Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
The first and most important move the Hawks made this offseason was hiring Danny Ferry as the team's new president and general manager back in June. Ferry, who previously served as the Cavaliers' GM, had taken his talents to San Antonio and joined the Spurs front office about the same time LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. In Cleveland, Ferry had been tasked with continually trying to add talent to an over-the-cap roster to help out LeBron, but in Atlanta, his first few moves suggested an altogether different approach to roster building.
When Ferry took over the Hawks, the team had about $62MM committed to six players for 2012/13, with another $42MM+ on the books for just three players in 2013/14. Much of that money was earmarked for Joe Johnson, who remained productive, but massively overpaid, with nearly $90MM remaining over the last four years of his deal.
Although it's probably unfair to say that Ferry "took advantage" of the Nets when the two sides agreed to a swap that sent Johnson to Brooklyn, the Nets undoubtedly needed to make a big splash to ensure Deron Williams stuck around, and they were willing to take on a bad contract to do so. The Hawks were the beneficiaries, taking back five players who were owed no guaranteed money beyond '12/13.
Ferry's next cap-clearing move involved trading Marvin Williams straight-up to the Jazz for Devin Harris. Utah, having just acquired Mo Williams to man the point, had more of a need for a forward like Marvin, but it's hard to argue that the Hawks weren't on the better end of this swap as well. Harris is on an expiring contract and will come off Atlanta's books next summer, while Williams will still be owed $7.5MM in '13/14.
The flexibility created by those two deals alone was impressive, but what made the Hawks' moves even more admirable was that the team was able to clear so much long-term money from its cap while avoiding taking a huge hit on-court hit. Players like Louis Williams, Anthony Morrow, and Kyle Korver won't necessarily replicate the production that Johnson and Williams provided, but they won't be as far off as you might think.
Williams, last year's Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, was a particularly inspired signing. Despite estimates that the former Sixer could land a deal in the neighborhood of Thaddeus Young's five-year, $43MM pact, the Hawks were able to bring Williams aboard for a mere $15.68MM over three years. For a player who posted a 20.2 PER last season and has been even more efficient so far this year, that's an incredible bargain.
And while Al Horford was already a part of the roster before Ferry came aboard, the former All-Star missed all but 11 games last season, so having him back on the court represents a huge upgrade over the collection of big men that received minutes for the Hawks in 2011/12. Throw in a contract below seven figures for Ivan Johnson and a minimum-salary flier on Anthony Tolliver, and it was a tremendous first summer for Ferry in Atlanta.
Perhaps most importantly, the offseason seemed to have an effect on Josh Smith's perception of the franchise. Smith had reportedly had a long-standing request to be traded, and made comments a month before Ferry's hiring that suggested he was disenchanted with the Hawks' direction. However, this September, Ferry indicated that Smith had done a 180, and was very open to the idea of remaining in Atlanta long-term.
Smith's change of heart certainly makes some sense. Had Johnson and Williams remained under contract for the Hawks, a new contract for Smith next summer would have taken Atlanta over the cap without having a chance to add any other impact players. The Hawks were a solid team with their previous core in place, but it was clear to Smith and most NBA observers that the club as constructed wasn't a serious contender for the title.With more cap flexibility going forward, the Hawks could now, in theory, afford to sign Smith to a long-term deal next summer and make a run at a maximum-salary free agent such as Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, or Andrew Bynum. The odds of landing one of those guys probably aren't high, but even so, Ferry has shown the ability to be creative when building a roster, and it sounds like Smith trusts him to make the best possible use of all that extra cap space. It may be hard for Ferry to top his first summer with the Hawks, but he's at least put himself in a great position to try.