Over the last few months Josh Smith has continuously found his name thrown into the trade rumors by teams in desperate need of an All-Star forward. However, the Atlanta Hawks would be hard pressed to find an offer that will actually make them a more competitive team than simply playing out this season and taking advantage of the cap space to bring back their core players and add an even stronger supporting cast.
The 27-year-old Smith is following up last season's career year with another solid season, averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. He has consistently been the go-to guy for the Hawks, and is providing the team with strong contributions in every aspect of the game.
Not only has Smith found a lot of success as the focal point of the offense after Joe Johnson was traded to Brooklyn, but the Hawks have found their rhythm and are currently fourth in the East with a 20-14 record. The early part of this season has been a great sign for Atlanta that the main core players of Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague are capable of being competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Smith and the Hawks were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension at the beginning of this season, but the fear of seeing Smith walk in the offseason should not push Atlanta to make a trade.
According to HoopsHype.com, there are really no competitive teams that will have the cap space to pull Smith from the Hawks, especially since San Antonio's age and the Clippers' contract extension with Blake Griffin will greatly limit his more favorable options.
In an interview with Fox Sports, Smith even stated, "I never said one time that I wanted to leave Atlanta," which indicates that it is likely Atlanta is the preferred destination for the soon-to-be free agent. General Manager Danny Ferry did a great job this offseason bolstering the supporting cast in Atlanta, therefore there should be little doubt that Atlanta will find a way to bring Smith back on a fair contract extension.
If the Atlanta Hawks elect to not trade Smith, they will have significant cap space after the season with only a little over $18 million committed to three players, as reported by HoopsHype.com. Even with the Hawks re-signing Smith and Jeff Teague this summer, they will have ample cap room to add another impact player or revamp their bench.
In reality, there are few trade targets out there that would provide equal value for what Smith will be capable of providing the team over the next few seasons, and such a move could greatly hurt the chemistry that is slowly building in Atlanta. The Hawks' greatest opportunity to build a championship-caliber team is to simply wait out the season as a highly competitive Eastern Conference team and use the available cap space and exemptions to find the missing pieces to this already talented team.
The Atlanta Hawks clearly have a bright future with the core players currently on their roster, and the first step toward reaching their goal of winning an NBA championship is to hang up the phones and lock up Josh Smith at the end of the season.