The Atlanta Hawks approach a summer of change after last offseason's trade of Joe Johnson marked the first pillar to fall that will likely end an era. At the center of the change is forward Josh Smith, who appears more likely to be dealt as each day passes before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
The Hawks' outlook
Atlanta's summer is open because the majority of their roster comes off the books after the 2012-13 season. Only guard Lou Williams, center Al Horford and rookie John Jenkins are locked into contracts past this year. DeShawn Stevenson has a partially-guaranteed deal next season, but after that, the Hawks must decide how they want to piece together their future.
It's a good bet they'll attempt to work out a deal with restricted free agent Jeff Teague, who could easily be considered the point guard of the future with averages of 14.2 points, 6.9 assists and a 45.9 percent field goal percentage in his fourth NBA season.
After that, however, it's hard to say what general manager Danny Ferry will do. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! reports that it's very likely Atlanta moves Smith, meaning that the Hawks could get future pieces in return or, at the least, expiring contracts that will allow them to clear enough cap space to make a run at potentially two max-contract players.
Swirling trade rumors surround Smith
Smith is one of the NBA's most talked-about trade pieces this season, and as Wojnarowski notes, the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards are only at the top of the rumor-mill as far as interest in the forward is concerned.
While no other rumors have popped up regarding Smith's teammates, the large number of expiring contracts on the Atlanta roster means any of them could be throw-ins to a Smith trade depending on how the salaries need to match up for any deal.
Milwaukee could exchange guard Monta Ellis and his own expiring contract, or soon-to-be restricted-free-agent point guard Brandon Jennings, for Smith, according to CBS Sports.
Brooklyn could send a forward back in the form of double-double machine Kris Humphries, according to Peachtree Hoops. The Hawks could also receive a young shooting guard, perhaps MarShon Brooks, in a deal with the Nets.
Meanwhile, the rumor of Boston being interested in a trade that would ship off forwards Brandon Bass and Jeff Green doesn't appear to work in the Hawks' favor, Celtics Blog's Jeff Clark writes.
Philadelphia has been ruled out, as has an early rumor about interest coming from the Phoenix Suns. The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are two teams that could get involved as the trade deadline nears, however.
What's the gist?
Atlanta will rebuild around Horford at center and potentially Teague at the point guard slot. After that, there's enough cap space for the Hawks to possibly make a run at Lakers center Dwight Howard, who is from Atlanta and might want out of the microwave oven that is Los Angeles.