Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 7/18/12
Nba-bucks-hawks-apr
While visions of Dwight Howard might be dancing in the heads of Hawks fans, the future of another free-agent-to-be is more central to the teams long-term success. Hes one of their own -- Josh Smith. Anyone who watched the Hawks last season knew it was a travesty that Smith did not earn a spot on the NBA All-Star team. He was the Hawks co-leader in points-per-game (18.8) and leader in rebounds-per-game (9.6) while averaging 3.9 assists and 1.7 blocks in playing all 66 games. In the playoffs, he upped his game, averaging 13.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists (his points dropped off by 2.0 per game, but its harder to score in the playoffs when defense and intensity pick up) and its arguable that by Smiths getting injured and missing a game, the Hawks might have missed an opportunity to eliminate Boston in the first round. For a while now, multiple reports have stated that Smith has asked to be traded, a situation that he has resisted commenting on publicly. If new general manager Danny Ferry didnt consider Smith as integral to the Hawks future, Smith probably wouldve been gone already. Joe Johnson was traded despite the teams owing him 90 million and having six All-Star appearances under his belt. Marvin Williams, who also reportedly asked for a trade, was dealt almost as soon as Ferry took over. But not Smith. Instead, Ferry met with the immensely talented forward soon into his tenure, indicating that keeping Smith is probably high on Ferrys priority list. The GM hasnt divulged too many details about the meeting, only telling FOXSportsSouth.com that I had a good meeting with Josh. I enjoyed talking with him and enjoyed starting to get to know him. Nonetheless, the intention would appear that Ferry is trying to get Smith to stay beyond 2012-13, after which Smiths contract expires and that Ferrys entreaties may be working. In a story published on Tuesday with SI.com, Smith promptly responded, No when he was asked if he still wanted to be traded. Its interesting, Smith told SI.com. I think we have a great GM in Danny Ferry and he has a plan that hes putting together. It looks good. I really am just trying to get to know these guys, to build a relationship and see where the team is going to end up closer to veterans camp. Im just excited. We have a lot of elite shooters and I can see us being a run-and-gun shooting team. Maybe its also that fans werent the only ones who were tired of the Hawks having Johnson as their first option on offense. Johnsons absence means that Smith will get more touches and more shots. In the six games that Johnson missed, Smith averaged 23.2 points per game (Al Horford also was out at the time so the Hawks had fewer options but that remains a big jump) compared to 18.3 with Johnson in the lineup. In addition, some of Smiths best games with Johnson out came against some of the best teams in the league: 23 points at eventual league champion Miami on March 7, 27 at Indiana on March 6 and 30 against Western Conference champion Oklahoma City on March 3. In the Oklahoma City and Indiana games, Smith shot better than 50 percent (22 of 41). Ferry already has said that by adding more and better shooters to the roster, he expects to free things up for Smith. That has to be music to Smiths ears (even if fans continue to emit their collective exasperation when he lets fly a long jumper next season). Smith is such an amazing athlete that if hes defended one-on-one on the low block next season, his scoring average (and possibly field goal percentage) could skyrocket in the same manner as his vertical leap does. In the lockout-shortened season, Smith set a personal best with 1,101 field goal attempts. Johnsons fewest were his 931 last season and in his seven seasons in Atlanta, he averaged 17.6 shots per game. As a result, Smith is likely to pick up a good number of those. Back in May, Smith was singing a somewhat different tune. He gave some ambiguous answers when he was asked about returning for 2013-14. He referred to the fact that he owes his last contract to an offer sheet from Memphis, which the Hawks matched a tactic that does not seem to sit well with him. Well, I cant be extended because they didnt give me my money, he said in May. I had to go get it. Thats something I have to play it out and see how it goes from there. One thing the Hawks dont want is for Smiths situation to play out the way his childhood friend Dwight Howards has with the Magic, with the organizations very future a daily soap opera on whether he will stay or whether it can get the best return for him in a trade. One would imagine that if Ferry, who is building for the future, cant get a commitment from Smith to stay, then Smith wont be around for long. But if Smith does elect to stay, then he will definitely be bait in the attempt to lure Howard in a Christmas-in-July moment for the Hawks and their fans. You never know Smith told SI.com of luring Howard to his hometown Hawks. I mean, everybody has a possibility of getting him. To have a guy of that caliber would definitely be awesome. But he has so much going on right now that I dont want to clutter his head with any more of it. I know that hes going through a lot right now with that decision and its a long process for him. I dont really bother him about it. I just call him sometimes to check up on him and see what hes doing. For now, the Hawks seem to have a firmer idea of what Smith is doing and it seems to be in the organizations best interests.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Cam Newton get blocked by a girl playing volleyball

Russia avoids complete ban from Rio Olympics by the IOC

Report: Padres trying to move Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris

Baseball's top prospect called up to majors by Astros

Report: Braves 'aggressively' shopping Francoeur, Aybar

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Hue Jackson designing plays for Terrelle Pryor

Report: Darnell Dockett expected to announce retirement

Report: Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod

Report: D-Backs making Shelby Miller available via trade

Rex Ryan: IK Enempkali could fill void left by Mario Williams

Report: Indians have best deal on table for Chapman

Adam Silver is the new standard-bearer for league commisioners

Iowa football player held at gunpoint by police while playing Pokemon Go

Eight most significant injuries going into NFL training camp

Man. U players banned from playing 'Pokemon Go?'

Ken Griffey Jr. put on backwards hat during HOF speech

Mike Piazza honors 9/11 victims during Hall of Fame speech

Jeremy Lin hints he is racially profiled by arena employees

Why did Rio mayor offer to put kangaroo in Olympic village?

Joe Maddon wastes no time cracking Chris Sale joke

Report: Lamar Odom walked out on family intervention

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

10 NFL players set to become household names in 2016

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

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

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