When the Atlanta Hawks hired former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry this past summer, Ferry made a series of moves in order to reduce the team payroll while also freeing up salary-cap space for the upcoming round of free agency.
Why? Because the team hopes to sign either Los Angeles Clippers All-NBA point guard Chris Paul or, their dream target, Los Angeles Lakers All-NBA center Dwight Howard, both who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of this season.
Additionally, All-Star power forward Josh Smith's contract shall expire this summer, so the team will look to re-sign Smith (and will likely need to open up their checkbook, as Smith believes he is a max contract player and the team held onto him after briefly considering moving the power forward at the trade deadline, according to Ben Golliver on SportsIllustrated.com).
So which expiring contracts are the Hawks looking forward to unloading this offseason? We'll take a look at five players with expiring contracts that Atlanta can't wait to let go.
Shooting Guard Dahntay Jones
Contract Value: $2,900,000
When the Hawks front office signs Jones' last paycheck, I am sure there will be a collective sigh of relief in the entire organization. While Jones may be a veteran and a solid perimeter defender, he has barely been able to get off the bench this season because of his terrible play on the offensive side of the ball.
Since being traded from the Dallas Mavericks to Atlanta, he has averaged (on a per-game basis): 11.6 minutes, 2.4 points (while shooting 41.5 percent from the field, 25 percent from three and 50 percent from the line), 0.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, no blocks (he has one in 22 games) and 0.3 steals.
While you generally will not depend on defensive specialists to make significant contributions on offense, they need to at least be a factor on that side of the ball, and Jones is the antithesis of an offensive threat. His absence next season will not be missed.
Center Zaza Pachulia
Contract Value: $5,248,750
Pachulia has been an important part of Atlanta's frontcourt rotation for many years, allowing All-Stars Al Horford and Josh Smith to slide over to their more natural positions at power forward and small forward, respectively, but it is finally time to let the big man go.
He played at a serviceable level until partially tearing his right Achilles tendon and undergoing season-ending surgery, averaging (per game): 21.8 minutes, 5.9 points (shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 75.7 percent from the line), 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.2 blocks.
And while he did a great job of rebounding and drawing fouls (while shooting an excellent percentage from the line for a big man), Pachulia clearly struggled with finishing shots (47.3 percent is very low for a center) and defending the rim. Atlanta will hope to replace Pachulia with Dwight Howard and either a low-cost big man or a rookie.
Center Johan Petro
Contract Value: $3,500,000
Petro is another big man who the Hawks will be happy to let go this summer as a low-production player who has a decently sized contract to take off of the books. As a seven-footer who thrives on defense, rebounding and mid-range shots who struggles to finish around the hoop, Atlanta will not lose much sleep over his departure.
For the season, Petro has averaged (per game): 10 minutes, 3.1 points (shooting 44 percent from the field and 85.7 percent from the line), 2.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.3 blocks and 0.3 steals (while only seeing time in 28 out of 76 games).
Point Guard Devin Harris
Contract Value: $8,500,000
Harris has played well so far this season, playing shooting guard alongside point guard Jeff Teague and taking over the point when Teague sits, but with a high-priced contract and the eventual return of injured guard Lou Williams, Harris is an expendable player for the Hawks.
Between his slight decline in play and tendency to miss games because of minor injuries, Atlanta will look to replace him with either Chris Paul or a lower-priced veteran.
For the season, Harris has averaged (per game): 24.6 minutes, 9.9 points (shooting 45.1 percent from the field, 34.1 from three and 74 percent from the line), two rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.2 blocks and 1.1 steals (while missing 21 out of 76 games).
Small Forward Kyle Korver
Contract Value: $5,000,000
This is the contract, that while the team is glad to have expiring to gain $5 million in cap space, will likely be the hardest one to let go. Korver has played very well this season while bringing exactly what you would expect from him, superb shooting percentages (particularly from three and the line) and playing solid defense.
But teams can generally find three-point specialists for a cheaper salary, and Korver likely will not return to the team unless he takes a discount in pay (which seems unlikely).
For the season, Korver has averaged (per game): 31 minutes, 11 points (shooting 45.8 percent from the field, a ridiculous 45.7 percent from three and 87 percent from the line), four rebounds, two assists, 0.5 blocks and 0.9 steals.