It’s no secret that the Phoenix Suns are trying to acquire a star player. Last offseason, the Suns signed Eric Gordon to a maximum offer sheet, but the New Orleans Hornets matched the contract. In recent weeks, Phoenix tried to acquire Rudy Gay, but the Memphis Grizzlies decided to send him to the Toronto Raptors instead.
Now, after missing out on Gordon and Gay, the Suns have shifted their attention to a new star that may be available prior to the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
The Suns are pursuing Josh Smith, according to multiple league sources. Phoenix will try to acquire Smith before the deadline or, if that fails, through a sign-and-trade deal next offseason.
The Suns are very interested in Smith and have had exploratory talks with the Atlanta Hawks about the 27-year-old forward. Phoenix views Smith as a franchise player who can be one of the cornerstones of the team for years to come. The Suns have been searching for a face of the franchise since Steve Nash’s departure last summer, and Smith could be exactly that. If the Hawks decide it’s time to part ways with Smith, the Suns will be one of the teams on the phone.
Phoenix has attractive assets, particularly Marcin Gortat, who could play alongside Al Horford and give the Hawks one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference. They also have Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley as well as the expiring contracts of Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown (whose 2013-14 salary is non-guaranteed), Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O’Neal. Phoenix also has several first-round picks – their own pick and two additional first-round picks that they acquired in the Nash trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Johnson trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luis Scola could also be involved in the trade, but only if the deal is a sign-and-trade since he can’t be traded until July 1 due to the fact that he was signed by the Suns after being amnestied by the Houston Rockets.
Smith and his agent, Wallace Prather, are expected to meet with the Hawks at some point this week to discuss the forward’s future in Atlanta. The two sides met after Smith’s one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but Smith’s camp didn’t demand a trade. It’s unclear if Smith and Prather will ask for a trade during this next meeting, although many people in NBA circles believe that Smith’s days in Atlanta could be numbered. In recent weeks, more teams have been calling the Hawks and inquiring about Smith, especially since his public comments about being “a max contract player.”
While the Suns will express interest in Smith, they aren’t the only team that will make a run at the star forward. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Smith.
If the Suns trade for Smith and re-sign him over the summer, they could have as much as $20 million in cap space still left over, assuming all of their current options are declined and next year’s cap sits at $59 million as projected. That means they can add Smith and still have money to sign a second big-name free agent such as Dwight Howard or more realistic options like Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala or Paul Millsap.
The Suns have been actively trying to acquire a star player for the last six months, and they’ll continue to swing for the fences in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. If the Hawks decide to move Smith and get something in return for him rather than letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent over the summer, don’t be surprised if the Suns are one of the teams trying to acquire him.