(Updated below with report that Shaquille O’Neal could come to the Hawks in a sign-and-trade with Cleveland for Marvin Williams.)
The Hawks remain relatively quiet on their plans to acquire a center (or not) in the free agent market. But quiet is not good right now. Look around.
♦ Miami has signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas as a free agent from Cleveland. Not a huge surprise. He seems to like following LeBron James around, as evidenced by him re-signing with the Cavaliers late last season after he had been traded to Washington and subsequently released a month earlier. Long story.
♦ Boston signed Jermaine O’Neal as insurance while Kendrick Perkins recovers from knee surgery. Smart move by general manager Danny Ainge.
♦ Dallas re-signed Brendan Haywood.
♦ Golden State acquired forward/center David Lee in a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks for three players and a draft pick.
♦ Utah, quickly replacing the loss of free agent power forward Carlos Boozer, who signed with Chicago, acquired forward/center Al Jefferson from Minnesota.
Hello? Anybody home?
The Hawks can’t afford to sit back. Even if lineup changes (Jeff Teague to starter; Mike Bibby to the bench) and new coach Larry Drew improve things at both ends of the floor, the team has lacked another significant “big” for some time. Al Horford needs help inside. Here are the best remaining options.
1.) Shaquille O’Neal: Not nearly the player he used to be, obviously. But don’t get caught up in the he’s-old-and-fat argument. He can still play and give the team valuable minutes off the bench. He gives the Hawks the big body they need at both ends, clogging space, and he can still play defense and rebound. As a bonus, he’ll take some media pressure off of Joe Johnson and he’ll certainly sell tickets. O’Neal’s options appear limited. It may be down to the Hawks or Dallas.
(UPDATE: NBA.com is reporting the Cavaliers’ interest in Marvin Williams, who has been a huge disappointment for the Hawks, is to the point that they’re trying to acquire him from Atlanta in a sign and trade for Shaq. The deal would give the Hawks’ payroll relief.)
Atlanta has budget limitations after agreeing to give guard Joe Johnson a $124 million max contract, with ownership unlikely to approve a deal for O’Neal or any other backup center that goes much above the veteran minimum. The Hawks are also interested in free agent center Brad Miller and Bucks free agent center Kurt Thomas.
Cleveland got a $14.5 million trade exception by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal for LeBron James to Miami, in addition to two future draft picks from the Heat. The Cavs could use part of the exception to absorb Williams’s $6.7 million salary for next season.
Atlanta also got a trade exception, worth about $2.9 million, when it agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that will send free agent forward Josh Childress to the Phoenix Suns for a future draft pick, and can use that exception to acquire a player making that much money.
The Cavs’ new general manager, Chris Grant, was working as the Hawks’ assistant GM when Atlanta took Williams with the second pick overall in the 2005 Draft, opting to take him over point guards Deron Williams (who went third to Utah) and Chris Paul (fourth to New Orleans).
2.) Brad Miller: A well-traveled seven-footer but still effective. He might be a better fit in Drew’s offense than Shaq but obviously doesn’t bring the same marquee value.
3.) Kwame Brown: A few readers have been pushing him, based on the fact he is younger and more athletic than Shaq. Problem is, he’s been “younger and more athletic” than almost everybody his entire career. He’s still a slug. He certainly brings nothing to the table offensively. Pass.
Who’s your pick? O’Neal, Miller or Brown. Or are you satisfied with the current roster?