The contract status of Josh Smith has been one of the underlying themes of the 2012-13 season. The arrival of Danny Ferry last offseason has seemed to keep the matter much more low key. It certainly hasn't turned into a circus the way we have seen with others such as LeBron James and Dwight Howard in recent seasons.
However, a one-game suspension of Smith started trade rumblings and while the Hawks are playing better, the offseason wheels will soon be turning full force. To Smith's credit he hasn't talked a whole lot about his contract status. He has left it up to fans and the media to debate what he might be worth in free agency. Smith talked about that number on Friday with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz:
"I feel like I'm a max player," Smith said Friday.
"I feel I bring a lot to the table. I have a lot of versatility. For what I do and what I give this ball club, I feel like I'm worth it."
As Schultz points out in the article, the Hawks have handed out exactly one max contract in their history and that was the often ridiculed 6-year $123 million deal given to Joe Johnson in the summer of 2010. Smith will be eligible for a 5-year deal worth approximately $94 million this offseason.
Smith has been an integral part of the Hawks' success during their run of playoff appearances. He has also been the source of a lot of frustration. This offseason, Ferry will have to decide if Smith is capable of leading the Hawks to their stated goal of championship contender.
There will be plenty of suitors for Smith even with the max price tag. However, they may not be from teams that are championship ready. As long as Atlanta holds onto Smith they can offer him more money and a longer deal than any other team. If Ferry decides that it will take the max to sign Smith and that the price is too high, then he may opt to move him before the February trade deadline.
Josh has watched teammates Al Horford and Johnson receive extensions from the Hawks. When Smith first entered restricted free agency, the Hawks told him to go find a deal. Smith found one with the Memphis Grizzlies that the Hawks quickly matched. No doubt Smith feels like it is his time when it comes to a contract and the Hawks. Now he must wait and see whether Ferry sees things the same way.