Feb 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia (27) steals the ball from Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Heat defeated the Hawks 103-90. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
All free-agent contracts are not created equal, but the Hawks lost two additional players to the perils of free agency on Saturday.
In addition to the departure of Josh Smith, the franchise will be without the services of both Zaza Pachulia and Devin Harris next season. Late Saturday night, it was reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein that Pachulia agreed to a 3-year, $15.6 million contract to head back to the Milwaukee Bucks, and earlier in the day, it was widely reported (first by Stein, again) that Harris was also returning to a former team in the Dallas Mavericks.
The Pachulia loss is certainly the more celebrated departure, as the big man had become a big-time fan favorite in recent years. Zaza spent the last 8 seasons in Atlanta, and provided stellar play both off of the bench and in his 223 starts with the team. On the court, the loss will also be felt, as he was the primary backup big man in past seasons, and it is somewhat unlikely that Danny Ferry and company can replicate his production from a cheap source.
In Milwaukee, Pachulia will earn more than $5 million per season, and that was frankly too much for his services at this stage. He is only 29 years old (despite a 10 year career), but in comparison to a market in which Paul Millsap gets only $9.5 million per season (a close-to-home example), the team couldn’t afford to step up and match that type of offer for a player who averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per season.
For Harris, his departure was much more expected. Harris will likely be best known in Hawks circles as the player that allowed the franchise to rid themselves of Marvin Williams (and more specifically, Marvin Williams’ contract), but he was pretty effective during his one-season stint. Harris averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists per game in a supporting role, and in Dallas, he joins Jose Calderon in a completely overhauled backcourt.
The “impact” of both departures won’t truly be measured until the final roster is set, but for the moment, losing both players isn’t terribly damaging. Many (myself included) believed that Harris was almost certainly gone, and Pachulia’s ability to grab a $5+ million contract made him a luxury that this regime couldn’t afford. Each player will be missed in different ways, but there is no question (simply by following Hawks-themed blogs) that the buzz around Pachulia’s departure will be loudest.