Offseason In Review: Atlanta Hawks

November 12 2013 at 9:28pm CDT By Chuck Myron

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.

Signings

Trades

  • Acquired Jared Cunningham, the No. 16 pick in 2013, and the No. 44 pick in 2013 from the Mavericks in exchange for the No. 18 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired the Nets’ 2015 second-round pick from the Jazz in exchange for the No. 47 pick in 2013.
  • Acquired a 2017 second-round pick (31-40 protected) from the Heat in exchange for the No. 50 pick in 2013.

Waiver Claims

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Atlanta native Dwight Howard was a free agent this summer, and the Hawks had plenty of cap flexibility to accommodate his inflated maximum salary. It made sense for GM Danny Ferry to make a run at the star center, even though Howard never seemed keen on returning to his hometown. There was even chatter that Howard and Chris Paul could team up in Atlanta, which could clear enough space to fit max contracts for both. Neither marquee free agent wound up with the Hawks, who also let go of Josh Smith. Instead of Howard, Paul and Smith, who signed the three most lucrative deals among all unrestricted free agents this summer, Ferry spent the team’s ample available cash on a mostly underwhelming, if perhaps underrated, haul of players.

Ferry’s best move of the summer involved his greatest expenditure, as he inked Paul Millsap for two seasons at $9.5MM per. When I examined Millsap’s free agent stock in the spring, I figured the 28-year-old power forward could command a deal similar to the $13.5MM a season former Jazz teammate Al Jefferson signed for with the Bobcats, or at least the $12MM David West is seeing from the Pacers this year. Millsap figured to be a Plan B for teams that missed out on Howard, so it was a shock to see him sign for a yearly salary south of $10MM. Still, there wasn’t much reported interest in the overachieving former second-round pick in the days leading up to his signing with the Hawks, as only the Jazz and Celtics appeared to be in the mix. Millsap gives the Hawks a craftier, less athletic replacement for Smith at power forward.

It seemed for a time that Atlanta might be switching out its starting point guard as well. Jeff Teague signed an offer sheet to join ex-Hawks coach Larry Drew in Milwaukee, taking advantage of the Bucks’ standoff with fellow restricted free agent point guard Brandon Jennings. Multiple reports indicated that Teague was quite ready to leave Atlanta behind. That may have been posturing from the ASM Sports Client, similar to the sort of negative messages that came out from Eric Gordon‘s camp about New Orleans when he signed his offer sheet with the Suns in 2012. The Hawks didn’t fulfill Teague’s stated desire to play for a new team, and they matched Milwaukee’s offer sheet, ready to once more turn the reigns of their offense to the former 19th overall pick.

Another Hawks free agent also wound up back in Atlanta after appearing ready to head elsewhere. A rival GM told Marc Stein of ESPN.com on the first night of free agency that a deal between Kyle Korver and the Nets was “in the bag,” but Korver ultimately turned down the idea of a three-year, $10MM contract with Brooklyn for significantly more money with the Hawks. The three-point marksman had been a sought-after commodity, with the Spurs and Bucks also in the mix and interest from the Nuggets that dated all the way back to early March. Still, he represents something of a risk for Ferry, since Korver is 32 years old and signed a four-year contract. His shooting touch probably won’t disappear anytime soon, but his ability to stay in front of opponents on defense figures to erode as time goes by, turning him into an expensive role player by the end of the deal.

The rest of Ferry’s free agent pursuits were more low-key, and included the additions of DeMarre Carroll, another ex-Jazz forward, and former Maverick Elton Brand, who joined a team that fell short of grandiose free agent goals for the second straight summer. Ferry also took a swing on Macedonian center Pero Antic, a move that was one of several that will test just how much the GM learned from his time with the Spurs, the league’s foremost experts at international scouting.

The Hawks used back-to-back first round picks on players from overseas. Point guard Dennis Schröder has jumped immediately into the Atlanta’s rotation as the backup to Teague, while center Lucas Nogueira will spend this season, and perhaps longer, refining his game in Spain. Both are the sort of hit-or-miss gambles that populate the middle of the first round, and time will tell if Ferry can hit the jackpot with one or both of them, just as Ferry did while he was with the Spurs in 2011, the year San Antonio nabbed 15th overall pick Kawhi Leonard.

Ferry took on another foreign-born player this summer when he claimed Gustavo Ayon off waivers from the Bucks, another Milwaukee-Atlanta offseason connection. Still, the influx of players from outside the U.S. to the Hawks roster represents a greater philosophical tie to the Spurs, who have a record 10 international players this season. Ferry hired longtime San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer to replace Drew as coach, and it’s clear that the GM is copying as much of the Spurs’ model as possible without the benefit of the fortuitous bounce of lottery balls that put Tim Duncan in black-and-silver.

The Hawks roster is “built to trade,” as Grantland’s Zach Lowe has written, so the team Ferry put together this summer might look different after the February trade deadline passes. That makes sense, given that the Hawks are no closer to contention than they were last season. Ferry aggressively engineered a chance for the cap space to go after this past summer’s marquee names, and his backup plan involved sacrificing much of the team’s flexibility for the next two seasons on less-than-stellar options. Atlanta would have to dump salary to be able to go after 2014′s class of max-level free agents, though the team could have enough money to chase a top-tier restricted free agent. In any case, the Hawks are unlikely to land the superstar needed for a traditional run at a title, requiring Ferry to make the most of whatever creativity he picked up in San Antonio to bring even a fraction of the success of the Spurs to Atlanta.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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