With only three players guaranteed under contract for next season, the Atlanta Hawks will face a massive roster overhaul this NBA off-season that will likely include Josh Smith leaving via free agency. While landing Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul is the dream scenario, the franchise needs to have a more realistic plan of attack this summer.
Atlanta Hawks (44-38 last year)
2012-13 Season Summary:
All things considered, the Atlanta Hawks overachieved this past season. With the new faces on the roster and dealing of Joe Johnson, the team managed to finish with the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference and made the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. When it was all said and done through, the Hawks simply lacked the talent or depth to result in anything more than a first round exit from the postseason.
Al Horford and Josh Smith shared the responsibilities of replacing Johnson as the team’s go-to options. With more weight on his shoulders, Jeff Teague took a step forward in his development as a floor leader and produced his best NBA season. Newly acquired players like Kyle Korver and Devin Harris played their role well as did Lou Williams prior to suffering a season-ending torn ACL midway through the year.
Outside of that core, Atlanta lacked the depth to be a legit threat. They mixed in a combination of young players and journeymen veterans as temporary stop gaps knowing that an off-season of transition was on the horizon. Despite getting the most of this group of players, the Hawks chose to part ways with head coach Larry Drew and already named Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer as his replacement.
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Al Horford
PF: *Ivan Johnson/^Mike Scott
SF: ^DeShawn Stevenson
SG: Lou Williams/John Jenkins
PG: *Jeff Teague
NBA Free Agents:
F-Josh Smith (UFA)
PG-Devin Harris (UFA)
G/F-Kyle Korver (UFA)
C-Zaza Pachulia (UFA)
C-Johan Petro (UFA)
SG-Dahntay Jones (UFA)
PF-Anthony Tolliver (UFA)
PG-Shelvin Mack (UFA)
*PG-Jeff Teague (RFA)
*PF-Ivan Johnson (RFA)
^G/F-DeShawn Stevenson (TO)
^PF-Mike Scott (TO)
2013-14 Team Salary: approximately $18.5 million
1. Land a Star: With a ton of cap space, the Atlanta Hawks has plenty of flexibility to be very aggressive during the off-season. Landing Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul is obviously the dream scenario but the Hawks need to realistic about the chances of that happening. Maybe Howard can be convinced to return home and join his former AAU teammate Josh Smith in Atlanta but that seems like a longshot. Who knows if Smith will even want to re-up with the Hawks? Still, it’s worth a shot to empty their buckets in trying to land a pair of big name free agents.
2. Have a Plan B: If Smith moves on and Paul and Howard sign elsewhere, Atlanta should have a more attainable back-up plan. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Andre Iguodala, and others should be on the radar but only if the price is right. If the Hawks have to overpay to land a couple of the better free agents, they might be better off going the patient route and building from scratch as opposed to killing their cap space for years to come.
3. Re-sign Teague?: Jeff Teague is coming into his own but is still nowhere near an elite NBA point guard. He is a restricted free agent and due a long-term extension but how much will Atlanta be willing to pay him and will they let him walk if another team foolishly signs him to a monster offer sheet? I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving Teague anything more seven million per year.
4. Everything Else: With only three players under guaranteed contract for next season, Atlanta literally needs help at every position. With a pair of first round picks in the NBA Draft and plenty of cap space, they will find pieces but will they be the right pieces to fit whatever the team’s new identity will be next season under their first year head coach?
OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
New Orleans Pelicans
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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 and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks