It is June, and for another summer the Atlanta Hawks are not contending for an NBA championship. Instead they are focusing on how to get that missing piece or pieces to winning the NBA’s coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy.
For me, the Hawks two biggest concerns are what to do about free agent Jamal Crawford, and how to finally get Al Horford a true starting center to play alongside in the front court.
The emergence of Jeff Teague in the postseason has locked up the starting point guard position, and Joe Johnson is not going anywhere at the 2 or 3-positions after his $121 million offseason last year.
If Atlanta loses Crawford, then the Hawks will lose a scorer. However, the Hawks had five players (including Crawford) average double-figures in scoring, proving that Atlanta already has a balanced offensive attack.
Also, with Teague clearly ready to take over as point guard, Kirk Hinrich can play shooting guard, giving Atlanta a threat on the perimeter and another guy on the court who knows how to run theoffense. Hinrich is averaging 13-points-a-game for his career, shooting .418 from the field, .380 from the three and .812 from the foul line.
In comparison, Crawford is averaging 15.4-points-a-game for his career, shooting .421 from the field, .341 on threes and .846 from the foul line, pretty similar to numbers to Hinrich.
However, Hinrich averages 5.6 assists a game, while Crawford has never been much of a pass-first point guard and only has a career average of 3.2 assists a game.
This season, Horford was second-best on the team with 3.5 assists per game. Perhaps, worrying about another scorer is not the biggest concern for the Hawks.
Atlanta only averaged 39 rebounds a game last year, third-worst in the league. Also, despite having one of the best shot blockers in the game (Josh Smith), the Hawks averaged only 4.16 blocks a game, again third-worst in the league. These numbers are a clear sign that the Hawks need someone in the middle to help get rebounds and alter shots.
Unfortunately, the Hawks only have one pick in the upcoming draft. After trading away their first-round pick to the Washington Wizards, Atlanta only has the 48th pick.
This does not leave the Hawks many options in landing one of the top-tier big men in the draft. They do have a bargaining chip, however, in Smith.
Smith is one of my favorite players, and I would not be happy if the Hawks did let him go. But after seven seasons with Atlanta, it is time to really re-evaluate what his NBA future and whether it is with the Hawks.
By having him, the Hawks still have an issue with Horford playing out of position at the four. Also, Smith still thinks he is an outside shooter. Time and time again he settles for perimeter shots. He is best around the basket or on the run in the open floor.
I understand the competitive nature of an athlete and wanting to prove you can do what your critics say you can’t do, but he is never going to be an outside shooter. If it has not happened by now, then it is just not meant to be.
His trade value is only going to decrease. He is still 25 and could entice a team with a higher pick to pull the trigger.
This year’s draft is filled with centers who have a high-risk reward. Five centers that are potential high-risk reward prospects are expected to have their name called in the first round in most mock drafts. This gives Atlanta more than one chance to dangle Smith in front of an NBA team and hope they bite.
Here are three true centers that I feel could justify giving up Josh Smith.