Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trade Deadline Thoughts and Open Thread

HawkStr8Talk offers two reasons why the Hawks aren't involved in the hustle and bustle of the trade deadline (3pm EST):
1. Our ownership is not willing to invest more money in a team that is still working at a deficit (and from a business perspective - I don't blame a fan who wants a title - I 100% blame them.)

2. Our fan base and organization is going to be happy as long as the Hawks win the first round and compete in the 2nd round.
I think the first point is absolutely true from every perspective. I'm not so sure about the second.

There's plenty of talk about why the Hawks aren't trying to get X. Jeff Schultz asks if the Hawks should be trying to add someone in order "to keep pace with Cleveland and Orlando?" Michael Cunningham devoted a thorough and insightful blog post on Tuesday to this question. Also, there's the 700+ word post linked and quoted above and I've seen more than one thread at Hawksquawk lamenting the team's inaction.

My thoughts as to reasons for the organization's inaction:
  1. Money. They've allocated so much of their budget to acquiring or keeping the first seven guys in the rotation that was nothing left over to acquire or keep tradeable assets deeper on the depth chart. Which leads us to...
  2. What do the Hawks have that another team wants? Joe Johnson (both the player and his expiring contract), Josh Smith, Al Horford, maybe Marvin Williams, maybe the rights to Josh Childress, maybe Jeff Teague, maybe the Hawks' upcoming late first-round pick.
  3. Would the Hawks trade any of those? I think they definitely would not trade Johnson, Smith, or Horford.
  4. Could the Hawks trade any of the rest? Childress' rights, in that they'd add salary without providing any present production, have little value to a team in the middle of the season. Williams is a base year compensation player until July 1st. As for trading Teague and/or the first-round pick, the Hawks are $18 million over the salary cap and could only bring back a salary of equal or lesser value.
  5. Would a hypothetical trade actually and reasonably be expected to improve the Hawks? I don't think any deal that involves acquiring a big man (Stoudemire, Jamison, Camby) that could not be on the court at the same time as Smith and Horford is unlikely to be a net positive. Nor is trading Smith or Horford for an older player of roughly equal current value likely to improve the team to an appreciable degree.
  6. What about the summer of 2010? Joe Johnson is an unrestricted free agent. He could leave. He could leave for money. He could leave to chase a championship. None of this should be a surprise. He left an excellent Phoenix team for a terrible Atlanta team for some combination of money and shot attempts. The Hawks overspent to get him and Billy Knight wasted several draft picks and the Hawks haven't succeeding in building a championship-caliber squad around him. If Johnson leaves, the Hawks will have $47.6 million committed to eight players (assuming Mo Evans exercises his player option) plus a cap hold on Josh Childress, plus a cap hold on empty roster spots, and the cost of their first round draft pick. The salary cap is expected to be between $50-54 million next season. There is obviously no money there to sign somebody else's impact free agent. Any deal that would further inhibit the Hawks' ability to replace Joe Johnson (if necessary) is risky in the general sense and would be out-of-character for an organization so averse to change that they've used the thirteenth roster spot all season on either a guy who can't play or a guy they don't think can play rather than bring in someone new who might contribute.
None of the above is intended to stifle discussion or diminish the interest of rumors and/or hypothetical transactions. Hence the "Open Thread" portion of this post's title. So suggest a trade that could improve the Hawks, pass along a good rumor, or refute my argument in the comments.

I'll start the speculation with a link to a post entitled "Nine Potential Kwame Brown Trades" from Dan Feldman at Piston Powered. Dan proposes Brown for Mo Evans, Jason Collins, and a pick. My response is over there. What say you?


Jason Walker said...

Rick Sund told Larry that they could not trade Childress' rights.

Final note, you can't move Josh Childress' rights at the trade deadline. Josh has to opt out of his deal in Greece before he can be moved. GM Sund did mention that he wishes the rule that prevents a team from trading a player's rights would be changed.

The Beard said...

The only move the Hawks could possibly make would be to sign a player that was bought out after trade, like perhaps Z. But even this is not likely.

Jason Walker said...

Yeah, if they weren't willing to spend more than the vet minimum in the offseason on a free agent, I doubt they would be compelled to now.

And I agree with Bret, if they can't be on the floor with Al/Smoove, why bother?

Unknown said...

McGrady- Should the Hawks go after Tracy if he gets bought out by Sactown? Wouldn't he want to play here instead of the knicks? I think there is a lot of upside and limited downside if we sign him for the minimum. . What do you think? We could use a swing man in case any of our guards or small forwards go down.

Bret LaGree said...

