Could Pistons again be interested in Josh Smith?

Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) is fouled from behind by Milwaukee Bucks guard John Salmons in Game 7 of their NBA Eastern Conference NBA basketball playoff series in Atlanta, Georgia May 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The Atlanta Hawks signed center Al Horford to a five-year, $60 million extension Monday; this follows an offseason where they signed star Joe Johnson for a ridiculous $120 million and have more than $55 million locked up for next season with vital bench player Jamal Crawford hitting free agency. With all that money committed, speculation has already seeped out of Atlanta that the Hawks are looking to move the hefty contract of Josh Smith, because they can’t afford to keep the versatile power forward. The latest word comes from Joe Dumars superfan and ESPN’s resident history teacher/NBA expert Chad Ford:

While Horford’s new salary won’t push the Hawks into the luxury tax, it will put them very close. The move means they won’t be able to afford to re-sign Jamal Crawford, or replace him with a similar salaried player next season, without incurring the tax.

That situation is already leading to speculation that GM Rick Sund may be forced to put Smith on the market soon. Sund briefly flirted with trading Smith last summer, before pulling back. While no one is claiming he’s been made available yet, a number of GMs around the league expect his name to be in the mix by the February trade deadline.

In 2008 word in NBA circles ran hot and heavy that the Pistons were enamored with the then-disgruntled Smith, and were looking to make a move. That never happened of course, but that doesn’t mean the Pistons aren’t still interested. And now they might just have the assets to entice the Hawks into making a deal.

It would center, of course, on the expiring contract of Tayshaun Prince and could involve a swap of overpaid players at positions of need, with Charlie Villanueva sliding into Smith’s power forward role next to a center who can compensate in both size and ability for some of V.’s shortcomings, and Marvin Williams filling in for the departed Prince and perhaps a player such as Dajuan Summers who could slide into the three or the four where the Hawks are particularly thin and you would probably need to throw in a draft pick, although I think you could make it heavily protected.

For all the wailing about being overpaid, Villanueva actually makes less money than Williams, although the final year for V. is a player option whereas Williams has a mutual option in 2014.

Josh Smith is a dynamic player who has really blossomed since he stopped considering himself a 3-point shooter. In the past two seasons he has averaged roughly 15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 steals per game and plays great defense, doesn’t foul too much and handles the ball well for a power forward. He’s one of the great all-around players in the league, and I think he remains underrated. And the best part is, he is only 24 years old.

Williams signed a big contract extension prior to last season when it seemed like he was going to be a great glue player, a guy who you could count on to lock down the opposing team’s best wing player while also able to consistently spot up and hit long-range shots. After he signed his big contract his defense stayed in tact, but his shot largely left him. He doesn’t do much else offensively, so when he’s not hitting his shots he largely gets lost in the shuffle. He does, however, have terrific athleticism and long arms (Joe D.’s achilles heel) and uses that to be a pesky defender and quality rebounder from the small forward position. While he wouldn’t replace the offense of Villanueva, he would more than make up the difference in his positive defensive contributions.

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Tags: DaJuan Summers Josh Smith Marvin Williams Pistons Tayshaun Prince Trade Trade Speculation

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