The team’s leading scorer and shot-blocker is due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He wants a maximum contract extension. The Hawks do not want to pay him a max contract. And so, to prevent him from leaving without receiving any compensation, Atlanta could trade him by 3 p.m. Thursday.
Inquiries for Smith’s services are coming in, but as of late Tuesday, no offer made sense to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.
“We’re in a unique situation with the current roster being competitive but also having good cap flexibility going forward,” Ferry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Like most teams, we’re evaluating ourselves and looking at the opportunities that come to us, especially this time of year. If there’s an opportunity that makes sense for us for the long-term interest of the Hawks, we’ll look at it closely.”
Smith said to the AJC: “I’ve just been going out and playing basketball and not worrying about anything but that. As long as I’m an Atlanta Hawk, my main concern is getting wins for this team.”
The Hawks can offer Smith a maximum five-year contract worth approximately $94 million. The most any other team can offer him is four years at $70 million.
Smith is one of eight expiring contracts on the Hawks’ roster. When all is over, they could have as much as $36 million in salary cap space.
Other unrestricted free agents include Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro and Anthony Tolliver. Only Al Horford ($12 million), Lou Willliams ($5.225 million) and John Jenkins ($1.258) are guaranteed next season. Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson are eligible for qualifying offers. The Hawks have team options on DeShawn Stevenson and Mike Scott.
“I don’t know,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said about a potential trade. “I have no idea. … I’ve been in situations where there have been potential deals that were right at the cusp and fell apart. I’ve been in situations where there has been a lot of talk and nothing happened. I have been in situations where things have happened. These situations, you never know. You don’t allow it to distract you. You don’t look at the what-ifs, the maybes. You keep taking it a day at a time.”
Smith is averaging 24.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.25 assists, 1.75 blocks and one steal. He is shooting 58.2 percent (39 of 67) from the field, including 10 for 15 from 3-point range.
“Only because I’m tired of answering the same questions, ”Smith said when asked if he was anxious for the trade deadline to pass. “Like I’ve said a couple times, I understand it’s a business. This is like my fourth year where my name has been brought up in trade rumors and trade talks. For four years, I’ve had to consistently give the same answers. Other than that, I’m not worried about anything. I think my game speaks to where my mental edge is. I’m not worried about anything but being concerned with what I have to do on the court.”