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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Why Nets should get Smith

By Mike Mazzeo

Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King said there’s only a 10 percent chance that he’ll make a deal by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. But Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith, who sources have told is Brooklyn’s top target, would be a nice pickup. Here’s why:

1. He’s good

As of Thursday, Smith is averaging 17.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from 3-point range. Plus, he’s just 27 years old.

A quick scouting report from former ESPN Insider (now Memphis Grizzlies executive) John Hollinger:

• High-flying lefty with underrated ballhandling skills. A terror in open court.
• Mediocre shooter who forces long set shots. Good left-block post player.
• Great shot-blocker and solid pick-and-roll defender. Makes mental lapses.

2. He’s better than what they have

The Nets currently employ a power forward rotation of Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries. Evans, who has excelled since moving into the starting lineup, is more suited for a bench role where he plays 10-15 minutes per game, while Humphries is having a horrible season. Evans may be a great rebounder, but he’s a terrible offensive player and clogs up the floor, while Humphries has seemingly lost all of his aggressiveness and become a non-factor. Neither of them is a great defender.

Ask scouts and executives, they’ll tell you Brooklyn’s best lineup right now has Gerald Wallace -- not Evans or Humphries -- at the four spot.

3. He’s not going to cost much -- just money

The Hawks seem intent on getting something in return for Smith ($13.2 million in final year of his contract) rather than letting him walk as a free agent at the end of the season. The Nets can offer a package that includes Humphries, MarShon Brooks, their first-round pick/Eurostash Bojan Bogdanovic. Surely the Nets would want to be certain they can lock up Smith long-term if they were to make a deal.

Asking if Smith, who has never made the All-Star team, is a max player is like asking if Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are worth $130 million combined. Probably not, but Brooklyn’s owner is a billionaire and wants to win. Luxury tax penalties weren’t an issue in the offseason, and they likely wouldn’t be an impediment to signing Smith to a fat contract.

4. He makes them better

A starting lineup of Deron Williams, Johnson, Wallace, Smith and Brook Lopez is better than one that features D-Will, Iso Joe, Crash, Evans and Lopez. Maybe it never puts them over the top since it doesn’t include LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but perhaps it makes them the second-best team in the East and they get to the conference finals. For this recently woebegone franchise, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, would it?