Atlanta Hawks: 7 Offseason Moves the Hawks Should Consider
After another disappointing second-round exit, it's becoming evident that the Hawks need to make serious roster changes if they have legitimate aspirations of advancing past the conference semis. For the last three years, the Hawks have tried to build around the core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford, but unfortunately, the matters most urgent were left to dry.
Johnson, Smith and Horford is one of the best 2-3-4 punches in the NBA, but without a true center to grab rebounds or a point guard to push the pace, the Hawks have leveled out as a tweener in the East: not good enough to seriously contend, but not bad enough to build through the draft.
The Hawks found a diamond in the rough with the 19th pick in the 2009 NBA draft in Jeff Teague. However, he spent his first two years floundering away on the bench, as both coach Mike Woodson and coach Larry Drew refused to give him extended minutes. By the time Teague finally seized his opportunity and turned the Hawks into the fast paced team they always should have been, trade speculation was (and is) running rampant over teammate Josh Smith.
Clearly this team has areas of need as Jamal Crawford is set to leave via free agency, and Smith may very well be on the way out the door. If the Hawks are serious about contending next season, they should fervently look to make a splash this offseason. Here's where they should start:
7. Sign Jeremy Hazell and Joe Alexander from the Hawks Minicamp
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The Hawks have six players set to leave this offseason, and why not fill the bottom of the bench with two players who could actually contribute, instead of signing someone like Etan Thomas?
With Jeremy Hazell, the Hawks get a project, but a project that is a proven scorer at the highest collegiate level, playing in the Big East. He twice averaged over 20 points (sophomore and junior year) and averaged a hair under 20 at 19.8 in his senior year in which he was hindered by a wrist injury.
He's 25 years old, so he's older than most rookies out there, but with Jamal Crawford likely gone, the Hawks should be willing to gamble on a proven scorer.
Hazell was not the only standout at the Hawk's recent minicamp. You may recall Joe Alexander, the former 2008 lottery pick out of West Virginia. After an unsuccessful NBA stint, he went to the D-League where he averaged 20.2 points per game this season, and now he's trying to regain footing in the league.
The 6'8" power forward has a ridiculous 37-inch vertical leap and has apparently developed quite the post game. The Hawks should willingly take a chance on the D-League standout looking to shred his label as an NBA bust. Who knows? He could be good for 10 to 15 minutes per game.
6. Trade Josh Smith for Monta Ellis
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If the Hawks have a chance to nab one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the NBA, they should pounce on the opportunity. Monta Ellis for Josh Smith is a very possible swap that could take place this offseason. If the Hawks are serious about trading Smith, this is an opportunity to get them legitimate value in return and also to make Joe Johnson expendable.
The Hawks could finally look to lose his gargantuan contract and shop him around for possible suitors who are rebuilding or who are in need of a shooting guard, maybe a trade that involves Johnson and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala.
Trading Smith for Ellis would open up options for Atlanta's backcourt, creating a potential Teague (or Hinrich)-Ellis-Johnson lineup that would be sure to give opposition fits.
5. Sign Shannon Brown
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Shannon Brown announced he would test free agent waters after the Lakers drafted two guards in the second round. With playing time in question, Brown would receive much more guaranteed time on the court as a Hawk.
His ridiculous—and I mean ridiculous athleticism—gives him the flexibility to man limited minutes at the three. If Smith is indeed traded, the "Highlight Factory" wouldn't miss a beat in terms of rim-rattling slams, because Shannon Brown is sure to rise up at least once a game.
With more minutes, Brown could develop into one of the league's brightest young players. All he needs is ample opportunity, and where better to start than Atlanta?
4. Trade Josh Smith for Andre Iguodala
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Once Josh Smith leaves, the Hawks will be forced to address their newly-found small forward issue, and a simple Smith-Iguodala trade fixes it instantly. Iguodala fills the hole and instantaneously betters the Hawks chances of going places in the East as his game can mesh with nearly any teams'.
The Sixers have made no secret that Iguodala is on the block, and the Hawks should take advantage of the situation in what would be swap of dissatisfied stars.
3. Trade Marvin Williams for Channing Frye and Gani Lawal
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Coach Larry Drew recently said the Hawks were looking for knock down three-point shooters to spread the floor and open up the driving lanes for, perhaps Jeff Teague. What better way to address the situation than trade for a 6'11" three-point specialist in Channing Frye who has developed a knack for nailing buzzer beaters? Not only would he spread the floor, but also he would drag the power forward/center checking him to the wing which would open up the lanes even more.
Along with Frye comes the blue collar rebounder out of Georgia Tech who arrives back home in Atlanta where he could develop into a usable bench player.
The Hawks get rid of Williams, who is by all means a decent player, but one who has struggled with the expectations of being a second overall pick.
2. Sign Nene Hilario
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Realistically, this is the Hawks' No. 1 priority this offseason. They need to pull out all of the stops in their pursuit of Nene this summer. After the Hawks lost in the Eastern semis, Joe Johnson said they were a blue collar player or two away from seriously competing for a championship. He was right.
Add Nene to the current roster and you have a team that finally has the rough-and-tough center they've been chasing for years, along with the personnel to move Al Horford to his natural power forward position.
Assuming no dramatic roster changes are made, Nene is exactly what the Hawks need to compete in the East.
1. Trade for Dwight Howard
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This should obviously be the Hawks' focus if not this summer, then at the trade deadline, and if not at the deadline, then when he becomes a free agent in 2012. Everyone in Atlanta is desperate for Howard to come home; everyone in Atlanta is desperate for a superstar. Landing Howard would give Atlanta their first true superstar since Dominique Wilkins, and it would more than replace the potential loss of Smith on defense.
Hawks receive: Dwight Howard, Raja Bell, Hedo Turkgolu and Ronnie Price
In a crazy exchange the Hawks get their hometown hero in Dwight Howard, and replace Hinrich's defense with the cheaper, but equally talented Raja Bell, who also fits Larry Drew's search warrant for a three-point sniper who can really stretch the floor.
Bell would serve as Johnson's backup, and with the addition of Turkgolu, the Hawks now have a small forward who is aging, but one who still has plenty of gas left in the tank, and he too can stroke the three ball. Ronnie Price is thrown in for kicks as back up point guard for Jeff Teague.
Magic receive: Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich
The Magic start rebuilding with Al Jefferson as their center piece in the paint. Marvin Williams gets a fresh start in Orlando, and the Magic receive a defensive savvy guard in Kirk Hinrich. The main achievement for Orlando other than getting Jefferson and getting rid of the disgruntled Howard is them shedding the expensive contract of Hedo Turkgolu.
Jazz receive: Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson
The Jazz continue their rebuilding process by getting rid of Jefferson and freeing up the front court for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Andrei Kirilenko is most likely gone through free agency, so in this trade, they upgrade with the more athletic and more versatile Josh Smith who can play in the front court or be a swingman.
Jameer Nelson is thrown in for depth at the point guard position, a substantial upgrade from Ronnie Price, and together the backcourt of Harris, Nelson and Burks develops along with the deadly front court of Smith, Millsap, Favors and Kanter.