Fans won’t be seeing Josh Smith in a Sixers uniform this season.
News came out today that the Sixers reportedly declined a trade offer from the Atlanta Hawks of Josh Smith for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. Sixers fans may remember the team brought the 6’9″ power forward to town during the 2008 offseason when he was a restricted free agent. Ultimately, Josh Smith re-signed with Atlanta as Philadelphia signed free-agent Elton Brand and the rest was middle-of-the-pack history. With the team once again opting against bringing Smith aboard, let’s examine the pros and cons of such a deal.
As a disclaimer, Spencer Hawes is far and away my least favorite player on the SIxers. I hate how he frequently gets out-muscled by smaller players for rebounding position and his soft finishing around the rim. The only time I ever enjoyed watching Hawes on a basketball court was when he was sporting his legendary mullet. Evan Turner also often draws my ire, whether pulling up for his flat jump shot with 18 seconds left on the shot clock or doing his bull in a china shop routine driving the lane (which involves a head-down drive right into the defender, throwing up a wild shot, and then pouting to the ref with out-stretched arms after the whistle remains silent). Speaking purely as a fan watching the games, I would have traded the pair for a bag of basketballs and then gave the balls to the courier as a tip. However, during this analysis, you need to look at things from a franchise perspective and maximizing all of its assets. How would this trade have affected the team’s prospects both short-term (the rest of this current season) and long-term (the 2013-14 season and beyond)?
Josh Smith is a very effective offensive player on the blocks and an absolute terror in the open court; I could get lost day-dreaming about Jrue throwing lobs to Smith on the break. That being said, Josh Smith is a terrible fit for the Sixers in the sense that the team has a similar player already starting at power forward in Thad Young. Both are undersized fours who make up for a lack of height with elite quickness and athleticism. Take a look at the stats for the two players on the season:
Smith dominates the ball more on offense accounting for the greater number of assists and slightly higher scoring output, while also being a more active weak-side shot blocker. He is a much more polished post player but still has a terrible habit of taking too many long jumpers. On the other hand, Young puts up similar numbers with a much lower usage rate and actually has a slightly higher Player Efficiency Rating thus far this season.
Unfortunately, a front line of Young and Smith would not work from a size standpoint; so while you could certainly play a small portion of the game with a big lineup of Young, Smith, and one of Bynum (if healthy)/Allen/Moultrie, the insertion of Smith would cut into Thad’s minutes (more or less a null gain based on this season’s stats).
Regarding the players the Sixers would have given up, despite his flaws, Hawes has been an average center on the season with a 15.12 PER that currently ranks 33rd among NBA centers. With Bynum still sidelined and a hypothetical Hawes departure, Philadelphia would be forced to divide minutes at the 5 between Allen, Moultrie, and Kwame Brown. Allen and Moultrie are really better off playing the power forward position and Brown is a $6M mistake. Of course, a healthy Bynum would solve this problem but you could have said that about a lot of the Sixers problems this season. In Evan Turner, the Sixers would lose another valuable rebounder but a player who continues to struggle with his shot (42.7 FG% and only 48.7% True Shooting Percentage) and ranks 37th among small forwards with only a 12.76 PER. I would think Dorell Wright (14.07 PER) could soak up and improve upon Turner’s minutes after mysteriously falling into Doug Collins’ doghouse.
Verdict: Neutral. Smith is a horrible fit with our roster and Philadelphia would lose valuable size and rebounding in Hawes and Turner, two attributes in short supply for the Sixers. Ideally, seeing that Turner and Hawes have trade value, management would find a player who worked better within the confines of the current roster. It doesn’t look like that is their mindset though based on current reports. In hypothetical trade world, I do love to think about the athleticism and defensive potential of a Smith-Young-Bynum front court for 10-15 minutes a game; that line-up would be fun to watch. Ultimately, the team is floundering either way if Bynum is injured so why not go with the more aesthetically pleasing option and the Josh Smith high-wire act.
Taking a look at the salaries of the three players reportedly involved in the offer, Turner is signed through 2013-14 for $6.7M, Hawes is under contract through 2013-14 for $6.5M, and Smith is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. As discussed earlier, Josh Smith is not a good fit with Thad Young on the team so I would not look to re-sign him. Shedding the Turner and Hawes contracts would leave the Sixers with $33M committed to Holiday, Young, Richardson, Brown, Allen, and Moultrie. Next year’s salary cap is still undetermined but will likely be in the $60M to $70M range. Philadelphia would have more than enough space to offer Bynum or another star a max contract as well as sign a couple wings at mid-level deals and fill out the bench.
Verdict: Pro-Trade. Hawes and Turner have their uses as part of a rotation but were both overpaid in my opinion. Freeing up cap space would be a preferable option to keeping the pair around. However, management is likely not of that mindset considering just this past offseason, it signed Hawes to the two-year deal and picked up Turner’s option.
It looks like we’ll be watching the same-look Sixers tomorrow night in Minnesota. In your opinion, should the Sixers have pulled the trigger? Discuss in the comments below.