Running with Zaza

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To Josh, or not to Josh, that is the question?

Rick Sund’s job for the summer is to make the Atlanta Hawks a better basketball team for 2008-2009. With the Celtics’ victory over the Lakers, the pressure is on NBA general managers. Every fan thinks that with a few personnel moves their team can go from last to first. Atlanta fans are geared up, because they made the playoffs last year and took the Celtics to 7 games. Every game in Atlanta was hard fought, and one can argue that the Hawks gave the Celtics huge match up problems. Here are the decisions to improve the Hawks that face Rick Sund in the next 3-4 weeks. Sund must decide on the two Joshes questions. Who to sign, who to keep, and who to trade are big questions and probably the most controversial in Atlanta. Seondly, Sund must upgrade Mike Woodson’s coaching staff. Simply put, Woodson needs a Thibodeaux-type on the offensive side of the basketball court. Coaching is a funny business though, and Woodson needs a behind the scenes guru that is not gunning for his job. Think, old guy with smarts. Lastly, Sund has to upgrade the bench. Role players are keys and without a draft pick the Hawks are not in a great position. Even, a second round pick would be great at this point. This column is the first of three part series addressing these pressing issues.

To Josh, or not to Josh, that is the question? What Sund needs to do about Josh Childress is make him a qualifying offer before July 1. The Hawks need to negotiate from a position of strength. There is not going to be a great market for J-Chill. He is solid, but cannot shoot from the outside to stretch the defense. He can guard, but is kind of slight to guard bigger perimeter players like Kobe, Artest, Lebron, Pierce, etc. He reminds me of a second tier Tayshaun Prince. My problem is that Childress is not even a starter in the Association. If he is starting for the Hawks, they will not make much improvement over 2007-2008. Plus, does Childress have any upside? He can score a little bit more in transition, but the shooting is never going to get better. He can get stronger and he seems like a great, coachable teammate, but you have to ask yourself this question: who would you want at the small forward spot, Josh Childress or James Posey? Posey will probably go back to the Celtics, but what if Atlanta offered him 3 years guaranteed for $15 million. Posey is 31 and this is most likely his last contract. There are some other guys out there that can come off the bench with 3 point shooting and play some defense. If Rick Sund is listening, you have to make J-Chill an offer to extend his contract for 3 years, but do not break the bank for this guy. I say 3 years and somewhere in the “West Paces Ferry neighborhood” of $22 million.

On the Josh Smith decision, Sund is going to have to face the slings and arrows of fans and take up arms against some sports radio talkies. Sund must face the more daunting decision to deal the beloved Josh Smith, J-Smooth, the Human Highlight Reel #2, Count Blockula, the Master of the Disastrous Pass, etc. This guy fills up the stats sheet with flare. He is athletically gifted beyond others in a league where every one is freakish athletic. J-Smooth can do almost everything one night and almost nothing the next night. Imagine if Josh Smith played with the fire of Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, the old Ben Wallace, Al Horford, or Antonio McDyess? There would be no question of what Rick Sund should do. The problem is Smith does not play that way, and certainly not every night. He is a power forward that wants to play on the perimeter, face up and shoot 3 point shots. When the playoffs came around and transition baskets were more limited, Smith had loads of trouble scoring in the half court offense. He is a man really without a position on this team. Additionally, J-Smooth did not seem to listen to the coaches before, and now you are going to pay him max dollars. Probably, next year, he will not listen at all! The Hawks have to build around Horford and Joe Johnson. Get a true 3 man or a proven scorer. There are not any big guys out there that excite me. People have been calling for the Hawks to get Mutombo or Theo Ratliff. That might work if done cheaply, but the Hawks need an all-star caliber perimeter player in return for Smith.

