NBA Rumors: Extending Josh Smith Should Not Be Atlanta Hawks’ Top Priority

Josh Smith is a very good player, but the Atlanta Hawks need to blow this entire core up. Michael Cunningham of notes that the Hawks could re-sign Smith now:

I looked at Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ and could see no reason why Smith is not eligible for an extension. It’s been at least three years since he signed the deal, it’s never been renegotiated and it doesn’t include an opt-in. I checked with Coon and he confirmed the Hawks can extend Smith’s deal (they actually have been able to do so since August).

Extending Smith further handicaps them with solid players that aren’t good enough to seriously contend. Smith is the best of the almost-greats on the roster, but the commitment won’t allow them to move on to a new era.

The Hawks need to be exploring a way to part ways with Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson first.

Yes, both of them, and possibly even Smith since he has an expiring deal and value.

Williams will almost certainly have to be amnestied as his trade value isn’t exactly high right now, but Johnson’s situation offers more options. 

One of the Hawks biggest issues is that they have no on-court leadership. Because Johnson is the highest-paid, and perceived as the best player, this role falls on him. 

It fits him about as well as a youth-size jersey fits Shaquille O’Neal

The Hawks desperately need to start a winning culture. That starts with the head coach and the star player. As long as Johnson is there, he’ll be in the latter role by default. If the Hawks want to get serious about winning, they have to get rid of Johnson.

Finding a trade partner for him will be difficult, but not impossible. He is a very productive player (18.8 points per game this year), but he’s not a No. 1 guy. He needs to play for a team that has an established star so he can be a secondary option.

If that fails then there is always the amnesty clause—if they haven’t already vanquished Williams with it. Teams have been reluctant to use this option, but the Hawks are the team I think is in the best position to pull that trigger this season. 

Is it possible that the Hawks could hold on to Smith, and still get better?

Yes, but it isn’t likely. Smith would bring serious offers if the Hawks made him available, and at this point they would be smart to entertain them—especially if it represents some financial freedom.

They are stuck in that uncomfortable state where they are good enough to make the postseason, but never serious contenders. In my opinion, that’s worse than just being plain horrible.

At least when you’re horrible you acquire assets to improve, like high draft picks. The Hawks will continue to make the playoffs with this core (thereby never receiving a lottery pick) and continue to be eliminated before they reach the Conference Finals.

Primarily because the bulk of their salary is paid to players that simply aren’t good enough to lead Atlanta to the promised land.

To get out of this state the Hawks will probably have to start from scratch.

Re-signing Smith would just be an act in the spirit of denial, and an example of over-valuing a player. He is the best player on the team, but that’s like being the fastest turtle in a race. At the end of the day, you’re all still slow.

If the Hawks are looking to ultimately get up-to-speed, they will practice some addition by subtraction.


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