How Louis Williams to Atlanta Hawks Reshapes the Eastern Conference Landscape

Bradlee RossCorrespondent IIJuly 10, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Lou Williams #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates a shot during the game against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers won 82-75. 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 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks have undergone major changes personnel-wise, sending veteran scorer Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets and now signing free-agent guard Louis Williams to a deal. Williams’ arrival in Atlanta will have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference next season.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Hawks and Williams have agreed to a multi-year deal that will bring the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up from last year to Atlanta. The terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

This is a great move for an Atlanta team that lost its best scorer in Johnson. Williams led the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring last year, averaging 14.9 points per game off the bench. He’ll likely assume a similar role in Atlanta.

Williams can play both the point and shooting guard, and that versatility is what makes him such an offensive weapon off the bench. He’ll be able to play alongside Jeff Teague and spell him during moments.

In Williams, Teague, Al Horford and Josh Smith, the Hawks appear to be just a superstar away from a serious contender. While the Hawks still don’t have a superstar, they do have all the pieces necessary now to place around one to win. All they have to hope for is that they’ll strike the jackpot in free agency next offseason.

But, what about next year?

Before acquiring Williams, the Hawks were looking like they were going to be in a world of hurt offensively. In Johnson, they lost a player who averaged over 18 points per game and had the talent to go for 30 on any given night. Other than Smith, who can score pretty well, the Hawks had no one to go to for offense.

The acquisition of Williams gives them someone else who can produce his own offense. Teague is a pretty good point guard for this team, but he isn’t the type that makes his teammates a whole lot better.

The Hawks need players who can create on their own, and Williams does that off the bench better than almost anyone in the NBA.

Now, the Hawks will probably be in the playoffs despite the fact that they are waiting until next summer to really get the key building blocks of their team.

While they won’t be able to contend with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics or probably the New York Knicks, the Hawks should have a solid chance against every other Eastern opponent that they face. You can add the Brooklyn Nets to that group also but only if they get Dwight Howard.

The Hawks’ signing of Williams also changes the landscape by making Philadelphia worse. That team was even worse offensively than Atlanta. I have no idea where they will get production from now.

Atlanta is now the de facto sixth or seventh team in the East next season almost by default. They have a talented roster that is balanced on offense and defense.

The best part about Williams is that he comes fairly cheap. Atlanta will be able to use part of their mid-level salary cap exception to sign him, keeping their payroll flexibility intact for next summer. That’s a huge part of this equation.

Williams makes the team better now and later. He makes Atlanta better now by giving them an offensive option that can create its own points. He makes the Hawks better later by making them even more attractive to big-name free agents. On top of all that, he still allows them to be able to afford those players as well.

This signing makes the Hawks a playoff team now and potentially a championship team soon.