AND WHATEVER YOU DO, PLEASE, DO NOT PANIC: A FREE-AGNECY BATTLE PLAN FOR THE ATLANTA HAWKS

I don’t suffer fools lightly. I mean, it’s one thing to cruise your average message board and see all these breathless “OMG the Lakers r gonna git Howard and CP3!” proclamations or your garden-variety fan that shows a profound lack of comprehension regarding the new CBA (such as the one I read where someone claimed the new deal actually helps the big spending teams). Sad to say it, but that’s all par for the course in the world of message boards.

Of course, the stuff being thrown around on the various “legitimate” Basketball sites is another story. Thanks to the lockout, I almost forgot how annoying it is to wade through ridiculous rumors and empty-headed speculation on a daily basis. Hey, the world needs dreamers and all that, but don’t expect me to be patient when trying to explain to people why Nene isn’t likely to land in Miami or why Chris Paul to the Knicks is a terribly impractical scenario under the new cap rules.

It’s not that this is a new thing, but it’s just feels more present than ever. What used to be a conversation you were likely to have in between pick-up games at your local gym or bar has now spread out to every corner of the internet, and is almost impossible to hide from.

Still, that doesn’t mean I have to deal with all that tomfoolery. Me, I’d prefer to focus on what is actually likely, or better yet, what should happen. Maybe do something like go team-by-team and talk about the one move they should make, and the one they shouldn’t.

Let’s do that then, shall we?

————————————————-



Right move
This is a tough one, but if I had to choose just one I’d say moving Josh Smith for 2 or more quality players would be a good idea. This is a team who will be bumping up against the luxury tax as it is, and with Smith having 2 years and 25 mil. left on his deal, you’ve still got time to move him and get a fair return. Considering they have over 30 million a year committed to Joe Johnson and Al Horford and neither is going anywhere (they don’t want to trade Horford and they won’t find a taker for Johnson’s contract no matter how hard they try) it makes sense for them to get some quality rotation players for Smith and try to build something around the two stars. With Jeff Teague showing signs in the Playoffs, they might be field a decent team and keep costs down. The current roster has a problem, in that it’s good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to seriously contend. I’m guessing you can shave a bunch of dead weight (and payroll) off this roster and still win roughly the same amount of games.
Now, to see if their beleaguered front office has figured this out. Don’t hold your breath.
Wrong move

I’m suddenly reminded of one of those badass commercials the NFL used to do for the United Way. Watch it and I’ll explain in a minute.
There’s a message here, one that the Hawks must heed: Please, whatever you do, do not panic.
Hey, they might be tempted to spend big to retain Jamal Crawford in free-agency or to extend Josh Smith’s contract. After all, Smith is an exciting, crowd-pleasing player (when he isn’t clanking twenty-foot jumpers left and right) who is still among the best dunkers in the league. Again, hanging on to a slightly above-average team should not be considered the strategy unless you are the Knicks or the Lakers, who fanbases aren’t likely to sit still for losing. For everyone else, the plan should be to build a contender, and the best shot they have is to trim fat, play their young guys and look to improve the chemistry. 
Oh, and while we’re at it, Marvin Williams has gotta to go. Three years and 25 million left on the contract of a guy looks like he’d rather be anywhere but on a basketball court? I’ll let Clay Davis handle this one.

Good news for the Hawks is that the “Amnesty clause” was made for this dude. Dump him now and spend some of that money on a dude with a pulse.

Bottom line


The Hawks can be a good team, and get some flexibility, if they play their cards right. Given their track record, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

-John Hathwell
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