Atlanta Hawks: 5 Ways Danny Ferry Has Already Improved the Franchise

Martin Bater@@MartinBaterSPContributor IISeptember 14, 2012

Atlanta Hawks: 5 Ways Danny Ferry Has Already Improved the Franchise

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    A change of scenery can mean different things to different people in the NBA.

    For Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry, it means so much more than just a new gig in a new city. It means a shot at redemption.

    After spending a year as the vice president of basketball operations in San Antonio with the Spurs, the 45-year-old executive is getting another opportunity to start a project that he can call all his own once again.

    We all remember how it ended in Cleveland in 2010, with a “mutual parting” that came days after the firing of Mike Brown and would be followed by the unceremonious departure of LeBron James.

    As fate would have it, all three of them would end up being just fine.

    Brown is now coaching a team full of superstars in L.A., LeBron finally won his title and Ferry seems to have found the challenge he always craved in Atlanta.

    With a clean slate and no superstars with entourages to placate this time around, Ferry has used this offseason to leave his mark on the new blueprint for the Hawks.

    Here are some of the best moves Ferry has made this offseason in order to (eventually) turn a perennial second-round team into a true contender

1. Sending Joe Johnson to Brooklyn

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    Joe Johnson is a talented player, a scorer that could put up 40 points if he felt like it.  

    However, Johnson doesn’t make his teammates better and could never live up to the massive six-year, $119 million contract he signed in the Summer of 2010 with Atlanta.

    Let’s get one thing straight: It isn’t the player’s fault that he signed such a contract or that the Nets are now saddled with the four years and $89 million remaining in his deal.

    We all strive to earn as much as we can in our respective professions, and Johnson certainly made the most out of his.

    It is up to each team’s executives to reward their players as they see fit.  Atlanta was just afraid to become irrelevant and that fear led it to make the wrong investment.   

    Ferry didn’t make that mistake, but he certainly did a great job correcting it with expiring contracts and a protected first-round draft pick in 2013.


2. Marvin Williams Goes to Utah

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    Ferry didn’t stop with the Johnson trade, and he also sent the expensive-yet-overrated Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris.

    This trade was mostly done to unload the albatross of a contract that Williams had.

    Williams was drafted second overall by the Hawks in 2005, but the University of North Carolina product could never live up to his potential in Atlanta.

    Williams had flashes of brilliance and got fans excited with plays like this, but 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a game aren’t exactly representative of a player that will earn over $15 million in the next two years.

    All in all, Ferry dumped around $75 million in salary for the next two years with two of the savviest trades of this offseason.

3. The Arrival of Devin Harris

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    Part of making a good trade is knowing what you get in return, and getting a veteran like Devin Harris certainly seems to be the right move to steer a team in transition, even if some people don’t agree with that assertion.

    I have liked Harris since he was a rookie in Dallas.

    He is a capable point guard that led the Utah Jazz to the playoffs averaging 11.3 points and five assists last season. 

    Harris might not have the penetrating skills of Derrick Rose or Tony Parker’s awareness, but he certainly can come up in the clutch when the situation calls upon it.

    The 29-year-old point guard could provide a good backcourt presence alongside Georgia-native Lou Williams, who was signed as a free agent this summer as well.



4. Drafting John Jenkins

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    If you want to talk about a rookie that could make an instant impact in the NBA this season, then John Jenkins is your guy.

    The Vanderbilt product was drafted with the 23rd pick of the first round by the Hawks in this year’s draft, and he will give quality shooting to a team that was 11th  in field goal percentage last season.  

    The 21-year-old shooting guard averaged 19.9 points and had a 43 percent three-point shooting percentage at Vandy  last season as his team reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

    Look for Jenkins to drain plenty of shots in Atlanta as Al Horford commands the paint and enables plenty of open looks from the outside for his young teammate.

5. Assembling the Core Around Josh Smith and Al Horford

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    The departure of long-time Hawks like Williams and Johnson along with veterans such as Kirk Hinrich could have signaled the beginning of an Orlando Magic-like rebuilding process.

    However, that won’t be the case in Atlanta thanks to two staples of the team such as Josh Smith and Al Horford.

    Smith’s prowess was on full display in Game 1 of last season’s playoffs against the Celtics.

    His 22 points and 18 rebounds were part of as dominant a performance as Smith has ever had with a Hawks jersey.

    Now, if he could just stop taking ill-advised threes, then the 26-year-old power forward could have a memorable season.

    Al Horford is the yin to Smith’s yang, a balanced player who rarely makes questionable decisions when the ball is in his hands.

    Horford was injured for most of the 2011-12 campaign and didn’t quite have his legs under him in the playoffs, but if the Dominican center can remain healthy this year he will remain one of the cornerstones of the team.

    As long as Smith and Horford are in Atlanta, the Hawks should finish second in a lousy Southeast division behind the Miami Heat and reach the playoffs once again.