2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks

2011-2012 Record: 40-26, 2nd in Southeast
Stat Leaders: Joe Johnson, 18.8 ppg. Josh Smith, 9.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg. Jeff Teague, 4.9 apg.

Depth Chart

C - Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia
PF - Josh Smith
SF - Marvin Williams
SG - Joe Johnson
PG - Jeff Teague

Unrestricted Free Agents: C Jason Collins, C Erick Dampier, GF Tracy McGrady, G Kirk Hinrich, G Willie Green, F Vladimir Radmanovic, GF Jerry Stackhouse, F Ivan Johnson, G Jannero Pargo

The Good: After missing the playoffs for eight straight years, Atlanta has found their way into the post season for the last five years. Even though it does not seem like it, they have actually advanced to the semifinals three of those years. Any team would love to have a trio of Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Smith, in particular, had his best season and has become an all around force. He is very athletic for the power forward position, a great shot blocker and rebounder and has range on his jump shot. He should not be taking any three pointers, and if he focused on his post up game could become a much more efficient scorer. Bloated contract aside, Joe Johnson had another nice season, averaging almost 19 points per game and shooting a good percentage from the free throw and three point lines. The Hawks have done a nice job of slowly bringing along Jeff Teague. He was a full time starter for the first time this year. Only 23, he predictably had an up and down season, but looks like he could be a Mike Conley type for the Hawks in the future.

The Bad: The Hawks still managed to win regular season games even though they lost Al Horford for nearly the entire season. Horford is miscast as a center, but is the Hawks best down low presence and is a good defender and rebounder. Zaza Pachulia filled in admirably but this team is not going to win in the playoffs without Horford. The Hawks resigned Marvin Williams to a contract worth about three times more then Williams is, probably to justify picking him over Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Williams is what he is at this point, a mediocre combo forward who be best as a backup forward. There is not much to like about him. The Hawks have a good lineup, but I think they would be much better if they could land a real center, move Horford to the 4, Josh Smith to the 3 and Williams to the bench.

Key Free Agents: The Hawks entire bench are free agents, and we could potentially see every player leave. Atlanta would like to resign Ivan Johnson, who is their toughest player and one of their best rebounders. He was a nice find. McGrady also played pretty well and could be brought back, though he may want to see if there is a starting job for him out there somewhere (there won't be). Amazingly, Jerry Stackhouse lasted the entire year on the Hawks bench. He won't be brought back.

Projected Cap Space: -$2,921,971. That is with just six players under contract, by the way. The Hawks are stuck with a playoff but not championship caliber roster because they simply lack the flexibility to make any moves. Joe Johnson was signed to a monstrous contract that will remind everyone of Rashard Lewis in a couple years. Josh Smith and Al Horford are both making over 12 million dollars a year. Marvin Williams continues to rob the Hawks to the tune of 8 million dollars per year.

Amnesty Possibilities: If I was running the Hawks I would amnesty Joe Johnson right now and not look back. The Hawks bid against themselves a year ago and signed him to an asinine extension. Johnson is a good player and can be a second or third best player on a championship team. You just don't give a guy who can score 20 points per game and not much else 20 million dollars a year. The Hawks won't amnesty Johnson. If they want to build their bench at all cutting ties with the forever disappointing Marvin Williams might be the way to go. Williams is due 16 million over the next two years and is strictly backup material.

A Tracy McGrady Jerry Stackhouse back court would
have been great ten years ago.
Free Agent Possibilities: The Hawks are in the red salary cap wise so like last year they will have to try to piece together a decent bench with cheap veterans. The team needs a backup at every position. Just guessing here, but five veterans who could be had for the minimum at each position are Ronnie Price, Michael Redd, Bill Walker, Chris Wilcox and Aaron Gray. Or they could just resign Green, Johnson, McGrady, Radmanovic and Collins.

Draft Possibilities: The Hawks will be picking 23rd. This draft is deep enough that Atlanta can find a guy who can step into the rotation right away at this spot. Atlanta has absolutely no bench, so they could just go best player available. If they want to go low upside but instant production, they could go after someone like Draymond Green or Jeffrey Taylor. Both guys are seasoned, talented small forwards who should give you 20 minutes a game right away. Do they want to aim higher and land a potential starter? If so going after someone like Tony Wroten, Fab Melo or Moe Harkless would be a good idea. Whoever the Hawks draft, they need to get a guy who can play right away.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: The Hawks have remained status quo for years and have nothing to show for it except a bunch of humiliating playoff losses and zero Conference Finals appearances. Atlanta is a perennial playoff contender, which is more then the team could say for the decade or so before they started making the playoffs, but they will never be a championship contender with this current nucleus. The problem is the team does not have any financial flexibility, and if they want to add talent they are going to have to trade Al Horford or Josh Smith, their only tradeable assets. Smith has been rumored to be on the block for years. I expect the Hawks to return with mostly the same team next season and suffer another first round exit.

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Jonathan Carrano

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