Consider this my version of this post...
1. Don't offer Joe Johnson $125 million over 6 years unless you're absolutely sure he's not going to accept the offer and even then only offer Joe Johnson $125 million over 6 years if you're preoccupied with managing perceptions rather than winning basketball games.
Signing Joe Johnson to a max deal will necessitate making future decisions based on finances rather than basketball all in the pursuit of keeping hope alive for the opportunity to get beaten soundly in the second-round. Pushing up against the luxury tax in the short-term and sacrificing future cap flexibility throughout the prime of the careers of Josh Smith and Al Horford so as not to lose a player who, good though he is and has been, projects to be the team's third-best player before the half this hypothetical contract expires is not in the best interests of the franchise.
2. If you can't get Joe Johnson re-signed for a reasonable cost over a reasonable length (and, given this market, I don't think the Hawks can) hold out for useful assets that increase flexibility in the future even if this means taking a hit in the short-term.
In other words, don't sign-and-trade Joe Johnson for an older, less good player who's sort of like him (even if he has an expiring contract) especially if said player could render the resources spent on Marvin Williams even more of a waste than they currently appear. (Plus, adding another 2-guard or wing would seriously weaken the team's bargaining position if they have to or want to move Josh Childress in a sign-and-trade.) The future of the Hawks consists of Al Horford and Josh Smith and, if they're lucky, maybe one of Williams, Jeff Teague, or Jordan Crawford. All decisions should be based on adding to that core either specifically in the present or by creating the freedom and flexibility to take advantage of future opportunities. Young players, expiring contracts, and draft picks should be the only items on the team's wish list.
2b. Don't sign a free agent who is an older, less good version of Joe Johnson.
None of the Hawks' primary problems stem from a lack of guards who can dribble and shoot. At some point perimeter defense and defensive rebounding have to be addressed if this team is going to improve.
3. Convince Josh Childress to be willing to play in Atlanta on the qualifying offer for 2010-11.
The Hawks needn't commit to bringing back Childress but they need it to be an option, both as a short-term replacement for Joe Johnson who would complement both Jamal Crawford and Marvin Williams while splitting time between the two and the three, and to limit the chances they lose him for nothing.
4. Don't spend the MLE.
I don't think any serious person doubts the financial limitations of this ownership group. Spending money in ways symbolic (eight figures on an ex-famous person) rather than useful will only exacerbate those limitations.
5. Do fill out the roster with young free agents (especially those eligible to be assigned to the D-League) who can be had cheap in the short term and could be useful assets for the team, either on the court or when included in trades, in the future.
Because of those financial limitations the Hawks need to be more creative (and scout better) when filling out the roster. Signing Randolph Morris seemed a reasonable decision at the time but when he proved incapable of contributing and the franchise proved unwilling to eat his contract and give his roster spot to someone who might produce, it turned into a small but real waste of limited resources. As did using roster spots for entire seasons on other players unlikely to contribute ever (Thomas Gardner, Mario West) or those who can't contribute immediately but might in the future with the benefit of regular playing time in the D-League to develop either their skills (Othello Hunter) or basketball sense (Solomon Jones).
Presently, the Hawks have two borderline All-Stars (Al Horford and Josh Smith), three guys who fit in the average starter/good bench player bin (Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia, Marvin Williams, two adequate bench players (Mo Evans, Mike Bibby), and two unproven youngsters (Jeff Teague and Jordan Crawford). If Rick Sund does a reasonable job of filling out the roster with role players (young or old) and no major injuries hit, the Hawks should still be able to make playoffs in the short-term while setting the stage to build for something more ambitious in the longer-term. It won't be easy. It probably won't be popular. But it's the franchise's best chance for real, sustained success.