Whether Josh Smith stays in Atlanta or not, the Hawks need to target other hot free agents over the summer.
Well, there’s always the summer.
Some players, like Smith, are unrestricted free agents who are entitled to go anywhere they please with no limitations. Smith is currently making $13.2 million.
Atlanta has suffered from lacking a true big man for a long time now, so the main focus should be toward the power forwards and centers up for grabs.
Still, there are plenty of other players who could make an impact on the Hawks for next season.
If the Hawks are lucky, they can have two big men named Al come the summer.
It is unlikely that forward Josh Smith will stick around in Atlanta. Then again, sports writers across the nation thought the same when he was on the trading block in February.
Dwight Howard may be the most sought-after center once free agency hits, but he won’t be the best.
The Hawks need to go for the very best in order to fill the void that has been plaguing them for over a decade.
Seriously, if Dikembe Mutombo is the last true center Atlanta has seen in a Hawks uniform, then it would only make sense to go big—literally and figuratively.
Jefferson may be the purest big man in the league. His post moves are done with such finesse and would bring tears of joy to Hakeem Olajuwon’s eyes.
The major obstacle would be the Jazz, considering how valuable Jefferson is to that organization. There is no telling what Jefferson wants in a contract, and there is no denying that Utah will do everything in its power to keep him.
That’s where general manager Danny Ferry comes in.
If he was bold and smart enough to rid Joe Johnson’s mammoth contract a year ago, he definitely could show off his astute negotiating skills in making a move for Al.
Jefferson is making $15 million currently, which is the third-highest contract among centers. Still, he ought to be the Hawks' main target.
Dwight Howard may be itching to return to his hometown of Atlanta.
Howard recently told the Los Angeles Times that he is still struggling to get back to 100 percent from a nagging back injury from last season.
It has shown, too. He has the lowest points average (16.1) since his second year with the Orlando Magic, as well as the lowest rebounds average (12) since his rookie season.
However, his attitude problem is still off-putting, as is Smith’s. Add those two big personalities together on a team that stays consistent at being middle-in-the-pack, and it may not be an ideal solution.
Howard’s free-throw shooting is still atrocious, and his post play is still limited to short-distance baskets.
But he is still one of the toughest centers on defense, and that alone is a major plus for Atlanta.
Those two factors could make Howard homesick and eager to return to Atlanta.
J.J. Hickson's play this season is above the radar.
But it should not stop the Hawks from targeting the five-year player who hails from Marietta, an outskirt of Atlanta.
Hickson is having the best season of his career, starting all 57 games and averaging 13.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, as of March 3.
He definitely lacks the size of a true center, but he makes up for it with his versatility and dominant presence on the boards.
Atlanta would gladly accept him because he is a sleeper big man who is on the rise. He will surely get more than the $4 million he is already making.
Paul Millsap's versatility and tough defensive presence would make a huge impact on the Hawks.
In terms of who stays and who goes, it is more probable that Millsap is a part of the latter category.
His numbers have decreased a smidgen this season, but he is still an effective power forward with his 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. That’s not bad for an undersized 4.
If the Hawks were to let Josh Smith go, Millsap would be a viable candidate to replace him.
Millsap is a force in the paint, but he's also a good three-point shooter—his .353 three-point percentage is an all-time high.
It could get mighty crowded there, and Millsap could be playing for a new team for the first time in his seven-year career.
The Hawks would thrive off of J.R. Smith's energy.
He is the perfect supporting player who does all the little things to help his team be successful.
And his case for Sixth Man of the Year is pretty obvious: He averages 16 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game coming off the bench.
Hawks point guard Devin Harris and his expiring $8.5 million contract will likely be shipped elsewhere.
That leaves Lou Williams starting at the 2, if he recovers in time before the season. Smith would still continue his role as the reliable source from the pine.
Or, it could be an even better scenario for Smith, with him getting a chance to start every game of the season. That would be a first for the nine-year veteran.
Smith is definitely playing for cheap with the $2.8 million he's earning right now. He is designated to make $2.9 million in the 2013-14 season.
However, Smith has a player option, where he can decided if the Knicks' offer is good enough to stay put or to look for a team that is willing to pay more.
Atlanta could be that team, because Smith is certainly proving he is worth more than his current pay.