Dwight Howard has been friends with Atlanta’s Josh Smith for years. They famously played AAU ball together, and Howard was the best man at Smith’s wedding. Smith is a free agent after this season. He has wanted out of Atlanta for several months now … but perhaps that has been put on hold to see how Danny Ferry’s deconstruction of the Hawks goes.
Could Smith and Howard be the NBA’s best shot-blocking tandem since Robinson and Duncan in 1998?
Here’s a best-case scenario for the Hawks: Dwight Howard isn’t traded. He plays the season out in Orlando (I’d set the over/under on 64 games due to “injury”). Chris Paul doesn’t sign an extension with the Clippers.
Boom. Atlanta signs free agent Dwight Howard, and then free agent Chris Paul. Atlanta has a Top 10 pick, a solid point guard in Jeff Teague, and now they just need Danny Ferry to surround the Big 3 the way the Heat built around LeBron. TITLE CONTENDERS! The Hawks, who are paying Al Horford $12 million a year, have to let Josh Smith walk in free agency.
An alternative: at the trading deadline, does Atlanta reach out to Orlando and offer Horford, Teague, their 2013 and 2014 No. 1 picks for Howard? I can’t imagine Orlando doing that … unless they’ve got nothing better, and it looks like Howard will walk away, leaving Orlando with zilch. (Depending on your point of view, Andrew Bynum might be better. Houston could put together a more enticing package, too. Perhaps Dallas cobbles together something.)
Either way, it’s going to be very difficult (impossible?) for the Hawks to acquire Dwight Howard and Chris Paul while keeping Josh Smith and Al Horford. (I can’t imagine Atlanta would attempt to build around Howard, Horford and Smith, with spare parts in the backcourt. They’d be a rich man’s Knicks with no guards in a guard-driven league.)
Which leads to the Horford vs. Smith decision. Would you rather have the rebounding/defensive 26-year-old power forward who was a double-double machine his first three years in the NBA and probably would fit perfectly next to Howard, or Smith, the soon-to-be 27-year-old forward who is a more complete player than Horford?