Soon after their game against Charlotte tomorrow night, the Hawks will trim the roster down from 18 to no more than 13 (the deadline is Saturday). They have 10 guaranteed contracts and you figure Jannero Pargo is safe. That leaves seven players with contracts that are not fully guaranteed vying for no fewer than two spots and no more than five (16 is the max roster size): Keith Benson, Ivan Johnson, Magnum Rolle, Jerry Stackhouse, Pape Sy, Donald Sloan and Brad Wanamaker.
Here is the depth chart with only the guaranteed guys plus Pargo included (and not including Kirk Hinrich):
PG: Jeff Teague/Pargo
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Marvin Williams/Tracy McGrady
PF: Josh Smith/Vladimir Radmanovic
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia/Jason Collins
What do the Hawks need most? The answer would seem to be a another guard because both Larry Drew and T-Mac have said McGrady has spent most of his time at small forward. But each time I ask Drew about the backups at positions two through four, he mentions the “versatility” of the roster.
“We’ve got some flexibility,” he said.
In practice, that’s going to mean Vlad sees time at SF and PF, Joe swings from SG to SF (or PG), Josh will be at SF or PF, Al will play C and PF, and T-Mac is at SF and SG (and PG). Drew will have to do lots of creative mixing-and-matching with his lineups, which could be a strength as long as everyone is healthy and effective but becomes problematic if any of the bench guys is unavailable/injured/ineffective/in foul trouble.
That’s where the cuts come in. At some point the Hawks are going to have to play some of the guys they keep. Benson, Rolle, Wanamaker and Sloan probably could use some time in the D-League but can the Hawks afford to send guys down with this breakneck schedule?
Can they really carry just 13 guys, for that matter? I’m imagining there will be days when Drew won’t know if certain guys can go until shootaround or pregame, not to mention scenarios in which he sends a guy out and discovers he just doesn’t have it that night. Won’t he need extra bodies available?
Do the Hawks keep Stackhouse, the only proven NBA player of the lot and a tough-minded vet? Even after adding Pargo, do the Hawks need to keep one of Wanamaker, Sloan or Sy at least until Hinrich returns?
Do they keep Rolle since Vlad is better suited for the three and he can fill in behind Smoove when size is needed (and also can be the third center on those nights when Collins is not a good option)? Is Ivan Johnson a guy they keep because, those he’s a bit undersized and 27-years old, he provides the energy and grit that could provide a spark for a tired team? Would they dare take the hit of releasing either Benson, whom they declared a long-term project when they drafted him, or Sy, whom they bought out of his French league contract last year?
Also, will money influence these decisions? Sy and Rolle count the same for team salary purposes, while Stackhouse costs a bit more. The rookies are the cheapest options by about $300,000.
I’m guessing the Hawks still aren’t sure about some of these issues and tomorrow’s game will factor into a few of them.
“We’re just in a situation where we have to make some decisions as far as who we are going to keep,” Drew said. “We are using these preseason games so they can get in these games and show us what they can do.”
If you are looking for clues, Drew offered a brief assessment of the youngsters in the first game:
“We will look at them again tomorrow night,” Drew said. “I am sure they all want to play better.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat