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Atlanta Hawks 2011-12 Preview: What Roster Moves Can and Will Be Made?

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Atlanta Hawks 2011-12 Preview: What Roster Moves Can and Will Be Made?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Joe Johnson looks to play up to his superstar salary.

It's hard to speculate about what offseason moves are going to be made for any team, considering the expiring collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and subsequent possibility of a lockout. But for this article’s purposes only, I will pretend a new CBA is agreed upon and the current soft salary cap of about $58 million remains.

As for the Atlanta Hawks’ 2010-11 season, it was most definitely a roller coaster ride that culminated in a valiant fight in the playoffs, overcoming Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in six games before falling to Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in six.

It was a postseason when we saw Jeff Teague flourish in increased playing time due to an untimely injury to Kirk Hinrich—who came over from Washington in a midseason trade that included Mike Bibby—and Josh Smith play consistently inconsistent basketball.

What moves can be made for the Hawks in the offseason to try to take the next step toward the Eastern Conference Finals? 

As for next year:

- Joe Johnson is signed until 2015-16 and is due $18,038,573 in 2011-12.

- Al Horford is signed until 2015-16 and is due $12 million  in 2011-12.

- Josh Smith is signed until 2012-13 and is due $12.4 million in 2011-12.

- Marvin Williams is signed until 2012-13 with a player option for 2013-14 and is due $7.5 million in 2011-12.

- Zaza Pachulia is signed until 2012-13 and is due $4.75 million in 2011-12.

- Jeff Teague is signed until 2011-12 with a team option for 2012-13, is a restricted free agent in 2013-14 and is due $1,579,920 in 2011-12.

- Kirk Hinrich is signed until 2011-12 and is due $8 million in 2011-12.

It all adds up to $64,268,493, which places the Hawks over the cap limit. This means they can only sign enough exception players to fill out the roster.

Players like Jason Collins, Etan Thomas, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Powell and Damien Wilkins will likely be let go as they provided little value (other than helping slow down Dwight Howard in the playoffs). However, young talent exists in the form of Pape Sy, the second-round draft pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, who is held in high regard within the Hawks organization and is likely to receive a low-level exception offer.

With Atlanta so far over the the cap limit and with the promise the Jeff Teague displayed in the Eastern Conference Semis, Jamal Crawford looks expendable so the Hawks are highly unlikely to find a way to re-sign him after his contract ends this offseason.

Either the Hawks can sign a bunch of mid-level exception players to fill out the roster (think Collins, Thomas and Powell) or they can try make a trade or dump salary to make free-agent signings as a riskier step toward contending.

A large, shot-blocking center would be a perfect fit for the Hawks, as they could then move Horford over the power forward position permanently. A few free-agent names immediately stick out: Marc Gasol, Samuel Dalembert and Tyson Chandler.

However, these players would cost anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per year. The easiest possible way to bring any of these names here would be in a sign-and-trade for a player or two from the Hawks. For example, a trade where Sacramento signs Dalembert then trades him, Omri Casspi and a draft pick for Marvin Williams and Josh Smith.

They could also take a flyer on an oft-injured center, such as Greg Oden or Yao Ming.

But let’s assume the previous trade goes through. Then, the Hawks sign Pape Sy and Magnum Rolle to a full contract, and Damien Wilkins, Leon Powe and Hilton Armstrong to fill out the roster.

The depth chart would look like:

PG Kirk Hinrich          Jeff Teague

SG Joe Johnson           Pape Sy

SF Omri Casspi           Damien Wilkins

PF Al Horford             Leon Powe       Magnum Rolle

C Samuel Dalembert   Zaza Pachulia   Hilton Armstrong


Or:

PG Kirk Hinrich            Jeff Teague

SG Joe Johnson             Pape Sy

SF Marvin Williams      Damien Wilkins

PF Josh Smith               Leon Powe       Magnum Rolle

C Al Horford                Zaza Pachulia   Hilton Armstrong

If Jeff Teague can become the “new Jamal Crawford," providing offense off the bench with improved ball handling and perimeter defense and Johnson lives up to his contract, 2011-12 can be a great season for the Hawks—if there is a season.

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