We can speculate at length about how Josh Smith and Al Horford are young and Joe Johnson will re-sign after this season and the Hawks likely will be a playoff team for sometime.
But really, we don’t know. Teams sometimes have a limited window to win. That’s why the Hawks are going after former Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas now. Smart move.
According to our Michael Cunningham, the Washington Wizards, who acquired Ilgauskas from Cleveland Wednesday as part of the six-player, three-team trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, are likely to buy out the remainder of the 7-foot-3 center’s contract. (They’re rebuilding and only were interested in his expiring contract.) That would allow Ilgauskas to sign as a free agent with any team, and at least four teams appear to be in the mix: Cleveland (which wants him back and would have to be considered the favorite), the Hawks, Dallas and possibly Denver.
Ilgauskas would need to be released before March 1 to be eligible for the playoffs.
Ilgauskas was a career NBA starter until this season, when the Cavaliers got a guy named Shaquille O’Neal. But he’s averaging just under 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in his career, and he has played in 64 playoff games and two All-Star Games.
Even if Ilgauskas didn’t start for the Hawks, the move would allow them to bring him off the bench in the postseason and shift Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward (with Marvin Williams going to the bench), giving them a potent front line. The Cavaliers beefed up for the playoffs Wednesday when it acquired Antawn Jamison from the Wizards.
The Cavaliers and Orlando are clearly the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. But acquiring Ilgauskas would at least strengthen the Hawks’ post-season chances for a second-round upset.