By Ben Golliver
Josh Smith has stated that he wants every penny available to him in free agency and the Hawks reportedly aren't willing to go there.
NBA.com reports that the Hawks have informed their forward that they are unwilling to sign him to the five-year max contract that he believes he's worth and will instead shop him in advance of the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
The Atlanta Hawks are entertaining trade offers around the league for forward Josh Smith, but have yet to decide whether they will deal the ninth-year forward, according to league sources. The Hawks met with Smith's representatives this week, at which point the team indicated it was not willing to give Smith a max contract after this season, according to a source.
Smith, according to a source, is prepared to move on.
Yet the Hawks have not formally decided to trade the 27-year-old Smith, who leads Atlanta in scoring and blocked shots, and is second in rebounds and assists. Team president of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ferry is in fact-finding mode now, seeing what the market is for Smith.
The Hawks are currently 27-21 and in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. They lost guard Lou Williams to a season-ending knee injury and are in the first year of a retooling plan after trading All-Star guard Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. Their decision-making would seem to be guided first and foremost by the long-term view rather than the short-term implications of moving one of their top players.
Last week, The Point Forward assessed Smith's max contract request and concluded that the best course of action would be for Hawks GM Danny Ferry to actively explore the trade market in the short term. It's good to see that everyone is on the same page.
The competition for Smith's services next summer is likely to be fierce. The 27-year-old is in his prime years, he’s in good health and he has steadily produced for seven seasons in a row. He’s a known, albeit imperfect, quantity. In determining his value, his personality flaws aren’t as important as the fact that teams won’t be paying him on potential or putting money at risk for an aging player in decline. This is his peak earning time.
Negotiations for Smith's next deal will start deep into the eight-figure per year range. Going back a few years, the Warriors gave David Lee, now a two-time All-Star, roughly $13 million annually over six years. Smith doesn’t have the All-Star credentials or Lee’s double-digit rebounding tallies, but he’s a much more credible defender and he’s a better fit in systems that can make use of his athleticism and versatility. It’s worth noting that while the Hawks can offer him a five-year contract with 7.5 percent annual raises this summer, other suitors would be limited to four-year offers with 4.5 percent raises (the latter would max out at close to $75 million). The Point Forward's Rob Mahoney expects Smith to command a four-year max offer if and when he does hit free agency. That threat is very real. Enough teams will be in a position to offer Smith big dollars and the available talent in the 2013 class is weak enough that a rival team will surely be tempted to go all-in to land Smith as its big fish. While the Hawks probably can't expect to receive a massive haul of assets by trading Smith before the deadline, grabbing whatever picks and/or prospects they can in a deal now would seem to be preferable to getting stuck empty-handed during the summer. If they can't find the right package prior to the deadline, though, a summer sign-and-trade is one final method to acquire a return for their talented forward.