The Josh Smith era in Atlanta has come to an end.
According to various reports (first by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski), Smith has agreed to a 4-year, $56 million contract with the Detroit Pistons, just one day after the Dwight Howard “domino” fell, giving teams (including Houston and Atlanta) flexibility to discuss terms for the 27-year-old forward. This signing wasn’t a total surprise, as Smith reportedly met with Detroit early in the free agent process, but after Dwight Howard went to Houston, it was assumed in some circles that Smith would be joining him in Texas.
On the Hawks side, this move frees up a $16 million salary cap hold for the franchise, but more than that, it signals the end of a wildly interesting career in Atlanta. Smith, who grew up in Atlanta, has played for the Hawks for the duration of his 9-year career, averaging 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He was one of the (if not THE) best draft picks of the past decade for the franchise, going #17 overall in 2004, and he has been a fixture in Hawks’ fans lives for nearly a decade.
Going forward, it is unclear what the Hawks plan to do with their remaining cap flexibility. There was speculation across several channels that Smith could have gone to Houston in a sign-and-trade centered around Omer Asik, but with that option out the window, all that we know is Al Horford and Paul Millsap will be anchoring the 2013-2014 front line.
For Josh Smith fans, I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t love the move for him on the court. Yes, the $14 million annual salary was probably the biggest factor in the move, but the on-court fit is tenuous at best. The Pistons seem content to play Smith at small forward, at least some of the time, as their two franchise cornerstones, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, are penciled in at the 4 and 5 spots. My position on Smith as a player is pretty well-known (he drove me insane), but in the end, he is wildly talented, and if the light ever comes on concerning disposition and/or shot selection, he could be even better.
It will be an interesting few days for the Hawks as the team moves on from Smith, but for now, we can take a step back and remember the good times with “J-Smoove” in the lineup. We’ve known for a long time that he would most likely be headed out of town, but now that it is reality, where do we go from here?