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Atlanta Hawks: Danny Ferry looking to trade but avoid the tax

Danny Ferry didn’t make the decisions that led to the Hawks owing $61 million in salaries next season to six veteran players on a team that’s topped out in the second round of the playoffs.

But now that’s he’s Hawks GM, Ferry will have to build a roster for next season without much financial flexibility. And he will have to start doing it pretty much on the fly because the free-agent negotiating period opens Sunday, less than a week after he took the job.

“It’s a crash course, for sure,” Ferry said. “I think we want to make the best decisions possible in the short term. We want to make right decisions, whether it’s a trade, whether it’s free agency. But especially trades.”

The trade market remains the best way for the Hawks to make significant additions to the roster (which of course means they’d also have to make significant subtractions).

They continue to get a lot of calls about Josh Smith but the impetus for pursuing Pau Gasol came from Rick Sund and Ferry so far hasn’t …

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Atlanta Hawks: Hawks said to pursue Josh Smith for Pau Gasol trade

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Hawks have tired to trade forward Josh Smith for Lakers forward Pau Gasol.

Bresnahan tweeted that no deal is imminent. And a big caveat is that his report says the Hawks first expressed interest in Gasol after Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoffs by the Thunder, back when Rick Sund was still Hawks GM.

The Hawks have since hired GM Danny Ferry, who says he’s focused on building long term. Gasol turns 32 next week and is owed more than $38 million over the next two seasons.

Also, Bresnahan and ESPN’s Chad Ford reported the Lakers are open to trading Gasol for a high lottery pick and players, a price the Hawks can’t match.

The Rockets, who have been accumulating draft picks, could meet the Lakers’ price. Houston already tried to trade for Gasol as part of the infamous Chris Paul deal that was eventually nixed by NBA commissioner David Stern.

Update: Ford now says the Rockets aren’t pursuing Gasol.

Smith, who can …

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Atlanta Hawks: Prospect focus: Memphis’ Will Barton

During his sophomore season at Memphis, Will Barton was among the best guards in the NCAA at rebounding, finishing around the basket and getting to the free-throw line.

A couple things stand out about that for me. One is that Barton managed to do all of this in spite of a very thin build. The other is that if he could eventually do those things for the Hawks, he would be the only guard on the current roster with that skill set.

That’s an big “if,” though, because Barton isn’t likely to add much much more weight to his 175-pound frame. He’s old for an NCAA sophomore at 21 and it’s not as if he hasn’t tried to bulk up.

“It’s just tough to put on weight,” he said. “I eat a lot. I do push ups. I lift weights. It’s a thing where I will probably just never put on weight. But [if I can] just keep gaining strength and be able to take hits and defend my position and rebound and do the things I do, I will be fine.”

Barton scored 1.328 points per possession around the basket as a …

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Atlanta Hawks: Prospect focus: Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor

Here’s something different: An NBA hopeful who’s about defense.

“I think it’s more of a mental thing,” said Vanderbilt wing Jeffery Taylor. “It’s more about how you approach the game. I think a lot of guys nowadays don’t really value defense. It’s all about scoring, the highlight plays and whatnot. My dad always instilled in me a defensive mentality. You need to be prideful in what you do on the court, and part of having pride is not letting someone score on you.”

Taylor was voted to the SEC’s all-defense team three times, joining Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado as the only players in league history to do so. He says he’s been a “big fan of [Thabo] Sefolosha for a long time.”

“I think defense is kind of like a lost art, almost,” Taylor said. “If you look at Sefolosha in the playoffs, he’s playing tremendous defense. He’s making a lot of key plays for them. A wing defender that’s good at what he does and can score the ball as well is a valuable asset.”

Taylor’s focus on …

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Atlanta Hawks: Prospect focus: Michigan State’s Draymond Green

The book on Draymond Green says he’s a high-energy, high-character banger with a long wingspan and soft hands. He’s a good passer, solid shooter and strong rebounder.

“I like him a lot,” Larry Drew said. “All of his intangibles he brings to the table, he is going to make someone a fine player. I don’t think there are enough players like him, that bring a little bit of everything to the table. He is certainly that type player, that caliber [of] player.”

Still, Green is 6-7, not very athletic and 22-years old. That means he’s probably too small to be a banger in the NBA, may not suited to play on the wing and probably isn’t going to get a whole lot better.

Green makes the case that being a four-year college player gives him an edge in maturity, both mentally and physically. He said that’s how he managed to be one of the best post players in D1 basketball in spite of his limitations.

