The draft pick that became Josh Smith was moved three different times before finally conveying into Smith being selected 17th overall by Atlanta. Smith entered into the league at 19 and quickly proved to be an effective young player being named to the 2004-2005 All-Rookie second team.
Over the 9 years he spent as a Hawk, Smith averaged 15.3 points, 8 rebounds, and 75 games per season. In 2013 Smith entered unrestricted free agency, which is exactly where the Hawks messed up. If the Hawks were willing to let him walk to Detroit, for only $2 million more annually, there was no reason to seek out a sign and trade the prior season. The Hawks were building toward something for the first time in several years. If Smith wasn’t going to be a part of that, it’s understandable, but letting him walk for nothing was a misstep.
He should have been moved in the season or two previous, which would have given the team more assets to work with as they built around Al Horford.
In 2013 Smith would prove to be past his prime, but it wasn’t by an obvious margin. And judging by the deal he got from Detroit he would have had value in that last year. Granted, that wasn’t as common a practice as it was today, and the team did at least make the playoffs that year. But still, the team was starting to build something with the core pieces it had, and Smith wasn’t one of them. It would have been better if they sold high.