NBA Season Wrap Up: Atlanta Hawks
This season marked the Hawks sixth consecutive playoff appearance and, once again, they failed to really leave a mark. All season, their offense and defense were both middle of the pack but were not good enough to get passed the Pacers in the first round
They've had an impressive playoff streak but now they may be on the verge of rebuilding. After his first year as GM, Danny Ferry has the most flexibility, perhaps, of any GM in the league. Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia are all unrestricted and Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent. That's four of their six leading scorers and five of their six leaders in Win Shares who all may be gone next year. The only regular contributors that will definitely be back in 2013-14 are Al Horford and Lou Williams.
Atlanta has only $22 Million in salary set aside for next year, so they could bring in one of the potential max players. They will surely give the sales pitch to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul and Atlanta is definitely an NBA destination, but they need to have Plan B if neither superstar wants to play in the ATL.
And that Plan B will likely revolve around Horford. Horford's production has increased every year (besides last year when he was hurt) and his 17-10 every night is a good place for a rebuilding project to start.
Ferry and Co. need to figure which, if any, of their free agents should come back to pair with Horford. Jeff Teague is on an upward trajectory and appears to have surpassed Harris in terms of production. Teague averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists this season and given full control over the offense, his numbers will likely improve.
Josh Smith is the big question mark. All signs point to him leaving: he wants max money, he's been in trade rumors the last few trade deadlines, and the team simply hasn't gone anywhere with J-Smoove as their star.
At this point the Hawks have two options: blow it up or go for the gold. Either they should embrace the rebuild, save money, and rebuild through the draft (where they have two picks thanks to the Joe Johnson trade) or they should leverage their cap and roster space and multiple first rounders to try to get a star or two. And hearing how much NBA players love Atlanta, the latter may actually be plausible. I think they could make the splashiest splashes of the summer and possibly start next season as a favorite to challenge Miami in the East.
Either way, it appears that the Josh Smith era has come to an end and I think Hawks fans will be happy to see someone else give Smith the money he seems to think he deserves.
Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones, Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro, Josh Smith, and Anthony Tolliver are all unrestricted free agents and Ivan Johnson and Jeff Teague are restricted.