Hawks Will Rebuild From Scratch

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The locals will talk about it forever.

What would the Hawks have been like with Chris Paul or Deron Williams instead of Marvin Williams? Or Rudy Gay or Brandon Roy instead of Shelden Williams or basically anyone other than Speedy Claxton?

Conference finals appearances instead of first round exits? Global recognition of a basketball brand reborn with superstar talent instead of a league laughingstock (after a 13-win season in 2004-05) and the team that can always be counted on not to come through when they should?

Hypothetical questions with no clear-cut answers make the Hawks’ past every bit as murky as their immediate future. They enter free agency this summer with only six players under contract, four Draft picks (two in each round) and approximately $33.1 million in cap space for their GM, Danny Ferry, to work with in rebuilding the roster.

The Hawks choices in the Draft and free agency have come to define the franchise over the past eight years more so than anything they have actually done on the court. They ended an eight-year playoff drought after the 2007-08 season with a core group of Joe JohnsonJosh SmithAl HorfordMike BibbyJosh ChildressMarvin WilliamsZaza PachuliaShelden Williams and Acie Law. That group kicked off a run of six straight playoff appearance that came crashing to an ugly end Friday night at Philips Arena in a Game 6 loss to the Indiana Pacers in their first round series.

It was the official end to not only their season but also an era for the Hawks, who have just three players — Horford, Lou Williams and rookie John Jenkins — under guaranteed contacts for next season. Even Hawks coach Larry Drew, who has been on staff (the last three as head coach) throughout this entire era, does not have a contract for next season.

We’ve seen the last of these Hawks as we know them, Drew acknowledged as much after the Game 6 loss.

“Even with the injuries to Zaza and Lou, we were able to juggle some things around, move people around,” Drew said. “And we stayed together. We did not fragment. We stayed together even when it got tough. A lot of people didn’t predict us to make the playoffs. No one gave us a chance, but this group hung in there. They persevered and I’m really proud of them.”

It was an honorable finish to a tumultuous season for all involved. A team loaded with three times as many pending free agents as players under guaranteed contracts, has issues that go above and beyond the professionalism required to do the job under those circumstances.

That said, Ferry is sticking to his plan. He’s going to be rebuilding basically from scratch, with nine players heading into free agency July 1.

Smith, one of the only remaining building blocks from the franchise’s last rebuild and a long-time source of division within the franchise (some folks loved the hometown kid who flashed signs of being an All-Star caliber player over the years while others loathed the enigmatic performer who clashed with his coaches and drove fans nuts with his play), going into the summer as one of the marquee names on the market.

It’s time for Smith and the Hawks to go their separate ways, amicably, of course. Everyone involved knows that it’s time for a mutual parting of the ways for the good of all involved.

Point guard Jeff Teague is a restricted free agent and while he’s shown loads of improvement since Drew took over for Woodson, there remain questions about whether or not he is best suited as the starting point guard for this team.

Ferry can make a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, from all of the second-guessing, head-scratching and eye-rolling that has surrounded the Hawks for years. No one will vilify him for cleaning up the mess made before he arrived last summer, the one he started clean up himself by moving both Johnson and Marvin Williams in trades last summer.

It’s the uncertainty of what’s to come, however, that makes skeptical Hawks fans nervous. There will be big fish on the free agent market, guys like Los Angeles Lakers’ big man and Atlanta native Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul, stars capable of turning an uncertain situation around by signing their names on the dotted line.

The Hawks have the necessary resources to pursue those two, who will be first and second, in whatever order, on every free agent wish list of a team with money to spend this summer.

The summer of 2013 is the Hawks’ biggest since the summer of 2005, when Johnson (sign-and-trade) and Marvin Williams (No. 2 pick overall in the Draft) were added to the mix. That was the beginning of a painstaking rebuilding process that ultimately led to six straight playoff appearances, the second-best stretch of its kind in the Hawks’ Atlanta history.

For a franchise that has endured a recent stretch of complete insignificance during that playoff drought, followed by the past six postseason runs, a return to the non-playoff abyss is a bit frightening.

That’s what made the end of Friday night so bittersweet for Horford, who has only known the playoffs during his time with the Hawks and in the league.

“I feel for our fans,” he said. “I know they wanted us to do better. I felt like, as a team, we did about as much as we could. We had some adversity and we handled it well. We had a good season, looking at the big picture. One thing I appreciate about these guys was how they competed. Even tonight, we could’ve gone the other way. That is something I’m proud of the guys for.”

The “guys” will look a lot different next season.

In fact, Horford might be one of the only truly familiar faces around if Ferry carries out his master plan.


  1. MarlBreezy says:

    As a long time Hawks fan I second most of what Jocco says…except bring the softest 20 and 12 player in history to the ATL…we won 44 games….when everybody gets healthy thats 50+,,,,drop Jones and pick up maybe Stuckey or Bynum…Jack..Isiah Thomas…Shaun Livingston…or Tyreke Evans….or a big like Byron Mullins or Birdman, Birdman..but keep MOST of that cap space at home..Larry Drew is an AWESOME coach and should also be kept…..So what Ferry was not a great nba player, but he has done what real GMs would have done with Johnson and Williams.and let them go..Dont hate…Keep building and not going for these one shot players…everybody cant have a LBJ or Kobe the game will always be the same with or without superstars…they need chemistry and practice to and they will be good….

  2. Re-signing Teague and Korver and a contract offer to Al Jefferson. This is what I’m doing if I”m Ferry. Plan A.

  3. Frank says:

    I Think that J-Smoove will play with Dwight Howard next season.

    I dont know where but that is what i think

  4. Linsanity says:

    Go to the rockets josh smith
    We will get a championship!

  5. Don says:

    Hawks are a fairly good team. What they need is one super star that is a go to player when the game is on the line. Only teams with a super star player goes to the finals. The second thing they need is a big man center that can rebound. Third thing we need is a player with a little more physical tuffness.

  6. Woffie says:

    I don’t know what’s up wit all the putting down against the Hawks, it’s not that they underachieved or anything, they have always had toughest teams as competitors during their last 5seaons and always managed to be there in the top four seeded teams come playoff time. And everyone knew they wouldn’t get much better with the same core team plus injuries and stuff as the seasons came by. So in conclusion, there’s not much to bash them for, they have done fairly well.

    • ray ray says:

      I agree , we all knew the Hawks would make the playoffs , thats it . Josh is a good player but no superstar at all , and thats not to say he can’t be one . they played no different then the last several years ,maybe now you change your approach to building a solid team . Because if you want to win you competitive pieces from front office to last man on the bench

  7. Christian says:

    J Smith to LA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cefri says:

      Agree! Then try to get devin harris and trevor ariza. Pau & metta should be release.

    • Tim says:

      Agreed! The Lakers can toss old World Peace and get Josh Smith. Hell I think the Lakers should get Devin Harris and Josh Smith.

  8. DZaak says:

    Next season is a great one to start rebuilding. Andrew Wiggins???? (Ferry’s next Lebron)

    • Ben says:

      You are so right, DZaak – not that anyone can plan on having a lottery ball bounce their way, but next year is not a terrible year to tank.

      Mind you… how did LeBron work out for Ferry?

  9. Gene says:

    Danny Ferry has not done much in the way of instilling confidence in his abilities as a GM. What did he do in Cleveland other than ride Lebron’s coattails while carving the image as being a successful GM. The truth is if a GM is unable to “build” around Lebron he cannot be all that effective.

  10. Unkle Daddy says:

    jocco you said a mouth full, can you please be the new president of basketball operations for the hawks because Dominique Wilkins has to go and Larry Drew has to go as well. 1-4 great idea, get Lou Williams heeled up, bring back Ivan back, let everybody else go. From there search for some talent to come off the bench,

  11. Patty says:



  12. jocco says:

    Why do they have to let J-Smoove go? It’s not so easy to find good player, so when you have “borderline” allstar you do all you can to keep. I hope Ferry is smart enough to not repeat the past mistake of the Hawks.

    Summer ToDo list:

    1. Re-sign Josh Smith to a fair salary ( He is all but a max player)
    2. Bring Howard To his HomeTown (He is also not a max player, but they possibly would have to overpay to get him as would any other team)
    3. Move J-Smoove to SF position (He would have to work on his outside shoot tough) then Al Horford to his natural PF position and you have one of the best Frontline in the NBA if not the best.
    4. Re-sign Jeff Teague to a fair price, if that is not possible, sign a veteran PG who can run a team and space the floor (like Calderon)
    5. Keep Lou (6th man), Zaza (backup), Ivan(backup), Korver(3pts), Jenkins(young prospect), Dahntay or Stevenson (Defense) if you can’t replace them with better players.
    6. Draft well this time. Or use Your picks to acquire the right role players to surround your best players.

    • One of the king's subjects says:

      It cost alot of money to resign smith, and to pick up howard as it is, and to get howard they might have to give up their picks. You just threw alot of money when you give Joe Johnson that contract, and to give a big one to howard would be pushing it, and unless Lou, Jeff, Korver, Stevenson, and Dahntay are willing to get a major cut in their contratcts, for a man who has proved he might not be a perfect fit is really really pushing it. You don’t need to get howard, but another backcourt player that will aid in scoring, try and convice Ben Gordon to play in ATL it will do him good to play in an environment that doesn’t have a losing record.

    • Kamote says:

      Howard is already in LAL, with all the glitz and glamour the franchise has to offer, why would he leave (considering he would be the next face after Kobe)?

    • Tim says:

      Josh Smith does not want to be in Atlanta so all your points are mute. LOL@D12 going to Atlanta when he can resign with a much better team AKA The Lakers. If anything The Lakers should pick up Josh smith to play with D12 since they grew up together and played together.

    • Arky says:

      Howard is a max player. He didn’t play like a top 5 player this year, but he was injured. He’s still a max player and there’s not a GM in the league who’d say otherwise.

  13. Amused says:

    Josh Smith to the Rockets!! We have everything but a power forward…

  14. ATLfan says:

    Chris Paul and Dwight Howard? Next year? Anyone agree?

  15. Dennis - Bulls Fan says:

    Dwight Howard should be in the gym today practicing his free throws… every day until next season.. so maybe he can make more than 50%.

    • Bespoken says:

      He should find a go to move first instead of hitting FTs. The guy is 6`11? and has NO post move under the basketball. Is he a rookie?

  16. Hawthorne Wingo says:

    In 2005, Ferry was hired in Cleveland with a gift of LeBron James and a gift of over $28 million in cap space, and then proceeded to destroy the Cavaliers. So of course, what do the always savvy Atlanta owners choose to do? They hire the arrogant and clueless Danny Ferry to proceed to destroy the Hawks. Brilliant!

  17. Kimmy says:

    It was painful watching the Hawks this season. Yes, they need to make major changes. Maybe even starting w/ the coach. I look forward to this coming season and hope to see some new and positive energy with my home team. I’m so glad I will still see Al Horford & Lou Williams, both very hard working athletes. I’m at the edge of my seat waiting to see what kind of decisions and choices they will be making. Lets Go Hawks!!!!!!!!! You can do it!!!!