How Do the Hawks Get Better? Trade Joe Johnson

D.Michael LeeSenior Analyst IMay 23, 2009 will be breaking down every team in the league, with a brief review of the 2008-09 season, key personnel decisions, draft options, trade options, and overall state of the franchise. Consider this your favorite team's State of the Union.

We start things off in Atlanta, where the Hawks improved but are still far away from their goals...

2008-09 Highlights

Atlanta ended the regular season with a 47-35 mark, which afforded them 2nd place in the Southwest Division, and home court in the first round. They won their first series in ages, defeating the Miami Heat, but then were quickly brought back to Earth by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks failed to win a game against Cleveland, and their off-season began with more questions than answers.

The Hawks saw Al Horford and Marvin Williams continue to evolve as front court players, while the veterans Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith all shared flashes of All-Star caliber play at some point during the season.

Free Agents This Summer

1. Marvin Williams

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Williams is only 22 years old, and if the Hawks let him go, they may live to regret it for years to come. His 14 points and six rebounds a game last year were in only 61 games, as he battled injures throughout. Williams has the potential to be a 18 and nine guy every night, if developed.

2. Mike Bibby

For all the pros of re-signing Williams due to his youth, there are reasons not to sign Mike Bibby for the same reason. Hawks coach Mike Woodson had the luxury of having a second coach on the floor with Bibby as the Hawks' floor general over the past few seasons Bibby and his consistent numbers are something the team can count on game in and game out. Bibby won’t get the big payday he may have in seasons past, and would be best fit staying put, however that is not a given. Drew over at, the premier Hawks blog on the net, agrees:

Mike Bibby certainly is not getting better, but if he stayed healthy and consistent, a two year deal at around five or six million dollars seems reasonable. I expect Bibby to want three years and more money so that could be a difficult negotiation.

3. Zaza Pachulia

The Hawks brought in Pachulia four seasons ago as their cornerstone in the paint for years to come. Now, he is a solid backup forward/center who is playoff tested and offers the Hawks some depth. Pachulia may get offered the same amount of money Atlanta could offer him in other places needing help up front, however it’s not a guarantee he will be back.

First-Round Draft Options

Our latest mock draft has Atlanta addressing their point guard issue and selecting Ty Lawson with the 19th pick overall. Other names that have been floating around potentially Atlanta bound include Eric Maynor, Jeff Teague, and BJ Mullens. In a draft that's heavy on guards, Atlanta will certainly have plenty to choose at pick No. 19.

Trade Options

From the outside looking in, the Hawks are good enough to easily be a playoff team in the East for the next three years. Without changes to their core however, they could be surpassed by teams like the Heat, Bulls, and Sixers next year.

Their franchise player, Joe Johnson, is a pure scorer, and I have always equated him to being a poor man’s Ray Allen. However, just like Allen, he didn't acghieve his greatest success until he was teamed up with two other equal stars.

Josh Smith is another good piece to the puzzle, but neither him or Johnson can do it alone. Then you have Marvin Williams, who could be re-signed by the Hawks this summer, but also could be shipped out in a sign-and-trade deal if the price was right. What could/would you want back in return if you were the Hawks?

The Hawks would receive more value from moving Johnson while he is at the peak of his career. One trade scenario would send Johnson and Maurice Evans to the Los Angeles Clippers for Zach Randolph and Eric Gordon. Bringing in Randolph would solidify the frontcourt with Al Horford and Josh Smith and give Atlanta a potential rotation of:

PG - M. Bibby (saying he re-signs)
SG - E. Gordon
SF - J. Smith
PF - Z. Randolph
F/C - A. Horford

Off Bench:
F - M. Williams
G - S. Claxon
C - Z. Pachulia (if he re-signs)

The Clippers would then have one of the better back courts in the league, teaming Baron Davis with Joe Johnson, to play with soon to be draft pick Blake Griffin.

State of the Team

Fans of the Hawks will see their team make some big decisions this off-season. Atlanta has already made one by bringing back coach Mike Woodson. Whether or not they are able to retain all of their free agents remains to be seen, but you should still expect a playoff contender once the 2009-10 campaign.

Auhor's Note: Check out the New and Improved today. New look, new features, and more great basketball news like this right there!