Former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith is a free agent this offseason, and it's only a matter of time until the rumor mill heats up with teams that are looking to sign the 27-year-old to a long-term contract.
In fact, the rumor mill has already started churning.
Smith, who averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 blocks this season in 76 games, has been the subject of trade and free-agent rumors since general manager Danny Ferry took over in the front office.
Look no further than the midseason trade rumors to confirm that Atlanta has no real interest in keeping their one-time first-rounder in the fold. He'll likely demand a max contract when the bidding begins, as suggested by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe on Monday:
Atlanta coach Larry Drew is awaiting his fate, but with the Hawks having eight free agents, expect GM Danny Ferry to make wholesale changes. And the Hawks likely won’t allow Josh Smith to walk without compensation. To attract more suitors, the club likely will offer Smith on sign-and-trade deals. However, Smith is seeking the maximum, and interested teams may decrease.
Washburn brings up an excellent point—Atlanta will still try to facilitate a sign-and-trade to help decrease some of the pitfall from losing a player of Smith's caliber.
The Hawks are certainly candidates to go after both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard this offseason, but if that doesn't work out, getting something of value on a short contract might be the best-case scenario for everyone involved—especially with the Hawks only having three players under contract so far for 2013-14.
Take a look at three interesting sign-and-trade options for Smith this offseason, if the initial wave of suitors fails to see his worth as a max contract guy (and believe me, many will).
Boston has long been a suitor of Smith's services, going so far as to engage the Hawks on a straight-up proposal and a three-team one that included the Dallas Mavericks, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Paul Pierce was included in both of those proposals (to Atlanta in the first one, Dallas in the other).
The Celtics might want to revisit that trade scenario, in large part because the team is at the end of its rope in several departments. For starters, Pierce and Garnett are winding down long careers, and the Celtics are struggling to infuse youth into the roster.
While the team performed admirably without Rajon Rondo, there's little doubt that the star point guard is the future of the roster, and he'll need some new toys to play with in the next few seasons.
If Danny Ainge is set on adding a star, he might be able to entice the Hawks again with Pierce's salary and a throw-in player to help complete the roster. I can't see Boston and Doc Rivers lining up to give Smith a max deal, but again, that end game doesn't seem like where Smith's value fits.
With Rondo (a Smith friend), Garnett and Smith, the Celtics would have a solid core for next season and two stars for the next five years. If Boston isn't seen as an attractive place to sign this offseason, Ainge might be willing to pull the trigger on a Smith sign-and-trade deal.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers suffered a first-round playoff series loss to the Memphis Grizzlies this year and now have to worry about re-signing star point guard Chris Paul before making any other moves.
Assuming the Paul signing happens, the Clippers would be in an advantageous position to facilitate a move for Smith to come to L.A.
The Clippers haven't yet been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Smith, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense for both sides if Smith decides he wanted to team up with Paul in Hollywood.
For starters, the Clippers have plenty of contracts to throw at the Hawks.
Which tandem would you rather have?
If L.A. was comfortable making DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler available, the Hawks would get two starters for the price of one, and L.A. would get a proven scorer who would make things easier on offense for Paul, Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin.
Of course, fans will cry at the notion that Jordan is a tradeable player, but the Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski claims the Clippers briefly flirted with the idea of Kevin Garnett this year. Plus, the Clippers can't be happy with having to remove Jordan at the end of games because of his offensive inefficiencies.
Jordan and Butler's combined salary (roughly $18 million) would be right around the ceiling of what L.A. would be willing to spend per year on a guy like Smith (my guess would be anywhere from $13 to $15 million). With Paul re-signing for big bucks, the Clippers can build a new big three and then reload with cheap veterans looking to win a title.
This is probably the most unlikely scenario of the three, but Smith on the Clippers would turn Lob City into something else entirely.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have long been interested in Smith. There are several factors that make his potential place on the team in 2013-14 something to talk about in the coming weeks.
For starters, L.A. will likely be without Kobe Bryant for much of next season. Bryant, of course, tore his Achilles toward the end of the 2012-13 season and has had surgery.
Like their Staples Center neighbor, the Lakers have a free agent to take care of first. The Lakers will need to give Dwight Howard a max contract to keep him in town, and that could severely drain their resources toward any kind of other movement.
Where will Smith land this summer?
However, there are pieces in place.
Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace will both be on one-year deals next year, and if Howard could convince Smith to team up in L.A. instead of Atlanta, the Lakers could trade that pair for Smith and call it a day.
Smith's style would suit Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo pace and give Steve Nash and the rest of the Lakers a go-to option on the perimeter and in the fast break if D'Antoni truly fixes the Lakers' offensive woes this summer.
The pieces fit, but it's up to Smith to make a decision.
Like the rest of the free-agent field, Smith will likely wait on Howard and Paul to make a decision. Whether or not he avoids those two guys, teams up with one or both or bases his decision on something else entirely is still to be seen.
For now, we'll matchmake Smith to teams that could use his brand of athleticism, versatility and scoring prowess.
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