Hawks GM Danny Ferry has had his troubles off the court and is currently still on an indefinite leave of absence. On the court, the team he put together has surpassed expectations on its way to locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are 55-18 on the season with a roster void of a true superstar. Atlanta currently ranks fourth in the league on defense in terms of raw points allowed, giving up 97.0 points per game, and 10th on offense, scoring 102.4 points per game. The Spurs are the only other team in the league to rank in the top 10 in both categories.
Team building isn’t usually done in one year. There are exceptions, like the 2008 Celtics, where the main parts of the team come together in one offseason. However, the Executive of the Year award usually exists to honor the culmination of all the transactions that a GM or team president has made in order to turn a roster into a masterpiece on the court.
Atlanta hired Ferry after the 2011/12 season and about a week later, he traded Joe Johnson, who was the team’s leading scorer, to the Nets. While the trade didn’t bring immediate help, it allowed for future flexibility. Later in the offseason, Ferry acquired Kyle Korver from the Bulls in exchange for cash. After the 2012/13 season, Ferry hired Mike Budenholzer, who is a favorite to win the 2014/15 Coach of the Year.
During the same offseason, Ferry signed Paul Millsap. The forward was coming off a good season with Utah and most likely expected to land a deal that vastly exceeded the two-year, $19MM contract he signed with Atlanta. Having such a productive player on such a team-friendly pact does wonders for the roster-building process; just ask the Mavs, who were able to offer Chandler Parsons a bloated offer sheet because of Dirk Nowitzki’s team-friendly deal. Millsap’s deal isn’t as far below market value as Nowitzki’s deal is, but it allows for tremendous flexibility in roster construction all the same.
To become an Eastern Conference power, the Hawks never went into full rebuild mode. Ferry has never had the opportunity to pluck potential stars from the top of the draft, as the Hawks haven’t had a pick higher than No. 15 under his reign. Instead, like most good GMs, he had to search through the third and fourth tier of prospects to find players who could make an NBA rotation and contribute. He found contributors in 2012 second round pick Mike Scott and 2013 No. 17 overall pick Dennis Schroder. Both players have been key in helping the Hawks achieve their goals this season.
All of Ferry’s moves have put the Hawks in the position they’re in, but he has been absent from the team for most of the league year. Although some of the Hawks players seem to be open to having him back in the front office, uncertainty with the team’s ownership situation makes a resolution in the near future unlikely. Budenholzer has been running the front office in Ferry’s absence, and perhaps Budenholzer should be a candidate for the award himself. In a vacuum, Ferry probably would win Executive of the Year, as the team has a decent shot at winning the Eastern Conference while being under the salary cap, but the perils of his candidacy make it unlikely he takes home the honor.
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