“Every year I’ve learned to use my body more against guys with more length,” he said. “Just …

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Atlanta Hawks: Prospect focus: Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins

The first time Larry Drew saw John Jenkins play live, during a workout in Santa Barbara, the Vanderbilt guard didn’t shoot well. The second time Drew saw him, at the Chicago pre-draft camp, Jenkins was “just OK” shooting it.

That changed during Jenkins’ workout at Philips Arena.

“He came here and he shot the hell out of it,” Drew said. “He has an NBA skill. He’s a guy that, watching him play and the way teams play him, it’s kind of that J.J. Redick feel. If he’s on the court, you better be with him at all times. It would be great to have a guy like that.”

Jenkins’ shooting display during his Hawks workout was no fluke. He was an elite shooter in college, posting the best effective field-goal percentage among D1 perimeter players.

Jenkins will have to prove he can do enough other things well enough to help offensively once defenders crowd his jump shot–presumably John Hollinger’s draft rater doesn’t like Jenkins (Insider) because of concerns about his ability to do so. His

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Atlanta Hawks: Assistant GM Dave Pendergraft on the draft

Hawks general manager Rick Sund gives much of the responsibility for the NBA draft to assistant GM Dave Pendergraft and director of basketball operations Mike McNieve.

Some excerpts from Pendergraft’s chat with reporters:

On having lots of open roster spots:

“That’s what I tell the [draft-eligible] players. Come July 1 we will have only six guys under contract. In a perfect world our 23rd pick becomes a rotational player and our 43rd pick will be talented enough to join our roster. That’s the best-case scenario. We feel like we will be able to get a good player at both positions.”

On chances of getting rotational-quality player with 23rd pick:

“That’s our hope. At 23 there are some guys that have potential and you have to wait on it and then there are several guys that might not have as much potential but you can put them in the game the first two or three years, whether it is four-year players or physically they are more mature. It’s just going to depend on who’s there. We …

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Atlanta Hawks: Rick Sund likely to stay but future role uncertain

Hawks general manager Rick Sund is likely to remain with the franchise after his contract expires at the end of this month but his future role in the front office still isn’t clear.

Sund said he’s still in discussions with Hawks co-owners Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr. about continuing to work for the Hawks in some capacity beyond the draft.

“All I’m going to say is Bruce and I are kicking around a few ideas and when something gets totally resolved we will let you know,” Sund said today after the team worked out draft prospects.

Sund wouldn’t elaborate beyond that statement. He has continued in his GM role as the Hawks prepare for the draft.

It’s believed Sund has expressed interest in an advisory role with the Hawks. He also has considered retirement so he can spend more time in the Seattle area, where he still owns a home.

The Hawks reportedly denied the Trail Blazers permission to interview Sund after Atlanta’s season ended; Portland eventually hired former Clippers …

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Atlanta Hawks: Rick Sund Q-and-A

More from my interview yesterday with Hawks GM Rick Sund.

MC: What is your evaluation of the season?

Sund: There are two seasons. Once you become a real playoff team, there are two seasons. I thought we had an unbelievably great first season: 40 wins, key people hurt, the players and Larry [Drew] kept their focus. We ended up having the fourth-best record in the East. I thought with all the adversity it was really a great year with the compressed schedule and all the obstacles a team has to climb, which every team has those obstacles. I thought it was good.

The second part of the season is the playoffs and that’s disappointing. I think a great thing when you go through the [exit] interview process you get to talk to the players, and to a man—I still have a couple to do—but to a man they all think we should still be playing. And that’s a good thing. There’s disappointment in their heart. They look [at the playoffs] and feel they are good enough to be playing at the …

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Atlanta Hawks: On Josh Smith’s future

Before Josh Smith started his summer vacation, he was asked about the possibility of signing a contract extension with the Hawks.

“I can’t get extended,” Smith said. “They didn’t give me the money; I had to go get it. That’s something I have to play it out and see how it goes from there.”

Two things stand out about that statement. The first is that Smith, who presumably got the info from his agent, is wrong about his contract not being eligible for an extension.

I looked at Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ and could see no reason why Smith is not eligible for an extension. It’s been at least three years since he signed the deal, it’s never been renegotiated and it doesn’t include an opt-in. I checked with Coon and he confirmed the Hawks can extend Smith’s deal (they actually have been able to do so since August).

But the more interesting aspect of Smith’s statement is his allusion to having to “go get” his contract. He’s referring, of course, to the offer sheet he signed with Memphis in …

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