It’s going to be an interesting off-season for the Atlanta Hawks. They enter the summer with only six players under contract for next season yet they are already above what the projected salary cap will be for the 2012-2013 season. In other words, filling out their roster and improving from last season will require some creative thinking.
Atlanta Hawks (40-26 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
Good, but not great. That simple statement sums up what the Atlanta Hawks have been the past few seasons including this strike-shortened campaign. Signed to a max contract two summers ago, Joe Johnson is expected to be the star players propelling the team. While he put together another solid season, Johnson was far from spectacular and fails to live up to the monstrous deal.
His #2, Josh Smith, posted career numbers in point and rebounds but still thinks he can actually shoot the ball from the perimeter. His versatility continues to be a major asset though. Meanwhile, Marvin Williams once again underperformed as he fails to live up to being the second overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.
The Hawks suffered a big blow when Al Horford suffered a pectoral injury that limited him to just 11 regular season games. That left an already thin Hawks frontcourt with even less depth and talent inside. Horford did return in the postseason but was unable to provide enough production to help get Atlanta past the first round.
Jeff Teague played well in his first season of taking the reins as the starting point guard though he lacks the playmaking ability to be a true distributor at this point of his young career. The man he replaced at the point, Kirk Hinrich, easily had the worst season since entering the league which points to the end of his brief time in the A-T-L.
Outside of their core, the Hawks relied on journeymen like Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jason Collins, Willie Green and even Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse to try and fill the role of rotation players. Needless to say, the depth was lacking which helped lead to their quick exit from the playoffs.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia
PF: Josh Smith/*Ivan Johnson
SF: Marvin Williams
SG: Joe Johnson
PG: Jeff Teague
NBA Free Agents:
*PF-Ivan Johnson (RFA)
SF-Tracy McGrady (UFA)
PG-Kirk Hinrich (UFA)
SG-Willie Green (UFA)
C-Jason Collins (UFA)
C-Erick Dampier (UFA)
G-Jannero Pargo (UFA)
F-Vladimir Radmonovic (UFA)
SF-Jerry Stackhouse (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $60.9 million
1. Small Forward:
It is crystal clear that Marvin Williams is not the long-term answer as the team’s starting small forward. Even head coach Larry Drew realized this as Williams came off the bench the latter part of the regular season. Atlanta would be wise to spend their mid-level exception on a player capable of starting on the wing alongside Joe Johnson.
2. Point Guard:
Jeff Teague took a solid step forward in his first full season as the team’s starting point guard. There is still room for him to develop his game but regardless, the Hawks need to bring in another point guard who can at least serve as Teague’s back-up or possibly even play quality minutes if Teague doesn’t progress next season.
3. Quality Depth:
Finding quality depth will not be easy since Atlanta is already over the salary cap and will be very limited in what they can do during free agency. Filling the roster with veteran league minimum players will likely yield a similar result as last season with a weak bench. That’s what happens when you overpay Joe Johnson the max value contract and he is eating up one-third of your team’s cap.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks