We officially wrapped up the Atlanta Hawks 2013-2014 campaign with their report card grades earlier this month. We dished out grades for every player on the Hawks roster from this past season: discussed who was good, who wasn’t so good, who had a future with the club, and who may be playing elsewhere next season. If you haven’t had a chance to read what we thought about your favorite player, you are going to want to check those out.
I was just about to say the off-season is always a time filled with speculation, loads of rumors, and failed predictions, but then this morning came, along with the news c that LeBron James will be opting out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat, making him an unrestricted free-agent. This news came just three days after we learned that Carmelo Anthony performed the same action on the final year of his contract.
Lets just toss out the obvious, Anthony, James, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki: sure any of those guys would be great fits for any team, not just the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks would love to have any of those guys, the Hawks still have some cap flexibility, but it isn’t reasonable that any of those guys’ will be coming to Atlanta, and that is just fine.
The biggest hole a player like that would fill for the Hawks, is taking on the role of superstar. The Hawks have been lacking someone that will sell jerseys and fill the arena and be the face of the franchise, but they are not lacking in quality players. If the Hawks were to spend big money on someone, I think it would be Chandler Parsons. Although Parsons is extremely unlikely to leave Houston, he is a restricted free-agent and could become available should the Rockets lure in Anthony or James. Someone like Parsons would be a huge asset to the Hawks perimeter game.
If the Hawks do not sign a top-10 free agent, they will be a playoff team next season, if they Hawks do not sign a top-20 free agent, they will still be a playoff team next season. Let’s take a look at how.
Atlanta will welcome back their starting core from opening night just a year ago. Al Horford, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Teague didn’t have much time to show what they could do together under new coach Mike Budenholzer, and that is because former all-star Horford went down with a season ending shoulder injury just a month into the season. At the time the Hawks were sitting pretty, third place in the Eastern Conference and clicking offensively. The biggest addition to the Hawks this off-season will be Horford, who the Hawks will welcome back with open arms. Horford’s health holds the key to a successful 2014-2015 campaign for the Hawks.
Okay Hawks fans, all reports indicate that Horford is 100% and will be ready to go on opening night, so what is the next step? For me, it is simple: take care of their two restricted free-agents. Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack aren’t ranking atop of anyone’s free agency list, however these two players would play important roles off the bench for the Hawks in 2014-2015. Scott and Mack aren’t necessarily the sexiest of options, but for the Hawks they are the right options, these two players stepped up last season in the wake of a rash of injuries. Scott improved perhaps more than anybody else on the Hawks last season, and stepped up in the absence of Horford, while Mack overtook John Jenkins, Dennis Schroder, and Lou Williams on the depth chart this season, to not only grab the back up point guard spot, but also played plenty of two guard alongside Teague. The only scenario I see where the Hawks do not bring back Scott or Mack is if somebody makes an extremely generous offer that Danny Ferry does not think is reasonable to match.
Alright, we took care of the pending free-agents that should come back, now lets get to the free-agents that should not come back. Gustavo Ayon should try to catch on with a team somewhere as a training camp invite, but it shouldn’t be with the Hawks, who seemingly have enough front court depth. Elton Brand was a fan favorite for the Hawks in 2013-2014 and contributed much more than many thought he still could at this stage of his career, but at age 35, the Hawks should move in a different direction.
We already said that the Atlanta Hawks will not sign Anthony, James, Bosh, etc, but who should they sign? Last year the Hawks filled the void of Josh Smith with a whole cast of characters, and not just one guy; I think that philosophy will stand pat again. I do not envision the Hawks signing a high profile or a high dollar free-agent this off-season, but there are still some intriguing names. The Hawks should steer clear of names like Gasol, Randolph, Pierce, Stephenson, Deng, and fix their eyes on players a little bit further down the free-agent tracker. The Hawks could look to take a flier on Jimmer Fredette, Xavier Henry, or maybe a Greivis Vasquez.
The Hawks may shop Lou Williams on draft night, or perhaps any time after that. Williams is entering the final year of his contract, and didn’t seem to find a whole ton of favor in the new ball movement offense and could be expendable.
Atlanta’s off-season will most likely be similar to their regular season, not flashy, but effective. I believe the Hawks have very few roster holes to fill and they will do so in the right way. If you believe that current Hawks core isn’t enough to get back to the playoffs or make it further than they did a year ago, you may think a bigger project is necessary, but I believe the Atlanta Hawks should continue down the path that they are already on.