ESPN’s Marc Stein reported earlier this week that Hawks GM Danny Ferry has been making calls to inquire about interest for his star forward. But this is where it gets tricky. Unless Atlanta can bring back a blue-chip player or asset, it’s unlikely that they’d be willing to take on any salary that compromise their chances of pursuing Dwight Howard this offseason.
At the same, other GM’s around the league are hesitant to deal out an Eric Bledsoe type prospect or a high unprotected draft pick with the risk of Smith walking after just a few dozen games. It’s apparent that Smith wants to test the free agency market, and may try to make up in two contracts what he’d be losing with one by not resigning with the team that holds his Larry Bird rights.
If Smith signs a five-year max contract, he will certainly make more money than he can anywhere else, but risks his skills deteriorating over that long time period — Smith is currently in his 9th season – and it being the last big haul of his career. But if Smith signs a short-term deal now – let’s say two years — he will again be eligible for one more big deal and be able to make up about 95 percent of the money he would miss out on now.
So that’s all there is to it, right? Wrong, we’re just getting started.
The Hawks are torn between trading Smith to clear cap room for Howard and using him as an enticing asset. Smith and Howard have a well-documented friendship, and are both Atlanta natives.
But, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe so elegantly explains, although it’s been reported that the Hawks will have a plethora of cap room ($30 million) to make a run at Howard this offseason, it does not necessarily hold true if Smith is still on their roster at the beginning of free agency. Like all departing free agents, Smith will still count against Atlanta’s cap number because of what’s called a “cap hold.” Smith’s cap hold is estimated around $16.5 million, and along with Jeff Teague’s cap hold, the Hawks will already be between $45 and $50 million on the books at the start of free agency.
If Atlanta wants to avoid the deadly luxury tax kicking in after this season, it will certainly not be able to afford a monstrous Dwight Howard contract with Smith on the books.
More from around the NBA
- As Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni continue to snip, a trade seems imminent, according to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com: Instead, alas, it simply has more of the same: An unhappy Gasol, feeling underappreciated after helping L.A. win titles and reach Finals since his arrival in 2008. And a stressed D’Antoni, clearing the distractions of criticism and expectations by doing what he thinks is right with his rotation. Which doesn’t appear to have a primary place for Gasol’s particular, not-so-fleet-of-foot skill set.
- More from Aschburner: The outcome in the Lakers’ long-ago hometown Friday – a victory over the Wolves that got uncomfortably tight for a stretch and 22 points, 12 boards and three blocks for Gasol – isn’t going to significantly change anything about the dynamic. When Howard is fit to return, he’ll start and Gasol won’t. Simple. That figures to keep the veteran forward’s name in play right up through the Feb. 21 trade deadline.