The Atlanta Hawks went into the offseason with slim chances to win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, but it was enough for the Hawks to enter free agency without even extending a contract offer to their leading scorer, Josh Smith.
Instead, the Hawks waited and waited for Howard to choose the Houston Rockets and ended up wasting their time while other free agents such as Al Jefferson and Andre Iguodala found other homes with the Charlotte Bobcats and Golden State Warriors, respectively.
Once Howard made his decision during Friday afternoon, the Hawks were left with few choices to pair up with their superstar Al Horford in the starting lineup. Smith headlined the group, with Utah Jazz free agent Paul Millsap as the next biggest name in the market.
The Hawks knew they couldn’t enter free agency without making some sort of splash, but they wanted to maximize their investment if they missed out on Howard and Chris Paul. Smith reportedly was looking for a maximum contract, so the Hawks decided to go a cheaper route, agreeing to a two-year, $19 million deal with Millsap.
Despite Smith averaging 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last season, the Hawks thought there wasn’t enough value to enter long-term negotiations on a double-digit million per year basis. Smith had improved as a defender, but his willingness to take too many three-pointers and long two-point jumpers had frustrated the Hawks to the point where they were willing to let him walk.
With Atlanta now out of the picture, few teams had the ability to meet his contract demands, so Smith opted to sign a four-year, $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons, who were desperate to find a star.
In Detroit, Smith will be joining a team that is coming off a 29-53 season and is in the middle of a four-year playoff drought. The Pistons recently just hired a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks and will look to Smith to help lead a young core that features Brandon Knight, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.