Danny Ferry is aware of what Josh Smith means to the Hawks, and it doesn’t seem that he’s ready to just let him walk, but he’s also not being overly cautious by pushing the envelope on a three year extension.
Ferry prefers to let the contract situation “be resolved next summer.” Ferry said, “I’ve been clear that I value Josh as a player…he’s worked hard this summer and I believe he’s going to have a great season.”
ESPN writer John Hollinger agrees with Ferry, predicting the power forward to have a career year, of 20-plus points per game and 10-plus rebounds per game. That would almost certainly earn Smith his first All-Star bid.
But will he remain in Atlanta?
Teams will be bidding for Smith’s services, and he will likely command a max contract of five years, $120 million. The Celtics are cap strapped. Any move to acquire Smith would require some creativity on the part of GM Danny Ainge…but Ainge is good with that, as he’s shown in the past.
Smith and C’s point guard Rajon Rondo have been long-time friends and pairing them together could spell big things for the Celtics. Smith is a premier defender and could join Doc Rivers’ squad, which notoriously prides itself on defense. He’d be the perfect power forward to replace Kevin Garnett when he does decide to finally hang it up. Throw in the fact that Jared Sullinger is developing and Brandon Bass is just entering his prime, and the C’s could have a great front court rotation.
But, make no mistake, this isn’t just as simple as “let’s go get him.” The Celtics will have to make some moves to cut contract, and other than Paul Pierce’s $18 million (expiring in two years) contract, the C’s don”t have much to match a max contract in a sign and trade, and unless the Hawks decide to re-build completely, Pierce’s contract won’t do them much good. If forced into signing and trading Smith, they will likely want to get some picks and prospects in return.