Running with Zaza

IconThis blog is devoted to the Atlanta Hawks, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the global game of basketball.

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.


Hawks' Fans Say Goodbye to Zaza

Watching the NBA playoffs virtually every night for the past six weeks gives you so many options for topics to discuss. I wish I had a forum like sports talk radio hosts to talk about everything going on in the NBA and the world of sports.

Since the Atlanta Hawks were swept out of the playoffs, I have been following several Hawks analysts on blogs, Twitter, and the Hawks team web site. It is an exciting time to be a Hawks fan.

A huge area of concern for most Hawks’ fans is the Zaza Pachulia question. Should the Hawks resign Zaza or should Rick Sund use Zaza’s money and try to make a splash on the free agent market?

I am torn because I still remember how fired up I was when the Hawks beat the Celtics in Game 6 of the 2008 playoffs. Heck, I even named my Hawks blog after the fiery big man from Georgia. However, after seeing how just how huge the talent gap is between the Hawks and the Celtics, Magic, and Cavs, I know that the Hawks have to upgrade at this position.

You have to assume that Sund already has a certain amount of money allocated to resign Zaza. Sund can make the choice between either upgrading the offense or strengthening the defense. It kind of hurts to say this, but here are two guys that I would rather have on the Hawks’ roster than Zaza:

Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6’10” 260 pounder center averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds per game. He averaged 11 more minutes per game than Zaza in 2008-2009. Varejao has a player option and can opt out of his contract with the Cavaliers and become an unrestricted free agent.

Remember just last year, he sat out until early December as a restricted free agent when the Cavs did not offer him a multi-year deal. Finally, the New Orleans Hornets signed him to an offer sheet and the Cavs matched the contract the next day. He signed for 2 years and 11.1 million with a player option for next year for 6.2 million.

If I were him, I think I can make more on the open market even in the very tough NBA economy. He played in every game for the Cavs and started about half the games. He played about 30 minutes a game. His statistics do not wow anyone, but this guy has a ton of intangibles.

He probably is near the top in charges taken in the NBA every year. He is very good defending out on the floor (unless he has to guard a perimeter guy like Rashard Lewis) and he is good finishing at the rim out of the high screen and roll. The Hawks are weak in both of those areas.

Varejao is a better defender than Al Horford is right now. If the Hawks can re-sign Marvin Williams, Varejao can be the first post guy off the bench. He also would allow Coach Mike Woodson more flexibility in dealing with the volatile Josh Smith. When Smith acts up, Varejao can start and play starter minutes. Sadly, Zaza cannot. At least not on a winning or playoff caliber team.

He is an upgrade over Zaza in almost every area. He is quicker, a better shot blocker, rebounder, and he is better scoring around the basket in traffic. Zaza is a better perimeter shooter, but neither one of these guys should be allowed to shoot outside very often.

Maybe the best thing that excites me as a Hawks fan is the idea of Varejao and Horford playing together. Varejao would free up Horford from guarding the other team’s best inside player and allow Big Al to concentrate on his offensive game. They could dominate the boards at both ends.

Lastly, Varejao’s energy would fire up the home crowd. He has personality and toughness. In Cleveland, there are thousands of fans every night that wear the Varejao wigs to home games. As far as dollars, Varejao may have some solid offers, but if two years ago is an indication, teams are not willing to come up with long term dollars for a guy that cannot score. I think he is worth a 3 year deal worth 20-24 million. I have to think Zaza is looking for a 4 year deal.

Brandon Bass, Dallas Mavericks. The 6’8” 240 pound third year guy from LSU fills a totally different need for the Hawks. He played about the same minutes as Zaza last year and scored a few more points, but he is an undersized forward.

He is very athletic and his offensive game is way better than Zaza and Varejao added together. He would play a lot more minutes in a Hawks uniform. For the Mavs, he basically plays minutes behind Dirk Nowitzki or when the Mavs go to a small lineup with Dirk at the five spot.

In the playoffs, Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle was running isolation plays for Bass on the low block. The Hawks do not have any player on the roster that can score on isolation post ups like Bass. Read that line again. Yeah, the Hawks are weak on the post. Horford can make a big jump offensively this summer, but if I needed a basket at the end of the game today I would go to Bass before Horford.

Bass is athletic enough to make up for his lack of size, but I would be concerned about his rebounding and defense. Bass went to LSU so coming to Atlanta and SEC country might appeal to him. Bass might even come cheaper than Pachulia or Varejao.