Josh Smith is entering the final year of his current contract with the Hawks but it is “unlikely” that he will be re-signed before the end of the upcoming season. The forward is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Don’t panic yet Hawks fans.
Under the rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, it could be advantageous for Smith, and to some degree the Hawks, to wait on a new contract. In simplest terms, if Smith re-signs with the Hawks before June 30, the extension can be for only a maximum of three years. If he waits until after his contract expires, he can re-sign for up to five years.
According to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Smith and his agents have said he would like to remain in Atlanta.
“I’ve been clear that I value Josh as a player,” 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.”
Smith and the rest of the Hawks will officially report for training camp on Monday with practices beginning the next day.
There is an element of risk for both sides in not reaching an agreement early. Smith could be injured or have a poor season prior to being eligible for the free agency market. There would be more money available to him by way of two extra years on a new contract if he stays with the Hawks. On the other side, the Hawks could lock Smith to a longer term but also run the risk of losing him to free agency.
Negotiations are not completely closed and there is always a possibility, albeit slim, that a deal could be worked out before next summer.
Smith, a co-captain last season, led the team in points (tied with the departed Joe Johnson at 18.8) and rebounds (9.6) per game. He and Jeff Teague were the only players to appear in all 66 regular-season games.
- Chris Vivlamore