Rick Sund has to work some magic. He has to weather the storm, to take a nap, and perchance to dream. He has to pull a great player out of his hat. He has to work out a sign-and-trade with Josh Smith and get a natural small forward or lead guard that can excite fans. Here are some guys that would look great in a Hawks uniform: Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Ron Artest. Calderon and Ellis are not small forwards, but they would be great additions to the Hawks (I know Calderon just a contract offer, but he is point guard with a great future in the NBA). How about a backcourt of Bibby, Ellis, and Joe Johnson? And then bring in Childress for Bibby and go with Ellis, Joe Johnson, and Childress? That is a quality four man backcourt. Maybe, you could even get Salim Stoudamire some minutes as a game changing 3 point assassin. The Hawks cannot afford to go into next year believing in Bibby. Bibby can still shoot, blend in with the team, and convert down the stretch in the 4th quarter; but, he clearly he is at the injury prone stage of his career. He is the 19th highest paid player in the NBA, but he cannot really create shots for other people off penetration. Clearly, the Hawks payroll is going to jump this year from 23rd highest in the league, but then Bibby’s $15 million will come off the books. The recommendation here is sign-and-trade Josh Smith to Golden State for Monta Ellis. Okay, Chris Mullin has said he will match any offers for Ellis, but Josh Smith would be a great fit for Don Nelson’s team in Golden State. The problem is this move might just make too much sense. Look for my next post and part two of this column, I take a look at some possible assistant coaches that Rick Sund could hire to upgrade Mike Woodson’s staff.


Post a Comment 1 comments:

tha DJ said...

compliments to your blog, you're a very good writer with alot of attention to detail, and you capture the reader with your style and perspective. i understand your blog is still a baby, but as i have a blog too, i'm looking forward to seeing yours develop.

WITH THAT, i must question and comment on a few things in this editorial.

What's your problem with Josh Smith? it seems like you're set in your belief that the Hawks should trade Smith and keep Childress, as if Childress could replace IN ANY WAY what Smith brings to the basketball table. you seem to be at least a little familiar with Josh Smith and his game (at least his names), but your generalized complaints about him hold no weight, such as:
"Imagine if Josh Smith played with the fire of.." Josh Smith is very passionate about the game of basketball, he's not quite KG, thats just not his personality, but its never as issue of focus or care.
"He is a power forward that wants to play on the perimeter, face up and shoot 3 point shots."
That's where u got Smith ALL wrong. Smith is a SMALL FORWARD who wants to play in the paint, but is also unafraid to take open shots. When the playoffs came around, Smith was UNSTOPPABLE to the Celtics in transition and around the basket at home, if anything, the whole team looked lost in Boston, but thats just the aura of that arena, ask Kobe.
"He is a man really without a position on this team."
As intelligent as you write, that is the most non-sense statement in this whole thing. This guy leads the league in blocks every year at SF, imagine if Lebron James was half as good defensively as Smith, imagine if Smith was half as good offensively as Lebron James. He can be.
"Additionally, J-Smooth did not seem to listen to the coaches before...Probably, next year, he will not listen at all!"
Now, you know that sometimes Mike Woodson is a FOOL, if we know that as fans, don't you think the PLAYERS would have some sentiment like that at least SOMETIMES? Smith and Woodson have had a few troubles in their relationship, but look at Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, they grow and move forward. Especially after that epic playoff series, how could u think Smith would disrespect Woodson MORE instead of less? Because really, they're relationship drastically improved in the playoffs, and Smith was one of the main ones campaigning for his return, even when the fans didn't want that.

In conclusion, all the guys you offered instead of Smith, none of them are better than Smith now or in the future, except maybe ellis and artest. Instead of hating on Josh SMith, mauybe you should campaign with me for the trade of MARVIN WILLIAMS, the person symbolism of the foolishness of Billy Knight, the player hindering the growth of Smith. he's the guy who REALLY has no position, HE starts at PF but he is weak, inconsistent, not a good shooter, and not a good rebounder.

Seriously, Smith has improved statistically in every catagory since his rookie season, his game needs a little makeover but he is one of the top forwards in this league NOW, after his makeover, he may be second only to Lebron James.

June 30, 2008 at 5:02 PM

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