McGrady's played 46 minutes in the last 374 days. I have no idea if he has anything left nor am I sure that, if he does not have anything he left, he wouldn't take minutes away from the existing, superior options.

He also might want to stay in New York and have the opportunity to play more minutes so as to attract more potential future employers.

Xavier said...

Brett did the Hawks really overspend for JJ considering how bad they were? Bad teams have to normally overspend for free agents. I think the draft selections have hurt the Hawks more than the actual acquisition of JJ during the time he has been here.

Bret LaGree said...

Xavier --

I think they did. A team that's not going to spend a lot of money in total can't afford to give a max contract to a guy who's a good player but not good enough to make an All-NBA team.

I think the argument could be made that the Hawks are (likely) going to be a 50-win team as much because Billy Knight was right about Josh Smith or the team getting lucky in the 2007 draft lottery as by investing so much in Johnson.

Factor in that it also cost two first round picks and Boris Diaw for the opportunity to pay Johnson such a large percentage of the team's payroll and you're a long way toward the current situation: not good enough to contend for a title and too few assets to package in a trade for a quality player or players.

You're absolutely right that the latter half of that dilemma is deeply influenced by draft mistakes (though I believe the decision to take Shelden Williams instead of Brandon Roy was keenly influenced by the organization overrating Joe Johnson), free agency mistakes (both of commission and omission), player development disappointments, and the failure either to keep Childress or to turn his rights into something useful for the team.

I don't think the Hawks would necessarily be worse off and their future could be less uncertain had the organization gone the Presti/Pritchard route and stockpiled all possible assets. And if they would be worse off that would clearly be down to the questionable cooperative competence of those in charge in the middle part of the decade.

Unknown said...

Two quick notes - 1. we see that Bret doesn't soak up the HS8T blog when I'm actually doing reporting (like interviewing Rick Sund) and 2. that he doesn't think what I think as it pertains to getting Joe Johnson.

Most of our draft mistakes came AFTER Joe Johnson was signed - not before, so I would say that our biggest mistakes weren't around getting Joe Johnson - it was not giving him a talent (particularly a strong PG) to take away the entitlement he thinks he has as the franchise player. Take that away and Joe Johnson was a terrific pickup. Yes, it was expensive, but the alternative is one I'd rather not assume. I 100% think our mistakes in back to back drafts are why we are where we are today where we don't have assets to trade that are worth anything.

Anyway, the main reason for this comment was - I'd actually like to know what evidence you have to believe that the fan base as a whole and the organization in general has given you to believe that they aren't going to be ok with a 2nd round appearance in the playoffs. Again, not saying we DESIRE a loss...i am saying we are NOT going to blow up anything, fire anyone, do anything other than stay the course b/c we don't believe this is the year for anything. I haven't heard ANYTHING that makes me feel like we don't believe we're 4th in the Big 4 pecking order nor have our goals been anything other than make playoffs and win 50 games.

The Casey said...

I think, as far as making a bold move to get past the second round of the playoffs, that a lot of the older-school fans (and remember, some of the owners are fans) remember the Steve Smith for JR Rider trade that the team made after it was decided that 50 wins & a second-round exit wasn't enough. That's what started the Hawks' slide into mediocrity/utter crapitude, and Hawks management may still be a little gunshy about making a big trade.

What about Drew Gooden? He's a proven rebounder and scorer, and I think he'd be an improvement over Joe Smith.

Bret LaGree said...

Anyway, the main reason for this comment was - I'd actually like to know what evidence you have to believe that the fan base as a whole and the organization in general has given you to believe that they aren't going to be ok with a 2nd round appearance in the playoffs.

I think there are two fan bases: the smaller one follows the team year-round, watches close to 82 games a year, and is transitioning from appreciating the new-found competence of the organization to wanting the organization to attempt to compete for a title. That fan base won't be satisfied with a second-round playoff exit. I believe you to be the most eloquent exemplar of this group.

The larger, more general fan base, watches an occasional regular season game, most of the playoff games, and might even attend a playoff game. NBA basketball is a brief, entertaining diversion between football and baseball seasons. (Or, between the football season and the football pre-season.)

I suspect that this highly risk-averse organization is content to make their profit off the latter group over a few weeks in the Spring rather than risk that profit to make a bold move that might not improve the team or its bottom line.

As for Joe Johnson and the draft, I always got the impression that Billy Knight genuinely believed that once he got Joe Johnson he just needed to fill in around him and did not need to acquire a better player or an equally good player. He was wrong.

I haven't heard ANYTHING that makes me feel like we don't believe we're 4th in the Big 4 pecking order nor have our goals been anything other than make playoffs and win 50 games.

Me either. Above Woodson and maybe Sund I don't think they even care about the 50 wins.