Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
In some ways, keeping Josh Smith makes sense for the Atlanta Hawks. Dwight Howard’s unhappiness as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers has been well documented, and the Hawks just so happen to have hoards of cap space this summer when Howard becomes a free agent.
Smith and Howard have a relationship dating back to their AAU days and could simultaneously entice one another to sign (or in Smith’s case, re-sign) with the Hawks.
Imagine an opposing defense trying to score on that frontcourt.
By not trading Smith, the Hawks obviously retain his Bird rights and preserve the ability to offer him the richest contract allowable under the CBA—five years, about $100 million.
The problem is, Smith has never even been an All-Star, and it would be difficult to justify giving him a max deal. And at this point, it seems as though Howard's arrival is the only thing that could entice Smith to remain in Atlanta. If Howard decides to re-sign with Los Angeles, it’s very likely that Smith could skip town.
The other major consideration for the Hawks is that, beginning on July 1, the rules behind executing sign-and-trade deals will become far more restrictive. The Hawks will be limited to a smaller pool of teams to do business with.
We have known since December that Smith is unhappy in Atlanta. Barring a defection by Howard, Smith’s days in Atlanta are numbered.