As expected, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Rick Sund announced tonight that the club has retained forward Josh Smith and matched the offer sheet of the Memphis Grizzlies, which according to several newspapers was approximately a five-year, $58 million contract.
The offer is a good value for the ultra-versatile, still-improving Smith.
It was a tough market for free agency, though the same can be said for almost every season. Each year, only a few teams have enough space under the salary cap to make a big offer to a player that they aren’t re-signing from their own team. And for the last week or two now, the Grizzlies were the only team to make a real offer to any of the select-few remaining restricted free agents.
The really good unrestricted free agents all signed deals earlier on in the free agency period.
“Tonight, the Hawks organization received an offer sheet from the Memphis Grizzlies for Josh Smith,” said Sund. “We are happy to announce that we will match their offer sheet. Ownership, management and the team are happy to have Josh return as a member of the Hawks. We look forward to training camp in October and we will continue to look at additional opportunities to improve our roster.”
Smith, whom the Hawks drafted with the 17th pick overall in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft, has finished second in the NBA in blocks per game in each of the past two years and averaged team-highs in blocks per game (2.80) and steals per game (1.57), while also ranking second on the Hawks in points per game (17.2), rebounds per game (8.2) and assists per game (3.4) in 81 appearances last season.
The 22-year-old forward from Oak Hill Academy (VA) and College Park (GA) has averaged 13.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks in 307 career games with the Hawks, and during last May’s first round series, Smith recorded 15.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.86 blocks in helping the eighth-seeded Hawks to a decisive seventh game in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the eventual NBA world champion Boston Celtics.