Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins are the only Hawks players guaranteed to be in uniform next year–that’s it.
No Jeff Teague. No Kyle Korver. No Zaza Pachulia. And of course, no Josh Smith.
Smith, of course, is drawing the most buzz as he has been a star for his hometown team for all nine years of his career. He owns a Dunk Contest victory, an All-Rookie Second Team selection, and multiple All-Defensive Second-Team nods. He became the youngest player in NBA history to record 1,000 blocks, and is largely considered to be the face of the Atlanta Hawks.
But as the Smith disparagers like to point out, there are no All-Star game appearances, no first teams, no MVP’s and no World Championships.
And with Smith claiming he is worth a max deal this off-season, there is a lot of speculation on whether or not Atlanta is willing to invest that type of money to keep him, or if he even wants to be in Atlanta.
Early reports have listed the Phoenix Suns as a potential landing place for Smith, but it is still early and everything is just speculation at this point.
Smith averages 15.3 points per game in his career, to go along with eight rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game.
To compare, LeBron James, who is a year older and is a max contract player with the Miami Heat, averages 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and .8 blocks per game in his career.
Now, to be fair, James is considered one of the greatest players of all-time who recently won his fourth MVP award, has played in nine All-Star games, has been named Finals MVP, won Rookie of the Year in 2003 and has been named NBA Player of the Week 43 times.
But that is the company that Smith thinks he is worthy of joining, at least from a financial standpoint.
The NBA has a very unique structure in terms of its contracts and because Smith is a nine year veteran he is only eligible to receive a maximum deal of five years in the range of $94MM. If Smith were to ink a one year deal per-say, and hit free agency again next off-season, he would then be eligible for the 10 year veteran pay scale which would allow him to ink a deal of the same length, but a higher maximum dollar value around $105MM.
The odds of Smith choosing to play under a one year lame duck contract are slim to none, but still an option that could land him millions more in the long run.
Some teams expected to have enough cap room to sign Smith, or another max player deal, are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Milwaukee Bucks. According to many media sources, the Bucks tried to work a trade with the Hawks for Smith earlier this year, but the deal never materialized.
Where he will call home next year is a big mystery that over the course of the next few weeks will start to play out. Chances are, Danny Ferry will not be willing to give Smith the payday he is looking for, and the Hawks go into the ’13-’14 season without the face of their franchise the past nine years.
This off-season should be one Hawks fans never forget.