Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another Perspective on the State of the Roster

In what figures to be the most thorough examination this off-season written by someone not required (either by paycheck or custom) to consider the state of the Atlanta Hawks on a daily basis, Kelly Dwyer delineates the crux of the franchise's dilemma:
...this is still a solid, young team that has a chance to make itself a playoff mainstay.

But they're not championship material, even if the squad gets a best case scenario batch of contributions from every youngster on the roster over the next decade. Guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith, and the team's 27 year-old go-to player Joe Johnson are pretty good, but not the sort of transcendent stud you can bank on to move into the NBA's elite.

Consider that the Hawks have been dealing with ownership issues for years, the team just signed Mike Woodson to a potentially two-year contract extension, and it just sent some money toward Rick Sund to come in and make sense of former GM Billy Knight's up and down tenure.

Then understand that the 76ers, flush with just enough cap space once the cap holds are accounted for, can sign Josh Smith a front-loaded contract that would have the Hawks perilously-close to next season's luxury tax level (rumored to be about 71 million dollars) after the team re-signs Childress and adds to what would only be a nine-man roster once the two Joshes come back (Speedy Claxton may never play again).

The luxury tax for a team hoping to back it back to the eighth or seventh spot in the East, holding off Miami and Chicago as they race back into the playoff bracket, and with an ownership group that refused to make deals for years while they hoarded money and tried to figure out just who the head chef was. That doesn't add up.
When you read the whole thing, and you should, you'll realize that I'm fudging things a bit in dubbing this another perspective as there's nothing in the piece with which I strongly disagree. But it is a small treat for me to have the opportunity to link to a non-specialist writing something about the Hawks that's neither brief nor superficial.

Ballhype: hype it up!


Matt said...

He's absolutely right. For the kind of money we are paying this team should be way better. With all the contracts we sent to Sacramento last year, I think the list of "overpaid" guys is:
- Joe Johnson (by a couple million)
- Mike Bibby (by like 5 million)
- Speedy Claxton (all of it)
- Josh Smith (if he re-signs)
- Marvin Williams (I don't know what he makes but it's probably in line with a #2 pick)

The other rookie contracts are all decent deals, but this team is about to have no cap room and isn't going to be much better. We had to overpay to get Joe Johnson to come here, and Bibby could still earn his money if the Hawks do well this year (assuming he doesn't buy in to Woodson's offense and holds training sessions at his house). Looking at recent championship teams, you either have to overpay and blow through the luxury tax for a quick shot at the ring, or have a team full of guys willing to take less than what they could get elsewhere in order to win championships. The Hawks aren't really near either one, and I think that we can agree an NBA championship is not within their reach in the next few years.

Anonymous said...

Coming into this offseason, I really only had one hope that we could upgrade the roster, lacking a draft pick and lacking the cap space to acquire free agents once we had to resign the Joshes. We also don't have any real tradeable commodities, unless we want to break down the roster and turn everything over, but I still had a hope.

My hope was, of course, that we could get a new head coach in here who could get more out of the same players by using the appropriately, and by forcing Josh Smith to stop taking jumpshots.

Sans that, and having missed out on David Andersen, my only hope for next year is that we see marked progression from Al Horford, Acie Law, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith. Those four guys are the only four who still have any reasonable upside on the roster, and each of them will need to do more to keep the Hawks competitive and in the playoffs.

It's not hopeless, but if see any backsliding, we'll probably realize that we wasted 5 years of trying to rebuild.

Bret LaGree said...

I want to believe that the Hawks are seriously considering investing in Smith, Childress, and Horford as the core and exploring what the rest of their players could net in a trade.

Bibby and Pachulia are both potentially useful role players on a good team and both have expiring contracts. Marvin Williams' contract could be used as a makeweight in acquiring a true All-Star or to pick and extra role player/draft pick in a big deal. Joe Johnson's contract probably makes sense for a team that believes he can get them one round deeper in the playoffs.

I don't think all those moves need to be made immediately. They might not all need to be made at all but the front office should be open to them occurring.

This roster is extremely thin even if they re-sign Smith and Childress. At minimum they'll still need to add a defensively competent 4/5, a third point guard, and a wing defender/shooter. I'm curious to see how Rick Sund does in acquiring such players with little to no money to spend.

Plus, any honest assessment of the Eastern Conference right now would have to conclude that it's more likely than not that the Hawks will hold a lottery pick in the 2009 Draft.