The Sports Bank will be counting down to the opening tip of the 2012-13 NBA season with team by team previews starting with the worst and working our way to the title contenders. There is no lockout this time around so let’s get going.
Having failed to get past the Eastern Conference Semifinals with their previous core, the new Atlanta Hawks front office made the bold decision of entering a rebuilding mode by dealing their star player, Joe Johnson. As a result, the A-T-L should take a pretty steep drop in the standings as they undergo some transition.
2011-12: 40-26, 5th in Eastern Conference
Predicted EC Finish: 11th
Projected Depth Chart:
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia/Johan Petro/Keith Benson
PF: Josh Smith/Anthony Tolliver/Ivan Johnson/Jordan Williams/Mike Scott
SF: DeShawn Stevenson/Kyle Korver/Damion James
SG: Anthony Morrow/Louis Williams/John Jenkins
PG: Devin Harris or Jeff Teague
Atlanta’s off-season was: blowing up the ship. New Hawks general manager Danny Ferry fixed the previous regime’s mistake of giving Joe Johnson max money two years ago by shipping him to Brooklyn for crappy expiring contracts and a future first rounder. It was absolutely getting five cents on the dollar but part of the bigger picture for a franchise that just couldn’t emerge as one of the top out East.
Ferry also cut the cord on former second overall pick Marvin Williams who never lived up to expectations. Swapping Williams for Devin Harris who is in the final year of his deal was a smart move since Williams still had one year left on his contract. Atlanta also made a couple of minor moves that will help the team in the short term; like signing Louis Williams to an affordable deal, acquiring Kyle Korver (another free agent in 2013) for next to nothing, and drafting sharpshooter John Jenkins. Ferry clearly has a vision as to where this team should be heading and certainly was not shy about pulling the trigger on some major moves to free up cap space for the future.
2012-2013 will be a success if: the Hawks can return to the playoffs. Atlanta has a solid run of five straight post-season appearances and I would be surprised if they can make it six in a row. I don’t see Al Horford and Josh Smith being a one-two punch that can extend the Hawks season (assuming Smith remains on the roster.) The team will need a bounce back year from Harris and a career season from Morrow to have any chance of tasting the playoffs. Even teams like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Toronto will probably surpass the Hawks in the standings this season.
2012-2013 will be a disappointment if: Smith remains on the roster all season long and then leaves next summer via free agency. Ferry’s next decision will be what to do with Smith. He is certainly a tradeable asset that could net Atlanta some expiring contracts, young players, and/or draft picks in return that will accelerate their rebuilding effort. I can’t see Ferry willing to open up his wallet and giving Smith a monster extension plus you’d have to imagine Smith would rather test the market than re-up with a team clearly going through some transition. Personally, I would be really surprised to see Smith still in a Hawks uniform after the trade deadline.
Looking ahead to next summer: Cap space will be plentiful as Horford, Williams, and Jenkins are the only players guaranteed to be under contract which totals about $18.2 million. That means the Hawks will have a ton of flexibility to make a run at some of the marquee free agents if that’s the route they choose to pursue. If not, expect Atlanta to try and load up on draft picks so they can follow the OKC blueprint that a ton of teams are utilizing and build through the draft while being smart about not overpaying mediocre talent with pricey, long term deals. I wouldn’t rule Ferry trying to shop Horford as well.
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.)