The NBA has announced the salary cap figure for the 2008-09 season. The key numbers...
Salary cap: $58.680 million
Luxury tax threshold: $71.150 million
Money committed to Hawks players not named Josh: $51.747507
Josh Smith is in Los Angeles today. Will Atlanta Spirit flirt with the paying the luxury tax in order to keep a 37-win team together? Should they? Philadelphia has now joined Miami and Chicago on the list of Eastern Conference teams that could improve by at least 10 wins next season. Neither New York nor Charlotte figure to compete for an NBA title anytime soon but both made massive improvements in the area of head coaching.
The Hawks will be, at best, fighting for the seventh or eighth seed in the East. There are only three guys on the roster you'd want to sign to another contract: Smith, Childress, and Horford. I still say go ahead and sign Smith and Childress (barring a great sign-and-trade offer for either), budget money to extend Horford in 2 years, and shop everybody else for whatever assets you can acquire to allow yourself flexibility in building a team around your three key young players through the 2009 Draft and the next two free agent classes.
I don't fear the Hawks missing the playoffs this season. I fear the organization would be surprised to miss the playoffs this season and lack a plan for any season beyond this one. When they're adamant that 37 wins and a first-round exit counts as a successful year, we probably shouldn't expect them to go about building a potential championship caliber team over the course of a couple of seasons instead of pretending that Mike Woodson's a competent head coach, Joe Johnson's a franchise player, and Mike Bibby's not 30 years old.