The trade deadline is upon us, and with it rumors and speculation are running rampant. The two biggest names attached to the San Antonio Spurs are Al Jefferson and Josh Smith. Earlier today our own Andrew McNeill went the sensible route, pointing out the Spurs are in fantastic position moving forward with no pressing needs other than the possibility of moving DeJuan Blair, leaving any trades unlikely.
Twitter has added a new dimension to trade deadline coverage, allowing space for rumors and whispers deemed not credible enough to merit column space or formal reporting to be published under less scrutiny.
The point of the following exercise, as I stated in my first attempt at this feature, is to step away from the sensible, and in some ways even the credible, and expand the discussions we carry out on Twitter, or barrooms, or even simply over a few beers with friends.
Catching my eye recently were rumors surrounding the Spurs interesting in Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith. On ESPN Tom Haberstroh posted a deal he thought made sense for both teams, given the apparent lack of quality assets being thrown the Hawks way. Some of the fallout from that led to a discussion on the value of Josh Smith.
While an argument can be made for opposing such a deal, the lengths to which some went to slam Josh Smith’s abilities, or overrate those of Splitter and other Spurs included in the proposed deal, were a bit far fetched. It reminded me almost of the Tea Party and the invisible chair Obama arguments made during the National Convention. If you stand firmly on one side, it may be easy to fall into that line of thinking. But when debating an issue, most people prefer an honest look at the argument:
@tomhaberstroh pitches a #Spurs – #Hawks deal based on Splitter/Smith with Zaza, Ivan, Diaw, Jackson, and a first as filler. Thoughts?Jesse Blanchard
Other bloggers I’m happy for you & Ima let you finish, but I wrote the best Josh Smith piece of all time http://hoopspeak.com/2013/02/all-that-josh-smith-can-be/Kevin Draper
@blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh Ummm, no. Just freaking no.BartTBF
@BartTBF @tomhaberstroh on which side?Jesse Blanchard
@blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh Both ways. Can’t imagine Smith as a Spur – no way they max him and can’t win with him this year. (1/2)BartTBF
@blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh Can’t imagine ATL not getting more, even as a rental. Too many small mkt teams begging for a star, (2/2)BartTBF
@blanchard48moh @BartTBF @tomhaberstroh Honestly, I see that trade as a big step back for the Spurs.Alex D.
@blanchard48moh @BartTBF @tomhaberstroh Mostly because I think Diaw/Jackson’s instant fit last season was a rare, fluky situation.Alex D.
@blanchard48moh @BartTBF @tomhaberstroh Smith also has built up spooky d chem with Horford over years. Might not be replicable immediatelyAlex D.
@BartTBF @blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh Personally I think Smith is an EXCELLENT defensive player, but his chem with Horford is crucial.Alex D.
@blanchard48moh @BartTBF @tomhaberstroh at gluing things up defensively. But if you’re not getting a top fit pretty quickly, it’s troublingAlex D.
@blanchard48moh @BartTBF @tomhaberstroh I wouldn’t bet on it happening with Smith, at least in 20-25 games, to contender level. :shrug:Alex D.
Incorporating a player that figures into a major part of the rotation with so little time left in the season is a legitimate concern, but it’s a risk you have to take if you want to upgrade your personnel. That being said, Josh Smith has a few attributes that make for an easier transition.
After propping up the Atlanta Hawks as a solid playoff contender anchoring a defense alongside Al Horford, it’s hard to imagine Smith not doing similarly well alongside Tim Duncan. After all, it’s Tim (expletive) Duncan. System aside, the most important part of defensive chemistry is communication between the front line. And even if you believe that Horford was largely responsible for the Hawks success in this regard, it was still imperative that Smith follow Horford’s communications and worth noting that he’d be playing a similar role next to Duncan.
Offensively while Smith does tend to lack discipline in shot selection at time, he still produces solid offensive numbers. Most intriguing to the Spurs is his ability to move the ball and create plays. That passing would fit right into many of the things the Spurs do offensively.
@DewNO @barttbf @tomhaberstroh great defensive guy, good passer.Jesse Blanchard
@blanchard48moh @DewNO @tomhaberstroh True, but Spurs defensive scheme tough for new bigs to grasp mid-year. Smith not a high b-ball IQ guy.BartTBF
Smith might not be Boris Diaw, but you have some basketball IQ to defend at the levels Smith has over the course of his career. The system might take some time to grasp, but nothing makes up for a learning curve like pure athleticism and natural gifts, allowing Smith the opportunity to recover from a potentially blown rotation where only Kawhi Leonard currently has the ability on the roster.
RT @Ericb1980: @blanchard48moh @dewno @barttbf @tomhaberstroh problem is his shot selection is worse than Gary Neal and other deficiencies are standard.uncle_drew
@BartTBF @dewno @tomhaberstroh but then you realize he and Horford have propped up #Hawks all these years.Jesse Blanchard
#Spurs fans through years: "let’s trade Parker for Amare!" "Splitter/Diaw/Jax for Josh Smith is too much for that bum!"Jesse Blanchard
@blanchard48moh I’m alright with trading for Josh Smith as long as we don’t have to give up Splitter or Leonard.Jesse Gladsaget
@blanchard48moh waaaayyyy too much Splitter is finally coming through and Diaw is a rare GREAT passing big manuncle_drew
@micahgalindo @blanchard48moh smoove would be a great addition but when Timmy leaves we’ll be out a post player.uncle_drew
In response to the above Tweet I stated that Tiago Splitter is not a post player, though storify isn’t pulling it up for some reason. Splitter is quite a few useful things, but he’s not really a post player. His best work is done diving off pick and rolls and cuts, finding open spaces. Not creating them.
