Ranking the 5 Best NBA Free-Agency Signings in Atlanta Hawks' History
Since 1976, the Atlanta Hawks have had little success in finding great players through free agency.
The summer of 2013, however, has shown promise with Atlanta’s free-agent acquisition of Paul Millsap and the retention of restricted free-agent guard Jeff Teague. However, the fruit of these signings cannot be measured until Millsap and Teague have had the opportunity to play in Hawks' jerseys.
In the meantime, a brief history lesson. In 1970, Hall of Famer and then-NBA Players Association president Oscar Robertson filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA. The suit was settled in 1976, paving the way for players to pursue new teams as free agents.
Here are the five best players to sign as free agents with the Atlanta Hawks since 1976 based on their quality of play, career accolades and contributions to the team.
No. 5 Louis Williams
Louis Williams, often called Lou, signed with Atlanta in the summer of 2012.
His time with the Hawks has been both short and limited with Williams having only played in 39 games last season due to injury. However, his signing ranks among the franchise's best due to both the quality of player that he is capable of becoming and for the money that he was signed.
Williams is an above-average NBA player who plays primarily as a sixth man off the bench. In his last five seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, he averaged over 13 points, three assists, two rebounds and one steal in only 25 minutes per game.
In the 39 games that he played for Atlanta last season, Williams averaged 14 points, nearly four assists, two rebounds and one steal in 29 minutes of play. Considering that he was splitting time with Jeff Teague and Devin Harris, that’s a reasonable contribution.
For his career, Williams has shot 42 percent from the floor, 34 percent from three-point territory and is an 80 percent free-throw shooter. After eight NBA seasons, Williams has an above-average player efficiency rating of 17.5.
Entering his prime at 26 years old, Williams has a contract that is a bargain at three years and pays the $5 million mid-level exception.
If Williams’ knee is fully recovered from ACL surgery, Hawks’ fans should expect quality play from him for the remainder of his deal.
No. 4 Moses Malone
Moses Malone is the only Hall of Fame player on this list. However, he only ranks fourth because of the limited contribution that he made in his time with the Atlanta Hawks.
By the time Malone was signed by team owner Ted Turner to join the Hawks, he had already seen 14 seasons of professional basketball.
Turner signed Malone to a three-year contract for a minimum of $4.67 million, expecting him to be the final piece to an Atlanta championship run.
The 33-year-old veteran came to Atlanta as an accomplished 11-time NBA All-Star, three-time regular season MVP and an NBA champion while with the Sixers.
While in Atlanta, Malone made one NBA All-Star team while leading the Hawks to two playoff appearances in 1989 and 1991—both first-round losses.
Although his three-year stint was not as successful as Atlanta had hoped, his signing was one of only a few big splash acquisitions in Hawks’ history.
No. 3 Dikembe Mutombo
In 1996, the Atlanta Hawks signed free agent Dikembe Mutombo to a five-year deal worth at least $50 million.
After only five seasons, the 7’2” center from the Democratic Republic of Congo had established himself as one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the league.
Mutombo was a pillar of health for Atlanta, missing only two regular-season games in five years.
During his time with the Hawks, he was a three-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He made the All-Defensive first team three times, the second team once and finished the strike-shortened 1998-99 season on the All-NBA third team.
Mutombo was a fan favorite in Atlanta. While he was never an offensive power, he made his presence felt in the Highlight Factory with his shot-blocking skills.
His braggadocios finger-wagging after blocking opponents' dunk attempts became iconic enough that he has even been featured in a recent Geico advertising campaign.
No. 2 Dan Roundfield
The details of his contract are a distant memory, but he played six seasons with the Hawks.
Roundfield made three All-Star Games as a Hawk and was a member of the NBA All-Defensive Team five times (making the first team three times). In the 1979-80 season, he was listed on the All-NBA second-team and finished fifth in the MVP voting.
In the 1978-79 season, he helped Hubie Brown's Atlanta squad win its first playoff series in franchise history. The Hawks beat a Houston Rockets team that featured Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Rick Barry (all of whom are in the Hall of Fame) as well as two future NBA head coaches in Rudy Tomjanovich and Mike Dunleavy.
After six great years in Atlanta, the Hawks traded Roundfield to the Detroit Pistons during the summer of ’84.
He went on to play three more seasons (one in Detroit and two in Washington) before finally retiring.
No. 1 Joe Johnson
In the summer of 2005, the Atlanta Hawks were looking for a superstar player.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns' restricted free agent Joe Johnson was looking for an opportunity to play a more prominent role for another team. He had been the fourth option behind Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.
For a $70 million spread over five years, Atlanta made Johnson an offer he couldn't refuse, and Phoenix wouldn't match it either. The two teams put together a sign-and-trade deal that landed Johnson in Atlanta and sent Boris Diaw and two lottery-protected first-round NBA draft picks to the Suns in return.
For years, Hawks fans have maligned Johnson for being morbidly overpaid. While that may be true, especially based on the six-year, $119 million extension he later signed, his contributions to the team cannot be ignored.
Johnson was a six-time NBA All-Star with the Hawks. He may not have been a "Human Highlight Reel" like Dominique Wilkins, but he led the Hawks to the playoffs six consecutive years, making it past the first round three times.
He ranks second all-time in three-point field goals for the Hawks, is fifth in assists and sixth in points.
Over the course of his six-year career with Atlanta, he proved to be a reliable scorer when needed. However, his play never quite lived up to the ridiculous amount of money that Hawks' management continued to throw at him.