Breaking Down Why Josh Smith Is Not a Max Contract Star
His reported desire for a maximum contract is the major reason why.
In late January, Smith said for the first time, "I feel like I'm a max player," according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He went on to deliver a few token athlete quotes about his "versatility" and him "bring[ing] a lot to the table" for the Atlanta Hawks.
As of the All-Star break, the Hawks don't quite seem to agree about Smith deserving a max deal.
ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted on Feb. 18 that the Hawks "have convinced numerous teams" that Smith would be traded by the 3 p.m. trade deadline on Feb. 21. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted early on Feb. 17 that "many" were involved in a possible Smith trade, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards and "others."
The Hawks haven't entirely ruled out a maximum contract for Smith, according to the AJC. Based on the number of Smith-centric trade rumors floating around, the team doesn't appear too enthused with the idea either.
Therein lies the question: Does Smith deserve a max contract, either from Atlanta or another team?
The answer, much to Smith's likely chagrin, is a resounding "not a chance." He is an All-Star-caliber player at his best, but he's in no way deserving of a max contract due to his horrendous shot selection and overall inconsistency.
The more punitive luxury taxes for tax-paying teams will effectively create a hard cap for owners, especially once the repeater taxes kick in after the 2013-14 season.
It's now become much more difficult for a team to swallow a max-contract player who's not playing up to his salary—someone like Smith's former teammate, Joe Johnson.
And signing Smith to a max contract would be salary-cap suicide for any team considering it.
He's not on the level of Carmelo Anthony or even James Harden, both of whom can be counted upon as their team's No. 1 option each and every night. Smith is nowhere near consistent enough to be a team's primary option.
Unfortunately for Smith, that's the type of player for which max contracts should be reserved.
The man known as J-Smoove is shooting only 46 percent from the field in 2012-13, just under his career shooting average of 46.4 percent. That's solid, but not spectacular for a player expected to take most of his shots within the three-point arc. He's also attempting 2.4 three-pointers per game in 2012-13 despite being a 28.8 percent career shooter from deep.
The mid- to long-range jump shot should prove to be Smith's undoing for any team considering offering him a max deal.
Roughly one-third of Smith's field-goal attempts in 2012-13 have come from 15 to 24 feet (250 out of 756), according to NBA.com, despite him only hitting 32 percent from that range.
That's not a one-year anomaly, either. In 2011-12, nearly 43 percent of Smith's field-goal attempts (470-of-1,191) came from 15 to 24 feet, according to NBA.com. He only knocked down 169 of those 470 shots, just shy of 36 percent.
In 2010-11, over 38 percent of his field-goal attempts (400-of-1,041) came from that range, according to NBA.com, with him knocking down a surprisingly solid 39 percent (157-of-400) of those shots.
Smith has long had a penchant for his jumper, despite the now-common knowledge that long two-point attempts are the most inefficient shot in basketball in terms of percentages.
That's not to take away from what Smith can do, however. In the Hawks' first six games of February, Smith was nothing short of dominant, averaging 21 points, 10.5 rebounds, five assists and nearly two blocks per game.
He shot 54.7 percent from the field and an eye-popping 66.7 percent from three-point range (12-of-18) in those six games, despite the trade rumors swirling around him.
How much should Josh Smith make (per year) in his new contract?
When he's at his best, he's a high-flying, shot-blocking, ball-hawking, do-it-all, star-caliber player.
For teams considering trading for him by the deadline or signing him in the summer, the only question is: Will the 27-year-old Smith play at that level each night for the next four years?
If he ends up landing a max contract in the summer of 2013, will he have the same drive? Will he continue to work to improve his game? Will he listen to a coach who tells him to stop taking so many long jump shots?
If not, he wouldn't be the first player in NBA history to plateau after landing a massive new deal.
Atlanta fans are likely still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing the Hawks hand Johnson the largest contract in the "Summer of LeBron" back in 2010. It took the deep pockets of the Brooklyn Nets' billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov to absolve the Hawks of that albatross of a contract.
The Hawks can't sign Smith to a max deal in the summer if they hope to win a championship in the next five years.
Simply put, Smith isn't deserving of a max contract. He should command a deal above $10 million per year without any trouble, but $15-plus million a year should be a deal breaker for any team considering the new financial realities of the league.
At least as long as he insists on taking so many long-range jump shots.
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