@blanchard48moh And our front court depth is Duncan then some mix of Pachulia, Blair, Bonner and Johnson? That does not inspire confidence.Ray Briggs II
@blanchard48moh Well, Splitter is a legit 6’11", his defense has been pretty damn good, and he fits the offense perfectly. We’ll see…Jesse Gladsaget
@BartTBF @dewno @tomhaberstroh Smith could drastically improve just by tweaking shot selection. Splitter is who he is. And Smith already >Jesse Blanchard
For the most part, Tiago Splitter has hit his ceiling as an NBA player. There will be some subtle improvements as the years go on before he declines, but by and large we have a firm grasp of who and what he is.
For Smith, something as simple as altering his shot selection would produce dramatic returns on his production, as we saw a few seasons back during an All-Star season. The effect isn’t too dissimilar from when Tony Parker eschewed three-pointers and long twos in favor of driving to the basket and elbow jumpers.
Already Smith is a better player than Splitter (who also stands to get paid by the way), and the framework is there to grow even further. I say this without counting on any potential gains the Spurs developmental staff might make on his jumper or individual skill set.
@blanchard48moh @dewno @barttbf @tomhaberstroh he doesn’t go into hero ball or chuck up bad shots. Doesn’t interrupt offense.Eric
The offense was isolate Joe Johnson for most of Smith’s career. Johnson was the player responsible for ‘hero ball’ in Atlanta.
@blanchard48moh His ill timed jump shots (especially when he ventures to the 3pt line) have left a bad taste in people’s mouth(M). Jones
Valid point. But the shot selection shouldn’t completely invalidate the rest of Smith as a player. People are talking like he’s Ricky Rubio bad on offense, and he’s simply not.
@blanchard48moh @hpbasketball Related: That shot selection is why he’s not a max player. Also, not really a leader.Frank Santos
@blanchard48moh @HPbasketball He needs to play on a team with a good pg/head coach. Hes not a max player because hes a 2nd option not firstJohn O’Connor
@imsohideouss @yowhatupT @blanchard48moh His tendency to shoot 22 foot jumpers clouds everything.Ahmad Alowaish
@Ericb1980 @dewno @barttbf @tomhaberstroh if Smith brought good shot selection and half his D and passing, people would rate him much higherJesse Blanchard
Josh Smith now is probably a more useful player than Amare Stoudemire was back when Spurs fans wanted to trade Tony Parker for him.
@blanchard48moh @DewNO @tomhaberstroh Wouldn’t argue that at all. Just think Smith is a lot more deficient than you do. I’d rather have Al.BartTBF
@blanchard48moh @HPbasketball @bqrmagic @tomhaberstroh They realize that Al Jefferson is a revolving door on defense right???David Walker
It’s another argument, perhaps for a different day, but Jefferson would be a much bigger adjustment than Smith. Sure, he’s a post player, but he’s never really been one to open the floor for cutters or shooters. A lot of it has to do with the type of post game he has. It’s gorgeous to behold, and the soft touch on the hook shot has great range. But it avoids contact, and therefore free throws, ruining some of the efficiency.
George Karl once stated that the worst offensive possession in basketball is a post play that doesn’t get to the rim. I feel this applies to a good chunk of Jefferson’s game.
And while Jefferson would be the second best defensive rebounder on the Spurs, his dreadfully slow on his feet and in rotations. In a vacuum Jefferson is the superior player to Splitter, but lacking an offensive game that makes his teammates better, it’s better to have a skill set that complements Parker than one that stands outside of it.
@blanchard48moh I don’t think people realize what a good passer Josh Smith is.Trevor Zickgraf
@blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh Zaza would be a legit backup center, Ivan is serviceable. Losing Diaw AND Splitter would suck, but Smith…Metal Gear Mikey
@blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh …can rebound and has playmaking abilities, too, covering those bases.Metal Gear Mikey
@blanchard48moh If Smith would agree to work with Chip, he would probably start hitting those much maligned long 2s and 3s (at least the 3s)micah galindo
@blanchard48moh @Arto09 Smith would be a huge upgrade, especially against OKC and Miami, but not if we lose him this summer.micah galindo
@BQRMagic @blanchard48moh @tomhaberstroh love it for Spurs. If Atlanta did that deal, Danny should set the building on fire on his way out.Hardwood Paroxysm
@imsohideouss @yowhatupT @blanchard48moh SAS said while "hes no scrub," Josh Smith is simply an "above average player." Huh? Seen him play?Evan Kulhawik
@viagraofchaos @imsohideouss @blanchard48moh No doubt, but a lot of people are acting like he’s a bum.Trevor Zickgraf
@blanchard48moh @HPbasketball @tomhaberstroh Spurs fans don’t like trades that involve Stephen Jackson, just a simple fact.Ray Briggs II
@LordXarRahl @blanchard48moh @HPbasketball @tomhaberstroh Because Spurs fans are afraid of the Diss Rap from Stak5 #trillSpursBorg
And now we get to the bottom of it. Stephen Jackson forever.