Atlanta Hawks Must Keep Core Players Intact Rather Than Rebuild

Justin JanssenCorrespondent IIIMay 18, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 28:  Josh Smith #5 and Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks walk back onto the court after a timeout against the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena on December 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Despite what many people in the local and national media are saying, the Atlanta Hawks' best option for the future is to keep the team's core players intact. 

In the last five seasons, the Hawks have yet to advance out of the Eastern Conference second round, begging the question of whether this group has peaked. 

And maybe it has.

But breaking up the Hawks core and starting the team all over again yields a worse outcome than making the playoffs on a yearly basis. 

There's a saying in the NBA, "You have to be bad before you can be good."

The Hawks were bad for an eternity For eight seasons from 2000 to 2007, the Hawks finished no better than 11th in the East in any season. Those were painful times in the team's history, and returning to last-place finishes is not the best way to increase fan support. 

With this dysfunctional ownership group, how can anyone trust it to successfully rip apart and rebuild a franchise again? 

What if the franchise can't escape from the culture of losing, like the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors can't right now? 

In the 2005 NBA draft, the Hawks infamously drafted Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the root of the team's troubles. 

If the Hawks were to rebuild, they would have to do so in the draft, with Joe Johnson handicapping the team financially in the future. 

Based on the lottery system, even if the Hawks were to finish with the worst record in the league, there is only a 25 percent chance they earn the top pick. And even if the Hawks get the No. 1 overall pick, considering their recent draft history, he could turn into a Greg Oden or Kwame Brown. 

Also, it would be difficult to even break up Atlanta's core. Johnson still has four years left on his six-year, max deal. Al Horford still has three more years on his contract. 

The one player the Hawks could part ways with is power forward Josh Smith.

Smith wants out of Atlanta, but it would be a huge mistake if the Hawks let him go. He has the highest ceiling of any Hawks player and is still just 26 years old. Smith had his best season in the NBA last year with 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. 

Point guard Jeff Teague also has a bright future and is only 23. Horford is 25. 

The Hawks' key players are all fairly young, and the team should continue to ride them, because if Atlanta breaks apart, it could spend years in the Eastern Conference cellar.