Running with Zaza

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Super Joe Turns Down the Hawks' Contract Offer

Check out my article on Bleacher Report about Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks. I look at five different scenarios that could happen heading into the NBA free agent bonanza in the summer of 2010.

I think Joe Johnson is the Hawks best and most valubable player. It is almost criminal the amount of minutes he has had to play the past two seasons. Add that to the fact that Super Joe has to guard the other team's best player almost every night and you have a recipe for wearing him out before the playoffs.

The fact that the Hawks have not addressed this defensive liability is one of the big questions facing Coach Mike Woodson as training camp opens today. Jamal Crawford is probably an average defender at best and Jeff Teague is way too small to guard other shooting guards. Mario West is not the answer. Can Mo Evans help Joe out?


Waiting for Amare

In the Samuel Beckett play, the two main characters are waiting for Godot to show up. While waiting they talk some and wonder what will happen when Godot shows up. That is exactly what Hawks fans are doing with the possible trade for the Phoenix Suns Amare Stoudemire.

Stoudemire is the perfect fit for the Hawks roster. Hawks GM Rick Sund almost has made all the right moves this summer. I would have taken Eric Maynor instead of Jeff Teague. He kept the core group of Hawks together without destroying the payroll. But, the Hawks still are a middle of the pack team in an improving Eastern Conference.

Sund needs to trade for Amare. Trading for Stoudemire would elevate this team into the conversation for an Eastern Conference title. Forget about the money and Stoudemire’s player option after next year. The Hawks can do a deal with the Suns for the Joshes. Let’s dream a little dream for 2010.

Why getting Stoudemire makes sense for the Hawks?

From day one, Stoudemire gives you a low post scoring presence that demands a double team. I watched this guy destroy the Hawks in the post last year in a mid-season game in Philips Arena. His short jump hook from the left block is a devastating move. Plus, he has counter moves and can score with either hand around the basket.

For his career, Stoudemire averages more than 20 points a game, but he does not demand a large number of shots. He averages about 14-15 shots per game. One of the weakest areas for the Hawks in the playoffs against the Cavs was their lack of offensive execution. The Hawks just do not have great set plays.

Stoudemire solves that dilemma. You can isolate him on the block, run the high screen and roll with Al Horford coming from low post to high post, or Stoudemire can screen and pop for a patented 20 foot jump shot or a dump down to Horford on the block.

Defensively, Stoudemire is only serviceable in the post, but he is long and blocks shots around the rim. The best part of his game for the Hawks will be the rebounding. He over 8 boards a game in his career. That means the Hawks would have Horford and Stoudemire averaging almost 20 boards a game from the starting bigs.

Plus, Horford is going to guard the other team’s best player in screen and roll situations. Stoudemire can stay closer to the rim and clog up the lane. Looking at next 2010, the Hawks would have a two man post defensive tandem to guard Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, Shaq and Anderson Varejao, and Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass. I even might take Stoudemire and Horford over those other tandems.

Off the court, acquiring Stoudemire means a ton to the Hawks in attendance. Atlanta was 20th in the NBA in attendance in 2008-2009. Philips Arena was at about 88 percent capacity on average. Stoudemire would pay for himself in increased attendance, parking revenue, marketing revenue, and general hype in this city.

Every night? I know Stoudemire is often injured. Reports are he had surgery this week on his damaged eye from last year. In his 7 seasons in the NBA, he has only played full seasons 4 times. It is a concern, but when he is healthy Stoudemire is a 1st or 2nd team All NBA player. Hawks have no one else at that level.

For Stoudemire, being traded to Atlanta gives him the opportunity he has craved. Stoudemire immediately becomes the face of the franchise in Atlanta. He no longer lingers somewhat in Steve Nash’s shadow. Also, he would be a soothing and funny presence in the locker room.

He takes all the pressure of Joe Johnson. JJ can just show up for all 82 games and play hard without having to worry about all of this ridiculous “Joe is not a leader talk”. Joe Johnson is a warrior. He comes to play every night.

If Stoudemire is a Hawk, here are projected rotations for the top teams in the East:

Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace
Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard
Moe Williams, Delonte West, Lebron, Varejao, Shaq
Mike Bibby, JJ, Marvin Williams, Stoudemire, Horford, Jamal Crawford

On paper, the Hawks match up very well with all of these teams. You think Shaq wants to guard Stoudemire in the pick and roll? Jamal Crawford looks to be one of the best guards off the bench in the entire NBA. In recent NBA playoff history, I would much rather have Joe Johnson than Vince Carter.

In Stoudemire, Horford, and Zaza Pachulia the Hawks have three guys that can try to guard Dwight Howard.

For Atlanta Hawks fans, the days / deadlines to watch for this are July 15th and August 1st. To make this deal happen, the Hawks are going to have to sign Josh Childress somehow. I think if J-Chill thought he was going to Phoenix he would sign today.

Secondly, after August 1st, the Hawks are able to trade Josh Smith without his consent to the trade. Hawks fans, can you imagine waking up in early August with Amare Stoudemire on your door step? It can’t hurt to dream.


