The Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks are separated by just one game in the Eastern Conference. They are also engaging in trade talks.
According to ESPN.com, the Nets are “aggressively pursuing” Josh Smith. A source claims that the two sides are having discussions, but a deal is not imminent.
A potential deal would involve Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks going to Atlanta. Humphries is averaging 5.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, mostly off the bench. Brooks is averaging 5.1 points per contest with no starts this season.
Both players have struggled to get consistent minutes this season, but were very effective under Avery Johnson in 2011-2012. Last season, Humphries averaged a double-double and was fourth in the NBA with 11 boards per game. Brooks made the All-Rookie Second Team, scoring 12.6 points per game.
Despite their past performances, Brooklyn will likely have to give up more to land Smith. The report states that the Hawks want the Nets' first-round draft pick.
Brooklyn may have to include a third team to get a trade done. Marc Stein reported that Atlanta wants a young center in return for Smith, and Brooklyn would not be willing to deal Brook Lopez for Smith.
In the middle of his ninth season, Smith has been a consistent performer for Atlanta. His 16.9 points and 2.2 blocks per game lead the Hawks, who are 27-22 on the season.
Smith may be the Hawks’ best player, but his current contract situation has made him available. He is set to be a free agent in the summer, and may look to sign a maximum-salary deal. Atlanta can offer Smith more money than any other team, but they may not be willing to give him what he wants.
Instead of losing him for nothing in the offseason, there is a decent chance the Hawks will deal Smith before the Feb.21 trade deadline. A source in the ESPN report puts the odds of Smith getting traded, within the next 10 days, at 60 percent.
If Atlanta does decide to hold on to Smith, it may have more to do with their future than it does with this season. With the Los Angeles Lakers on the verge of missing the playoffs, the club may have a shot at signing Dwight Howard in the summer. Re-signing Smith could entice the center to sign with his hometown club.
The Nets pursuit of other assets could also prevent a deal from getting done. Rumors began to circulate over the weekend that Brooklyn may trade Humphries to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Ben Gordon.
Gordon would give the Nets the three-point threat that they need, and sending Humphries to another team would end any chance of them acquiring Smith. Still, the Hawks star remains their No.1 target.
Brooklyn and Atlanta may be battling for playoff positioning in the East, but they don’t seem to have a problem making deals with each other. Before the start of this season, the Hawks sent Joe Johnson to the Nets for five players and a future first-round draft pick.