The Atlanta Hawks shopped Josh Smith with a resounding vigor this winter, but the NBA trade deadline passed and Smith is still with the team. The 27-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and although he says that Atlanta will be on his list of teams to consider for a new deal, Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports is reporting that it is "highly unlikely" that Smith re-signs with the Hawks.
Atlanta moved deep into talks with the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday afternoon, but at the last minute the team reportedly torpedoed a three-way deal that would have sent Smith to Milwaukee. The trade would have moved Luc Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh, Beno Udrih, and a protected first-round pick out from Milwaukee, while additional parts from the Orlando Magic were also involved.
Earlier in the week, Tom Ziller of SB Nation NBA tackled the issue of whether Josh Smith will be worth the price the winning bidder will pay for his next contract, and it's important to note that the Hawks can offer Smith significantly more money that any other team now that they've retained his Bird rights:
Remember, Smith will be a free agent on July 1. He has said he's looking for a max deal. Given his time of service, Smith will be eligible for an estimated five-year, $97.5 million deal by the team that trades for him, assuming the league's salary cap rises as expected. (That team, however, would have some pretty amazing leverage thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement: Smith would only be eligible for an estimated four-year, $73 million contract from another team. So in theory, the team that trades for him and his Bird rights could hardball him into an $85-90 million deal over five years.)
Even if Smith and the Hawks aren't destined to reach a long-term agreement, did the Bucks and Hawks pave the way for a sign-and-trade deal this summer? Quite a bit of the trade negotiation played out in public, and at Brew Hoop they are wondering whether the Bucks got across a clear free agency message to Smith even without a trade going down.
Smith still says he "feels like a max player," so expect some extra fireworks in July.