The idea of trading Josh Smith has been coming for about two years, but for various reasons, the Atlanta Hawks never proceeded in that direction. Now, with Smith being suspended for whatever reason and the Hawks’ recent losing streak, it may seem he’ll be leaving the team before his contract expires.

In any case, Smith is a free agent at the end of the season, and it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be re-signing with the Hawks. Last season there were rumors that suggested the Hawks might try to send him somewhere before losing him for nothing, but instead got rid of that terrible Joe Johnson contract, thinking it’s better to continue with a lot of mediocre talent around Josh Smith and Al Horford.

After a 20-10 start, the Hawks lost six of their next seven games, with coach Larry Drew complaining more and more about the lack of effort from his players on the court. After a humiliating 58-97 loss against the Chicago Bulls, in which Smith scored 9 points while shooting 4-14 from the field, Smith was suspended and didn’t play in the 109-95 win against the Brooklyn Nets, making the Hawks 3-0 this season when Smith isn’t playing.

While there is interest in Smith, especially from the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, knowing that he becomes a free agent at the end of the season is a problem. Without reassurances regarding his future with his next team, there’s a good chance those interested in him across the NBA will be waiting till he hits free agency.

Smith turned 27 last month, and is averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds this season, clearly showing a drop in his ability, with numbers decreasing in pretty much every statistical category. His defense, like the rest of the team, has been absent quite often during the last couple of weeks, maybe starting to feel it’s time to make a push towards an exit from the Hawks.

The Hawks have been the definition of mediocre over the last few years, never getting past the second round in the postseason. They’ve been pondering about breaking up the roster that has been a part of that limited success for the last couple of seasons, but maybe these actions regarding Smith and the trade of Joe Johnson this offseason means the Hawks are beginning their rebuilding project, regardless of whether they make the postseason or not.

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