11, 2008

Should the Hawks Keep Josh Smith?

Do you want to keep Josh Smith or don't ya?

Throughout the last season and during the playoff run for the home team, it was clear the overriding discussion was whether to deal Josh Smith or build with him.

Smith brings a unique skill set to the table--consider:

He's has PF size, but not power forward game. He isn't a post player, but nobody wants him shooting either. He's too thin to play inside defensively, save for his epic shot blocking timing, but he takes too many passing lane chances to guard the perimeter.

His ability to rebound, run the floor, and finish are all unquestioned. He isn't all dunks either, showing a knack for getting to the cup from many angles, at least getting to the line. He also has better passing skills than he gets credit for, able to use his long frame to deliver quality feeds, especially around the basket.

He has shown a willingness to improve, and even though he isn't a finished product and still makes some mind boggling choices on the floor, he is only 22 and that improvement must be noted and can be understood if team want to forecast based on that.

So, with all of that, do you want to keep him?

He is too talented to walk away for nothing, most fans agree with that. Whether you believe he is next Darius Miles or a new sensation all to himself, you don't let a player with that much value go away for nothing.

The thing with younger players is that you want them to blossom and check all the boxes on the production checklist. You want him to check scoring, rebounding, defense, teamwork, chemistry, enthusiasm, passing, turnovers, basketball IQ, and everything else and if the players doesn't do it, you want to cast him off to take a chance on the next young player to score on your scorecard.

Smith is still undisciplined in some areas, shot selection being the most glaring in some games, but he has come a long way and checks quite a few more boxes than most 22 year olds, heck, even 32 year olds have ever done.

Can he continue to improve after he gets his big payday? Of course he can, but will he? This is something that should have been determined over the time since they drafted him in 2004. If they have determined that the work will stop as soon as the checks explode, then they need to find a trading partner that will send over a center to play alongside Al Horford at PF and be done with it.

If they are convinced that Josh will continue to work and improve, then they can hang on to a player that is unlike anyone else in the league, capable of being a major distraction of defense, a more than capable offensive player when going to the basket, and a true roof raiser for the people who foot some of the bill for it all, the fans.

Financially, the Sixers helped out by showing how much money Smith won't be getting. The Clippers are assisting by balking at Smith being their #2 (Baron being #1, of course) target and perhaps wanting to go a little cheaper. Smith himself has alleged reservations that the situation over there is any better than in Atlanta.

Sidebar: This really says something about Smith's maturity. You would expect the grass would always be greener (literally) on the other side, but for Smith to make an observation about that situation and have the presence of mind to understand that it may not be better than what he has is wisdom for his 22 year old mind.

It also says something about the Clippers if they are that obviously messed up that a guy who has seen such public dysfunction in ownership raises his eyebrow at them. Yikes.

All of this plays into the Hawks hand, perhaps enabling them to use Andrew Bogut's 5 and 60 contract extension with the Bucks earlier this week as a discussion point, considerably less than Smith's stock might have been a week before.

As the price comes down, the choice is obvious, don't get distracted by what sometimes doesn't get done by Smith. The Hawks must retain him, and if they have decided that he isn't the type that will work beyond his payday, then quickly find a partner that will trade another building piece equally as valuable as Smith's skill set has been.

You can't let him walk over a perception in salary numbers--a million here, a million there. Save your money on the replacement level players and skill sets and spend it on valuable properties you can't find elsewhere, which is exactly what Josh Smith is.

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