One of the hottest topics in Hawks-land this off-season (short of the Joe Johnson trade madness) is the contract situation of the new “face” of the franchise in Josh Smith. Smith is locked up only for this year at $13.2 million before becoming a free agent at season’s end.
For me, this quote from Danny Ferry says it all:
“I’ve been clear that I value Josh as a player,” general manager Danny Ferry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He has worked hard this summer and I believe he is going to have great season. I’ve been in contact with his representatives. Josh and his representatives have been clear that he is excited about the direction of the team and wants to be part of the future in Atlanta. That being said, I don’t expect the contract situation to be resolved until next summer.”
Pretty plain and simple, right?
I’m sure there is ongoing discussion between Ferry and Smith’s agent, but the biggest ace-in-the-hole is this:
If Josh signed an extension today, it would be for a maximum of three years. If he waits and becomes a free-agent, he could sign a five-year deal with the Hawks or a four-year deal with another team.
If you believe that Josh is a “max” player (I don’t, but that’s another post altogether), Smith has zero incentive to lock himself up this season for only three years, and if you don’t believe that (as the Hawks may not), why would they offer him such a deal, even for three years?
One additional point to consider is the premium that the Hawks have placed on cap space going forward. Al Horford and John Jenkins are the only players signed beyond this season (Horford at $12 million and Jenkins at under $2 million) with Jeff Teague’s qualifying offer set to make him at least a restricted free agent. Does Danny Ferry really want to give Josh a max contract that would take the Hawks cap number to over $30 million with just Horford/Smith/Jenkins?
In the end, I think both sides of the Smith/Ferry contract negotiation would be in the right to let this ride until after the season and re-evaluate, and with all signs pointing to just that conclusion, it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching Josh in a Hawks uniform… at least for one more year.