There is a point guard who just started for a team that reached the NBA finals — and he’s available. He also comes with a contract considered Atlanta Spirit budget-friendly. Hello?
The Hawks shouldn’t re-sign Mike Bibby. They should trade for Orlando’s Rafer Alston. He requires less of an investment than Bibby and might get them further in the playoffs. Look what he just did for the Magic?
I know. The Hawks finally got good again. The last thing you want to do is blow things up. But this isn’t a razing as much as it’s a needed remodel. (See ajc.com photo gallery.)
There’s a pretty good chance that we’ve seen as far as this Hawks team can go. They survived a seven-game series with Miami in round one. But they were waxed by Cleveland in the second round, and it turned out the Cavaliers weren’t nearly as dominant as everybody believed. Something needs to change.
Bibby, who is about to become a free agent, will not get a contract close to the $15.2 million he made last season. But he still will require a longer and more expensive commitment than Alston (one year left at $5.25 million), who is likely to be traded. The Magic needs the payroll relief so it can re-sign Hedo Turkoglu. The team acquired Alston in February only because they needed to replace the injured Jameer Nelson.
Even Alston suspects a trade might be coming — and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. That’s probably Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy made the questionable decision to give the just-rehabbed and rusty Nelson extensive playing time in the finals. “I always think I’m going to be traded,” Alston said (but then he has changed teams five times). “I don’t know. I think [teams] don’t respect my point guard abilities. That’s every team I’ve been on.”
After being traded by Houston, Alston started the rest of the regular season for Orlando and all 23 games in the playoffs. The Magic took out Philadelphia, then Boston and then the expected unstoppable force, Cleveland, in six games. In the key Game 4 win, when the Magic took a 3-1 series lead, Alston contributed 26 points, four assists and two steals. He also scored 20 points in Orlando’s only finals win over Los Angeles.
The Hawks probably have a core. We’re just not really sure what it is. Al Horford is a definite keeper. Josh Smith should be a definite keeper, drama and trade rumors notwithstanding. Joe Johnson will be going into the final year of his contract. But he had another disappointing post-season and this isn’t the time for long-term commitments.
Alston does not possess Bibby’s scoring ability. But he’s a better defender and can penetrate, which is what the Hawks need. And unlike the scenario of re-signing Bibby to a multi-year contract, acquiring Alston affords management flexibility after next season. A trade wouldn’t be difficult because Alston is 32 and expendable. Even then, they have pieces to move, starting with Marvin Williams. (One suggestion: Keep hope alive with Acie Law for one more season.)
Bottom line: If the Hawks really want to see how much this three-man “core” can accomplish, it makes more sense to do it with Alston than Bibby.