Trade Josh Smith? AJC's Mark Bradley Says No Way

Here is the news cycle of today’s sports world: one NBA insider named Chad Ford can hear a few rumors from NBA general managers and publish those rumors as rumors in a notes section of his NBA draft column.

Then, an intrepid columnist from the local Atlanta media, like the AJC’s Mark Bradley, can reference that notes section in a quickie article to try and drum up page views, web sites hits, and erratic fan comments on his sports blog.

Then, a concerned Hawks observer like me can take apart Bradley’s article. Classic Bleacher Report fodder—I could argue with Bradley for hours over beers about his article today about the Hawks mercurial forward Josh Smith. (I don’t know if he is a small forward or power forward and that is part of the problem).

Bradley writes that he would only trade Josh Smith for Kobe Bryant. That statement is utterly ridiculous. I spent about 15 minutes today at work and I came up with 50 players that I would rather have on my team than Josh Smith.

Okay, I think Smith is improving and worth keeping, but c’mon are you going to win an NBA title with Josh Smith? If you throw out salaries, contracts, and budgets, there are over 50 NBA players that I would take over Smith. Here are a few--Hedo, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Brandon Roy, Paul Pierce…

Yao Ming, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer, Nene, Chris Anderson, Kendrick Perkins, Amare Stoudemire, Tony Parker, Manu Gnobili, Melo, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez, Vince Carter, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose…I could go on, but you get the idea.

Well, Bradley might say not all of those guys are power forwards. Neither is Kobe. J-Smoove does not want to play power forward. He wants to play on the perimeter. Al Horford should really be your power forward.

I like Josh Smith. I am the first person to jump out of my seat when he dunks or blocks a shot. He is as athletic as anyone in the NBA. Maybe only Lebron is more athletic. Maybe, but Smith is not even a top 30 NBA player.

He will be lucky to make the all star team in two years let alone be better than Hawks guard Joe Johnson. He is the third best player on his own team and I think Bibby had a better year than Smith had this year, so that makes him the Hawks fourth option on offense. The future of this team is Al Horford.

If Bradley had to coach Smith, he would start drinking every morning about 9 am. Smith is kind of like Jeff Francoeur. No matter how many times hitting coach Terry Pendleton tells Frenchy to make sure he sees pitches in every at bat, he continues to swing at the first pitch. No matter how many times, Coach Mike Woodson tells Smith not to shoot jumpers, he still shoots jumpers. Are you going to blame that on Pendleton, on Woodson?

Listen, J-Smoove is going to be hard to move because of the 6 million dollar trade kicker that Chad Ford from ESPN writes about in his column. But, that does not mean that GM Rick Sund should not pursue any opportunity to improve this Hawks team. A huge chasm exists between the Hawks and the top three teams in the Eastern Conference.

Mr. Bradley threw out some names that he would not want in exchange for Smith. Let’s take a look at a couple of these guys and some trade scenarios.

I would definitely consider a deal today for Chris Bosh. With Bosh, the Hawks would have a legitimate shot to improve in the East next year. Yes, he is in the last year of his deal. That just means two things: he is going to play great next year and you have a year to convince him to re-sign with the Hawks. He might just fall back in love with the city of Atlanta.

Imagine the kind of financial freedom that would give the Hawks for the free agency bonanza of NBA summer 2010. If Joe Johnson wants to explore free agency, the Hawks might be able to convince Bosh to re-sign and bring Dwayne Wade to the ATL. You could have both Wade and Bosh for two or three more years.

Bradley just goes off the deep end when he says he would not trade Smith for the number one pick in this year’s draft. Blake Griffin’s tenacity, effort, desire, and will to win, especially on the glass, would make Bradley forget about Josh Smith about four games into the 2009-2010 regular season.

Griffin in the starting line up makes the Hawks a better team next year. It would also free up a ton of money to sign someone else—Hedo Turkoglo for instance. Think about this line up: Mike Bibby or Eric Maynor, Joe Johnson, Turkoglo, Blake Griffin, and Al Horford. You could bring Marvin Williams, Flip Murray, Mo Williams, Sam Young, and some other free agent big man off the bench.

Season ticket sales would be sky high. The Hawks would be must see NBA action every night.

Okay, these trades seem far-fetched. How about a legitimate trade option? You mean, Mr. Bradley, that you would not trade Josh Smith for Monta Ellis? That trade would be great for the Hawks. I think the salary and year numbers are close enough to match up. This actually might be a workable trade.

GM Rick Sund needs to explore every scenario this summer to improve the Hawks. This team is at a crossroads. It has to get better.

Sund might be floating Josh Smith rumors, so Joe Johnson will sign his extension thinking that Smith is on his way out. He might be floating Smith’s name out there, but really trying to deal Joe Johnson. Uh, that would be a big mistake.

I would just like someone to do some digging and find out some real news! Call and ask Sund a question. The problem might be that good analysis does not really translate into page views, while a picture of Megan Fox sitting on a bath tub wrapped in a towel does. By the way, AJC please give Sekou Smith a picture on his Hawks blog.