OK, so ever since the Josh Smith extension talk died down last fall, I have still always assumed he would be back no matter what. The Atlanta Spirit Group (ASG) just didn't trust Billy Knight to set his market value, they wanted someone else to sign him and then simply match the offer because Smith is a restricted free agent.
However, now the ASG has me worried. Rumors are rampant that Philly is maneuvering to open up enough cap space to offer a deal that starts at 11 million and escalates from there. Word out of Atlanta's camp is that they will not go over 11 million a year for any year of the deal (5 years 55 million is rumored to be the deal ASG wants Smith to sign). Smith is going to sign with whoever gives him the most money, and rightfully so, but the idea of not paying up for this guy baffles me.
Smith is 22 and has not reached his peak in the NBA. He has shown flashes of brilliance, and more often each season. He was a 1st round pick the 1st year the ASG owned the team and is an extremely important piece in the Hawks puzzle. There have been rumors of a sign and trade with Detroit and others, but if Philly opens up enough space to afford a huge deal, I think they might chance us not matching the deal.
When the Hawks traded for Joe Johnson, Phoenix was able to get Boris Diaw and 2 1st round picks from us because we believed they would match the deal. If word out of our camp is that we won't go over 11 million per, and Philly can offer significantly more - they might take their chances and not have to give up anything in a sign and trade.
I wish there was something I could go on that would make me feel better about this, but it is the ASG and I never feel comfortable when it comes to them and making sound decisions. Don't screw this one up - the last thing the Hawks need after taking eventual champion Boston to 7 games in round 1 is to take a step backwards - which is what losing Smith would be.