Last season there was a lot of hope in New Jersey about the Nets. The team had acquired a bonafide superstar in Deron Williams, Brook Lopez continued to make his way into the conversation as one of the best centers in the NBA, and Kris Humphries emerged as a double-double threat from the power forward position. However, there was one glaring weakness on the Nets’ roster this past season, and that was at small forward.
Last summer, the Nets were one of the six teams in pursuit of LeBron James. When it became clear LeBron was not taking his talents to Brooklyn via Newark, the Nets signed Travis Outlaw hoping he would reach his potential and become a solid starter at the three. Well, Outlaw not only didn’t live up to his five-year, $35 million contract, but he also lost his starting job to a combination of Damion James and Stephen Graham. James showed some promise as a rookie, but a foot injury lingered throughout the season and didn’t allow the Nets to really determine if he was the answer at the position going forward. Graham is a good defender, but has no place in an NBA starting lineup. All three are under contract for this coming season, but none appear to be the long-term answer at small forward, which is why the Nets should pursue the recently shopped Josh Smith.
Smith is an immensely talented player who is only 25 years old and can be a building block for the next five years for the Nets. His athleticism will complement Williams on the break, and D-Will will put Smith in a position to succeed near the basket where he is most lethal. On defense, Smith has become one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA who can defend a multitude of positions. For Avery Johnson, a defensive-minded coach, having a player like Smith on that side of the ball will be a huge benefit.
Some people may say that Smith will never realize his full potential, and his infatuation with his inconsistent jump shot will prevent him from becoming a great player, but that shouldn’t deter the Nets from pursuing him. Smith has never responded as one would hope to his coaches in Atlanta – first Mike Woodson and then Larry Drew – but Johnson has a penchant for helping players realize their potential. This past season, Humphries went from a journeyman afterthought to averaging a double-double. Johnson has a history of helping players maximize their potential including Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels, DeSagana Diop and others as detailed in a NetsDaily blog post last summer.
While Smith will put a dent into the Nets’ cap room and ability to sign free agents this summer, there are really no better options than Smith on the open market that would be able to help the Nets in the way that he could. Some unrestricted free agents the Nets might pursue this summer include Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, and a younger guy like C.J. Miles. While Crawford is an excellent scorer, he’s much older than Smith and plays no defense. At the same time, Richardson didn’t have quite the impact in Orlando that the Magic hoped and looks to be on the downside of his career. In regards to a guys like Miles, the Nets will not find a young player around the same age as Smith who will be able to have nearly the impact he would on the team.
The last reason the Nets should trade for Smith is to back up the commitments they have made to Deron Williams about improving the team. If Williams sees that the Nets are willing to go out and add a guy with three years at over $11 million per year left on his contract to the team because it will make them a lot better, then it can only help their pitch to him in the all important Summer of 2012.
In order to make a deal for Smith, using ESPN’s Trade Machine, two trades seem the most likely to work out. The first trade would have the Nets send Outlaw, Jordan Farmar or Anthony Morrow, and Damion James to the Hawks for Smith and Pape Sy. In the second trade, the Hawks would get James, Farmar, Morrow, and Stephen Graham for Smith. The first trade is highly unlikely because the Hawks’ would not want to take on the remaining four years of Outlaw’s contract, especially considering he is essentially a lesser version of Marvin Williams right now. The second trade makes much more sense for Atlanta as they get one of the NBA’s best shooters in Morrow – who can help lessen the blow if Crawford is not re-signed – a promising young player in James, and a serviceable combo guard in Farmar. While none of those three can equal the talent of Smith, they are all young and have affordable contracts which is what the Hawks should be looking to get back if they trade Smith.
So as rumors begin to fly about possible landing spots for Smith over the next few days, there is one team with a star point guard that desperately needs help at the small forward position and would be a perfect fit for Smith. That team is the New Jersey Nets.
What do you think? Would J-Smoove be a good fit with the Nets?
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