With the expiration of many high-paying contracts at the end of the season, the Atlanta Hawks will have plenty cap space to pursue a solid free agent market in the 2013 offseason.
The most notable contract that is set to expire at the end of the season is that of Josh Smith. Smith is currently making $13.2 million per year and is looking for more in his next contract.
He told ESPN writer Romona Shelburne that he believes that he deserves a max contract in the free-agency market. Although it is debatable as to whether Smith deserves that kind of money, all it takes is one team’s offer.
Do not expect the Hawks to re-sign Smith. He has been a good player for the franchise throughout his nine-year career, but he is not worth superstar money.
Other Hawks players whose contracts will be coming off the books include Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia, Kyle Korver, Johan Petro and Dahntay Jones.
With the expiration of these contracts, Atlanta will be saving $25.5 million, and considering Korver is the only player from that group who averages more than 10 points per game, the franchise will get better value for its money.
It is likely that the Hawks will re-sign some of these players, but it also gives them the ability to have more freedom with their money and play a more active role in the 2013 free-agency scene.
With the uncertainty that surrounds most NBA draft picks, the only surefire way to improve in the NBA is through free agency.
Free agency gives an organization the ability to sign a proven player and have that player make an immediate impact on the team.
If the Hawks spend their money effectively this offseason, they could take the next step and become a truly elite team in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta will be very active this offseason and it must build off the nucleus of Lou Williams, Al Horford and Jeff Teague.
Assuming the Hawks lose Smith to another team through free agency, Atlanta’s needs would consist of a scoring small forward who could replace Smith’s productivity, a veteran point guard and a big man who would complement Horford in the frontcourt.
A player who could satisfy that need for a veteran point guard would be Jarrett Jack.
Jack does not start for the Warriors, but he is a solid sixth man who is a true pass-first point guard.
This season, Jack is averaging 13.2 points, 5.5 assists and three rebounds per game. He is not the type of player that would put the Hawks over the top, but he is a glue guy who can come off the bench and be a major contributor.
Golden State has one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the NBA and Jack’s facilitation has a lot to do with it. If he can bring that type of production to Atlanta, the Hawks would have a more efficient offense.
Although Horford is listed as Atlanta’s center, his size is more typical of a power forward. If the Hawks could acquire an impact big man though free agency, they would have one of the more formidable frontcourts in the NBA.
A potential free agent who would fit that mold would be Andrew Bynum.
Any team who signs Bynum this offseason will be taking a big risk. With that risk, however, a team will be acquiring one of the few true centers in the NBA.
The risk is not just with his suspect knee, which is a major concern, but it is also with his attitude. He often sulked during his time with his Lakers and was never fully committed to playing with the 76ers this season.
All that being said, Bynum can be a dominant player and will be one of the most coveted players this offseason. Although it may seem like he has been around for a long time, he is only 25 years old and just entering the prime of his career.
During the 2011-12 season—his last full season of play—Bynum was beginning to hit his stride. He averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game.
After his acrimonious departure from Los Angeles and his subsequent injury problems in Philadelphia, people have forgotten what kind of player Bynum is—a young center just entering his prime with the potential to become a dominant force in the NBA.
Bynum would play center and that would allow Horford to play power forward.
The risks are obvious, but if Atlanta ponies up and offers Bynum the kind of money he is expecting, the reward could be great.
If Bynum can return to the production he had in the 2011-12 season, he will immediately vault the Hawks into the elite of the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks need to make a splash this offseason, and they have the money to do so. As currently constructed, the team does not have the capabilities of making a deep playoff run.
They are what they are—a middle-of-the-pack team that might win one playoff series if it gets lucky.
Something needs to change if this organization expects to compete for championships, and going out and spending money on big-time free agents is the first step in communicating to the fan base that the franchise is serious about winning and that mediocrity is not good enough.