Jan 30, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith (5) in action against the Toronto Raptors during the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Rumors: Josh Smith-Marcin Gortat Swap? The Post-Rudy Gay Trade World

The first real domino of the NBA trade season has fallen, as the Memphis Grizzlies sent Rudy Gay off to Toronto in a three-team deal last night. With the trade deadline about three weeks away, expect to start hearing a lot more trade chatter from around the NBA.

Speaking of which, Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD says the Phoenix Suns are interested in Atlanta’s Josh Smith, with a potential trade package centering on Marcin Gortat. Because, when you have one underperforming, possibly malcontented, left-handed combo forward (Michael Beasley) on your roster, you can best fix the problem by acquiring another.

It’s hard to say what else Phoenix gives up — Wes Johnson’s expiring contract seems like a good bet — but we’ll see. Gortat would fit well next to Al Horford, allowing Horford to play at the four, which is his more natural position. But with Atlanta still potentially in the mix to compete for Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard this summer, a deal seems unlikely.

Rip Hamilton

Jan 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls shooting guard Richard Hamilton (32) is defended by Charlotte Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson (9) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Bobcats 93-85. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

In other NBA news, Rip Hamilton is still on the Chicago Bulls and is rapidly losing minutes to Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli. It’s getting harder and harder to justify keeping Rip around past the trade deadline — especially when the Bulls would avoid paying the luxury tax this year if they can shed about $4 million from their payroll (Rip makes $5 million this season).

I have maintained that the most likely destination for Rip is Phoenix — they have world-class trainers to keep him healthy, a dearth of wings and enough cap space to absorb his deal outright — but a potential Josh Smith deal might mess with that. Phoenix has about $6.5 million in cap room at the moment, so the Suns couldn’t absorb more than about $1.5 million in salary in another trade and then take Rip for nothing.

Other options would be Houston — about the same amount of cap space as the Suns, but no real use for Hamilton — and Cleveland. Cleveland makes the most sense, if we’re assuming Phoenix isn’t an option, but their recent acquisitions of Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby makes that seem unlikely. Orlando and Denver have trade exceptions big enough to fit Hamilton’s salary, but neither team has any reason to take on more money without getting something significant out of it.

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