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Atlanta Hawks' Massive Rebuilding Is About More Than Just Tons of Cash

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Atlanta Hawks' Massive Rebuilding Is About More Than Just Tons of Cash
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Atlanta GM Danny Ferry would love to see these two wearing Hawks' jerseys.

After years of playoff mediocrity—hindered by bad contracts—Atlanta is now in a position of power. Equipped with financial freedom, a bevy of draft picks and a new staff. Hawks fans have a renewed sense of hope.

So, what now? What possibilities could the Hawks' future hold?

Atlanta's GM Ferry has done an excellent job, for the most part, of playing his cards close to his chest. What we do know is this: When free agency starts, the Hawks would like to make a run at All-Star center Dwight Howard and All-Star point guard Chris Paul.

We also know that Milwaukee Bucks' leading scorer Monta Ellis will be hitting the market and Ferry may have an interest in acquiring him to fill a need at guard.

However, teams will not be able to begin discussions with impending free agents until July 1. With as many as 12 possible roster spots to fill, the Hawks have a lot of work to do.

A quick survey of what the Hawks have already includes a fundamentally sound All-Star power forward in Al Horford, an energetic point guard in Lou Williams who will—in all likelihood—be an effective sixth man when he returns from his ACL injury and what will be a second-year sharp-shooter in John Jenkins.

The Hawks can, if they want, pick up the options on DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack. They can also choose to extend qualifying offers to Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson. The likelihood that they keep all five is not very high, especially if they hope to sign some big fish in free agency.

Additionally, the Hawks will likely seek to resign sharp-shooter Kyle Korver.

 

 

Given all that we know, what can we expect them to do in the draft? It's hard to prognosticate how the impending free agent frenzy might affect the draft maneuvers that the Hawks make, but here are my thoughts.

 

Hawks draft options in a Dwight Howard / Chris Paul future:

In the likelihood that the Atlanta Hawks pull off the free agent coup, with a core of Howard, Paul, Horford, Williams, Jenkins and (most likely a re-signed Korver), they would need a 2-guard capable of driving to the basket or creating space by stretching the defense with quality three-point shooting.

They would also need depth in their frontcourt rotation.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A team-first player like Victor Oladipo would be a great fit for the kind of team GM Ferry and Coach Budenholzer would like to build in Atlanta.

In what is generally regarded as a down year for the NBA Draft, the best route to go in trying to get a quality shooting guard would be in the top half of the lottery. Should the Hawks be able to move up into one of the top five picks, they'd be in position to draft one of a few talented 2-guards:  Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo or—if they cannot move up inside the top five—Shabazz Muhammad.

This scenario may happen, as Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports.

"The Atlanta Hawks are dangling their two first-round picks for a trade in hopes of moving up in Thursday's NBA draft, possibly as high as the top five... The Hawks have the 17th and 18th first-round selections and the 47th overall in the second round. Atlanta has had trade conversations with at least one team picking in the top five, a source said."

Should they fail to find a trade partner in the top half of the lottery, the best route to go would be to build frontcourt depth where they are already in the middle of the first round. There are quality players that should be there at the 17th and 18th spots—players like Mason Plumlee, Gorgui Dieng and Giannis Antetokounmpo, all of whom are listed among the Hawks' realistic draft targets.

 

Hawks draft options in a Monta Ellis future:

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Could the Atlanta Hawks build their team around Ellis?

In a future that includes a volume scorer at guard like Ellis, the Hawks would do well to acquire a passing oriented point guard and build depth among their shooters and frontcourt positions.

Unfortunately, as it pertains to point guards, this year's crop is quite limited. The the top three available in 2013 are Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum. Among them, Carter-Williams might be the best passer in the group. Additionally, at 6'6", he has size that can't be coached. Burke is a willing passer and a more proven scorer. Regarding McCollum, ESPN's Chad Ford will tell you that "he's considered a solid, reliable pick," though he "may not have as much upside as others."

If the Hawks are unable to acquire one of those three point guards in the draft, they may need to look for one in free agency or plan to acquire one in the 2014 draft.

 

Hawks draft options in a future lacking big name acquisitions:

In a world where Atlanta fails to acquire Howard, Paul or Ellis at the onset of free agency, all bets are off in the 2013 NBA Draft.

The Hawks could aim to address any of the 12 positions that are still unaccounted for.

They'll probably retain or re-sign some (but definitely not all) of the players from the squad that made it to the first round of the NBA Playoffs this past season.

As far as the draft goes, it'd be probably be best to stockpile talent, even if that talent doesn't touch the court in 2013-14, whether that be drafting Antetokounmpo or trading up and taking Nerlens Noel—with the hope that he could be a future Larry Sanders next to Horford, or trying to draft both.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
What would the future of the Hawks' franchise look like if they managed to win next year's lottery?

In a perfect world where I was the general manager and unable to acquire Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Monta Ellis, I'd stock up on any talent that I wouldn't necessarily have to play this year and play for the 2014 Draft. Additionally, in a scenario where I fail to get superstar talent this year, I'd try really hard to maintain my cap flexibility for next summer—when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant can all potentially hit the market.

Just imagine winning the lottery, drafting Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker and having the cap flexibility to make a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

As everything stands, the Atlanta Hawks face a future full of questions but brimming with hope.

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