While visions of Dwight Howard might be dancing in the heads of Hawks fans, the future of another free-agent-to-be is more central to the team's long-term success.

He's one of their own -- Josh Smith.

Anyone who watched the Hawks last season knew it was a travesty that Smith did not earn a spot on the NBA All-Star team. He was the Hawks' co-leader in points-per-game (18.8) and leader in rebounds-per-game (9.6) while averaging 3.9 assists and 1.7 blocks in playing all 66 games. In the playoffs, he upped his game, averaging 13.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists (his points dropped off by 2.0 per game, but it's harder to score in the playoffs when defense and intensity pick up) and it's arguable that by Smith's getting injured and missing a game, the Hawks might have missed an opportunity to eliminate Boston in the first round.

For a while now, multiple reports have stated that Smith has asked to be traded, a situation that he has resisted commenting on publicly. If new general manager Danny Ferry didn't consider Smith as integral to the Hawks' future, Smith probably would've been gone already. Joe Johnson was traded despite the team's owing him $90 million and having six All-Star appearances under his belt. Marvin Williams, who also reportedly asked for a trade, was dealt almost as soon as Ferry took over.

But not Smith. Instead, Ferry met with the immensely talented forward soon into his tenure, indicating that keeping Smith is probably high on Ferry's priority list. The GM hasn't divulged too many details about the meeting, only telling FOXSportsSouth.com that "I had a good meeting with Josh. I enjoyed talking with him and enjoyed starting to get to know him."

Nonetheless, the intention would appear that Ferry is trying to get Smith to stay beyond 2012-13, after which Smith's contract expires – and that Ferry's entreaties may be working.

In a story published on Tuesday with SI.com, Smith "promptly responded, 'No'" when he was asked if he still wanted to be traded.