Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 2/14/13
Nba-bucks-hawks-apr
ATLANTA With a 108-76 thumping of Orlando on Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks head into the NBA All-Star Break with a bit of momentum and at least one major unanswered question. At 29-22 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks have won three out of four but sit only two games behind Indiana for third place, as the NBA trading deadline looms on Feb. 21. With 31 games left to play, the Hawks hold a seven-game lead over the 76ers for the final playoff berth in the conference, making them a virtual lock for a sixth straight trip to the postseason. In the grand scheme of things, whether or not the Hawks reach the postseason should take a back seat to bigger questions, especially since making the playoffs is not the major accomplishment of five years ago (ending an eight-season drought). With a flurry of deals shortly after taking over last June, first-year general manager Danny Ferry began his process of remaking the roster. After acquiring a slew of players owning expiring contracts, Ferry will continue that process in the coming offseason. The most pressing question that Ferry must answer in the next seven days: What to do with pending unrestricted free agent forward Josh Smith? In his ninth year with Atlanta, Smith has already stated his desire to be a "max money" player. When Ferry took over, he cited salary-cap flexibility as one of his primary objectives for building the club. That is, he does not want to box himself in under the leagues cap with too many high-salaried players. That was the rationale behind two trades, sending Joe Johnson to Brooklyn and Marvin Williams to Utah. Ferry freed up cap room to acquire his own players, as opposed to being stuck with the same core, as his predecessor Rick Sund largely was, especially after re-signing Johnson to a max-dollars contract (six years, 126 million). The NBAs new Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it extremely punitive for teams to exceed the cap and pay the luxury tax. Already, there is talk that LeBron James will opt out of his contract following the 2013-14 season and that Miami will not be able to keep him, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together; that the Los Angeles Lakers will soon have to make difficult financial decisions involving Dwight Howard. Whether to retain Smith is the question Ferry must answer with a player who unquestionably has high-end talent but, for whatever reason, has never made an All-Star team in his nine seasons. Its not as if Ferry has not had enough time to make up his mind. By now, he should have had a large enough sample size to determine his next move. For his part, Smith, who has been the subject of plenty of trade rumors recently, has played some of his best basketball over the last four games, averaging 24.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.7 assists and shooting 53.7 percent. "Well, Ive been playing well," Smith said after Wednesdays game, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I guess my game speaks for that question. Im not worried about any outside distractions from the media, all the hearsay, and I just play my game and not worry about anything else." Its difficult to think about how Smith's play should be characterized. Is he showcasing himself in order to try and get himself traded? Is he showcasing himself to prove to the Hawks that hes worth the max dollars he covets? Or is he simply playing to his potential, as he periodically but perhaps not quite consistently does? As mentioned earlier, it's not as if Smith is a new commodity to the Hawks. For the last six seasons as one of their best players, they have not gotten past the second round. Thats a large body of evidence. Ferry must decide if Smith can help to bring a championship to Atlanta at Smith's price. Theres also the somewhat tangential issue as to whether by re-signing Smith, the Hawks might be able to lure Howard, Smiths friend and fellow Atlanta native. Such a scenario only seems to beg more questions: Is Howard, with all of his injuries, still the player who can lead a team to the NBA Finals? Can the Hawks afford to pay him and Smith while maintaining the other pieces necessary to win at the highest levels? If the market determines that Smith truly can demand a max-dollars contract, it's also possible the Hawks could wait until the summer and pull off a sign-and-trade. No doubt, Ferry has thought through all of these eventualities. The next seven days could bring some answers as to the conclusions at which he has arrived.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Levi's Stadium's field problems continue in Super Bowl

Kevin Durant credentialed photographer for Super Bowl

Brady would be 'very jealous' if Manning wins Super Bowl

John Elway takes swipe at John Fox

Jets DT: I won't watch a Super Bowl 'until I play in one'

Hall of Fame coach: Stephen Curry is the best of all time

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Reggie Bush on NFL future: ‘I’m not retiring’

Derek Fisher blasts Rondo over triangle offense criticism

Report: Marshawn Lynch hasn't spent any playing money

Ex-King says he could do 'much better job' than George Karl

Trainer thought Thomas Davis would not play in Super Bowl

Todd Gurley named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Ted Ginn Jr. whiffs on football twice on one play, results in Panthers turnover

Kony Ealy makes one-handed interception of Peyton Manning

Mike Carey gets another call wrong on incomplete pass in SB

Steph Curry beats Panthers' "Keep Pounding" drum

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

WATCH: Panthers' Jonathan Stewart leaps over pile for TD

Aqib Talib commits three awful penatlies in first half of SB

WATCH: Broncos score TD after Von Millers sacks Cam Newton

WATCH: Luke Kuechly sacks Peyton Manning

WATCH: Lady Gaga goes over on National Anthem betting

WATCH: Tom Brady booed during Super Bowl 50 MVP ceremony

Cam Newton's cleats have 'MVP' and stats written on them

Concession prices incredibly high at Super Bowl 50

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker