Why the Atlanta Hawks’ future is, in a word, questionable

Kirk Hinrich waves goodbye to a first-round pick. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Kirk Hinrich waves goodbye to the first-round draft pick that became Chris Singleton. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The NBA draft is behind us, and all the Hawks have to show for it is Keith Benson, a skinny center of some promise who might not play a significant minute next season. But there are greater issues facing this team. To wit:

1. Having all but admitted they’d like to trade Josh Smith, don’t the Hawks  now HAVE to trade Josh Smith?

Yes. Some players could  shrug off being shopped as the price of business. Smith isn’t so thick-skinned. He really wants to be appreciated as a great player, and he can’t understand why Atlanta fans cringe when he rises to shoot a 20-footer. If the Hawks were willing to dangle Smith in the attempt to land the draft’s No. 2 pick and the Turkish center Enes Kanter, they shouldn’t pull back now. A disgruntled Smoove would be a greater distraction than he already is.

2. Does the Kirk Hinrich trade look even worse with time?

Yes. It’s one thing to deal away a draft pick, quite another to realize that pick could have yielded Chris Singleton, the forward from Florida State who’s an Atlanta native and who could have stepped into the Hawks’ rotation on defensive prowess alone. The Washington Wizards now have a shooting guard (Jordan Crawford, also included in the Hinrich deal) and a swing forward (Singleton) who came gift-wrapped from the Hawks, who — and this is the real kick in the head — might not have needed Hinrich at all.

3. Speaking of whom … is Jeff Teague the real deal?

He was terrific against Chicago as an emergency starter, but it bears repeating that he worked just under 10 minutes in the Round 1 series against Orlando. The Hawks went to training camp last fall hoping that Teague would show enough that Mike Bibby could be phased out, and that didn’t happen. If you’re counting, that makes two Hawks coaches — first Mike Woodson, then Larry Drew — who have praised Teague’s talent but haven’t trusted him enough to put him on the floor.

4. We’ve been told all along that the Hawks are “athletic.” Why did they turn into a bunch of jump shooters?

Actions have consequences. By giving Al Horford more minutes at power forward, Smith was pushed to the perimeter. The shifts turned two of the league’s more dynamic talents into standstill shooters. The damning numbers, courtesy of Hoopdata: The Hawks took fewer shots at the rim than any NBA team but hoisted more from 16 to 23 than any club save the Wizards. This is simply a poor bit of asset allocation.

5. Can Jamal Crawford be retained?

It’s hard to see how. The Hawks have nearly $67 million committed for next season, and Crawford is going to command upwards of $10 million as an unrestricted free agent. There’s also this: Of that $67 million, almost $30 million will go to guards Hinrich, Teague and Joe Johnson. Do you really want to pay $40 million for your backcourt?

6. Is Joe Johnson’s contract worse than Jon Koncak’s notorious deal?

Yes. Koncak re-upped for $13 million over six seasons, which was big money in 1989. Johnson stayed for $123 million over six seasons, which is huge money now. Koncak was 26 when he signed his new contract; Johnson had just turned 29. The Hawks will have little wiggle room so long as Johnson is a Hawk, and he’s under contract through 2016. Whoa.

7. Is there any hope here?

Sure. Horford and Smith and Johnson are good-to-excellent players, and Teague shows promise. If the Hawks make the right trade involving Smith, they could remain one of the better teams in the East. But the core, which has existed since 2007, needs to change. They didn’t sink from 53 victories in 2009-2010 to 44 last season because a bunch of guys got hurt; they got worse because the guys on hand stopped playing as well together. It’s up to general manager Rick Sund to rearrange the elements.

8. Is Sund capable of such alchemy?

Good question.

By Mark Bradley

177 comments Add your comment

Senor Smoke

June 27th, 2011
3:44 pm

Mark Bradley

June 27th, 2011
3:44 pm

Kudos, Senor.

Fish Bisch

June 27th, 2011
3:46 pm

Fish Bisch

June 27th, 2011
3:48 pm

It bears repeating that the Hawks should have drafted Chris Paul and kept Pau Gasol. The Hawks have been making questionable moves for 10+ years.

Bryan G.

June 27th, 2011
3:50 pm

Mark – I still think the deal Marvin got was worse than the one JJ got.

HawksFaninVR

June 27th, 2011
3:51 pm

Nothing will change as long as ASG is in charge.

Mark Bradley

June 27th, 2011
3:52 pm

Well, there’s no question Joe Johnson is at least a good player, Bryan G.

da' boomer

June 27th, 2011
3:53 pm

i hope these idiots leave, too. the nba blows.

STRETCH

June 27th, 2011
3:57 pm

Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Jordan Crawford

but they still have

JJ, JS and Marvin the Duck

Boy do the hits keep comin!

ThrasherFan

June 27th, 2011
3:58 pm

Screw the Hawks and the ASG. It’s good to see they haven’t a clue about basketball either. Maybe we can ship this worthless franchise to Canaduh as well.

Aardvark Base

June 27th, 2011
4:00 pm

Third. Sund needs to pull the trigger on a Smith deal. There are players & expiring contracts to be had. I do think Teague is the real deal. Obviously we need a CENTER. I agree that ball movement and shot selection suffered with Horford at 4 and Smith at 3. Smoove is NOT a small forward. He’s such an awesome PF though, that someone is going to be happy to get him in a deal. I almost would suggest to trade Horford if we can’t move Smoove, but he’s just too good, physically and mentally. Kirk Hinrich is an awesome defensive and passing PG/SG, so it’s not that terrible a trade, although losing the pick hurt. He is a good 3rd man in the back court with Teague/Johnson. Jamal Crawford definitely needs to go, no question. Johnson’s deal is pretty putrid, but at the time we didn’t think it was too bad, because what would the Hawks have done without him? I don’t think he’s ever going to be worth a max contract, but he can play better than he did in 2010-11, and be a solid All-Star caliber SG in thie NBA for the life of his contract. To conclude, I think there’s a LOT of hope here, and the future looks bright.

dap01

June 27th, 2011
4:03 pm

Good points MB. There is little hope that any of your questions would be address by the poor Hawks management properly.

Joe’s salary is horrible.
LD’s coaching is wrong for the team (or any team)
Sund is not a dynamic GM.

There is little reason for optimism.

UGA

June 27th, 2011
4:03 pm

I thought the Hinrich trade was good. We would never beat the Magic without him, and if he was healthy………well the Bulls may have had a tougher time. But we see what Teague can do now, so good. Hinrich is also a better trade piece than Bibby would have been.

CJ

June 27th, 2011
4:04 pm

Wasn’t the purpose of drafting Jordan Crawford because we knew that Jamal was on his way out?

Also, it’s hard to say that Teague didn’t show LD and Woody enough to get the starting gig. I think they just flat out don’t trust rookies. Teague got an opportunity because of injury and succeeded, Jordan got an opportunity thanks to a trade and succeeded. That shows me that our coaches don’t know how to evaluate talent or coach it. Also, look at Boris Diaw for another example.

jon

June 27th, 2011
4:08 pm

I said it then… Trading Jordon crawford was bad… why do you think they drafted him, they knew jamal was a free agent and had jordan in case he left… now what… idiots!

Hawk StrtTalk

June 27th, 2011
4:09 pm

I don’t disagree about any of this, but I would say that if it wasn’t for ASG – I wouldn’t have been quoted in ESPN.com for the team’s ineptitude, so there’s that as my selfish reason for why things can stay the same. I mean – they aren’t going to call me to say – the Hawks are making great moves. Now, if we can just shift some of the heat onto Sund who has done nothing (and yes, I’m including attaining Jamal Crawford b/c what if he used those assets to get us a BETTER fit for the team instead of a $10M backup shooting guard who didn’t play defense) to make our team better since he’s been here.

J.J.M.

June 27th, 2011
4:10 pm

I asked joe johnson at lenox mall would he re-construct his contract to make the team better he gave me a smirk and said “you’re a fan of jordan too huh” I guess because of the shoes I had on

Trade Josh Smith

June 27th, 2011
4:12 pm

Josh Smith should be traded at any cost. I’m sick of his whiny attitude and inconsistent play. I personally think Joe Johnson should not have been resigned at all. He will never win a championship with his brand of play (isolation 1-on-5) and now the Hawks are stuck with him for 5 more years.

jdewayneatl

June 27th, 2011
4:16 pm

1) Josh isn’t going anywhere. All of the rumors were created because people assumed that Josh wanted out, which as Michael C. has reported is not the case according to Smith. And don’t the ASG “gauge” Smoove’s trade value every year.

2) Kirk Hinrich for Singleton and JC2 is a good deal. Hinrich is proven, savvy, defensive-minded, great shooter and will be a very good fit as a back up to Teague and JJ. A full season with this squad will show his true value.

3) Teague has been sheltered. Release the Teague!

4) The Hawks athleticism has not been exploited because they have not had a PG to push the tempo (but now we have Teague) and LD tried to go from ISO Joe to a “flex” offense. Thing is the Hawks and their athleticism are best utilized in the open court.

5) Sign-and-trade Jamal… better to get assets for his overrated “hot streaks”

6) Konkac was never the Hawks best player, didn’t rescue a drowning franchise from the depths of the abyss, he wasn’t a 5-time all-star or 1-time all-nba player

7). Yes. Teague is the key I believe. This team needed an impact floor general and Teague is a game-changer. I have hope in Teague.

8) Hopefully!

THRASHERS Season Ticket Holder

June 27th, 2011
4:18 pm

As long as the Atlanta Spirit Group still exists, anything they possess or even touch turns into manure.

Just as the THRASHERS.

THRASHERS Season Ticket Holder

June 27th, 2011
4:19 pm

ASK the THRASHERS.

Deal with THIS, Levenson, You *#$(@#$@#$$@ Son of @ $#$$%@#$@# !!!!!

James

June 27th, 2011
4:19 pm

Mark,

Why would the Hawks sign Joe Johnson to such a crazy deal?

dap01

June 27th, 2011
4:21 pm

Hey, let’s sign JJ to a contract that is $25 million more than anyone else is allow to offer him.

RK

June 27th, 2011
4:22 pm

So far Sund has been worse than Billy Knight. How is that even possible.

Paddy

June 27th, 2011
4:23 pm

Mark…..all things being eaual, you are probably correct on each point. But nobody asked you about the ownership. ASG is still a major factor in this teams future! I don’t believe the Hawks can get better with the “Keystone Kops” at the helm.

a1andonly

June 27th, 2011
4:23 pm

I think we should still have faith in this team. Even though we are stuck with the same roster, if and when the team decides to play together for 48 min, i believe we can be better than we’ve been the past 5 years. But….its all up to them.

jdewayneatl

June 27th, 2011
4:24 pm

Does anyone remember the 01′ – 02′ season?

or the 02′ – 03′ season? What about 03′ – 04′? 04′ – 05′ or )5′ – 06′?

Its sad how people can be ungrateful sometimes!

Mike

June 27th, 2011
4:25 pm

i think the reason why they didnt trade Josh because of the upcoming sale (what I am reading Ian Thomsen article today, its looks like it has been done) and i think that it will be better to keep him then have him torment the Hawks about + years.

Worldwide Clyde

June 27th, 2011
4:26 pm

The Moors (Black Africans) ruled Spain for 700 years and introduced alchemy to the Europeans.

Sund is the worst GM in the league and Drew is the worst coach in the league.

Malcolm Reynolds

June 27th, 2011
4:27 pm

Why don’t you guys have any faith in the Atlanta Spirit?

Malcolm Reynolds

June 27th, 2011
4:28 pm

steve brown

June 27th, 2011
4:30 pm

Boycott, boycott, boycott until sold!!!

Mike

June 27th, 2011
4:31 pm

@steve brown

You havent been reading that Hawks might be sold before too long.

Zing

June 27th, 2011
4:32 pm

Any chance at all that Joe Johnson could be traded? The longer the Hawks wait to try to trade him, the worse it gets, because at least right now, you’ll have a 30-year old JJ… in a couple of years, who the hell is going to pick up a huge contract on an early 30s shooting guard? (It’s hard to even imagine it now).

God, WHY did they have to re-sign him? If the Hawks had any kind of front office acumen, they would have worked a sign-and-trade last summer. Bleagh. Makes me sick.

bro

June 27th, 2011
4:35 pm

The Hawks will never get better until the get rid of the non-basketball talent at the following positions: Owners, GN, and Coach. Only a fool makes or someone who knows nothing about basketball or a combination thereof, would have made the trade the Hawks make. Any junior high or high school player could have told you this was a bad deal. Only s— for brains management would have made a trade like that. Borrowing a player only works when he is not really needed. Again somethings go together like: PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY and ATLANTA HAWKS AND THE CARTOON NETWORK. End of story.

Chris

June 27th, 2011
4:38 pm

Marvin Williams for Greg Oden

Chris

June 27th, 2011
4:39 pm

Marvin Williams for Greg Oden will be a nice trade

Chris

June 27th, 2011
4:39 pm

GT Alum

June 27th, 2011
4:42 pm

1 point, MB. The NBA requires the salaries match if the teams don’t have cap space. A team that has cap space could take Josh without the Hawks having to take back even salary. The question is would any team that has cap space want to spend it on Smoove? And what would be the Hawks’ incentive to do such a trade? The only way is if they were getting a cheap good young player in return, in which case, why would a team want to trade a cheap young player for a more expensive older player?

ryan

June 27th, 2011
4:43 pm

Not drafting Chris Paul will always come back to haunt ASG and also be there down fall the guy wanted to be Atlanta and its looks like he will end up in New York its sucks city of Atlanta can not get rid of this cancer ASG .

KBP

June 27th, 2011
4:45 pm

ASG/General Manager is the problem. I am a JJ fan, he is not a max deal player. Not a JJ problem, ASG/GM problem. Hinrich for JC and 1st round pick, ASG/GM problem. Two coaches not playing Teague early, not a Teague problem, a coaching problem. Leads me to this: AN ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEM!

Mystikal

June 27th, 2011
4:48 pm

ASG, RIck Sund & Co, whomever need to hire a “NO” man. Someone simply to act as a conscience when there is a big decision to be made. Should we resign this 30 yr old guy for all this money? “NO”
Should we give up all these 1st rd picks just to complete a minor trade? “NO” If we just make a bunch of moves to give the impression we know what we’re doing people will be convinced right? “NNNOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

DHD

June 27th, 2011
4:48 pm

The Hawks would have blown the first pick anyway. That is their history.

Jamaaliver

June 27th, 2011
4:53 pm

Mark, another questionable move from LAST year’s draft. We actually had traded our initial 1st round pick to NJ for the draft rights to Jordan Crawford (presumably saving a few hundred thousand dollars). We then obtained the first pick of last year’s 2nd round. With a few moderately rated big men left on the board, we traded THAT pick to OKC for cash considerations and gave the roster spot to Etan Thomas.

We could have drfated a young, cheap big with upside at the 31st pick of last year’s draft. Now we’re stuck scraping the barrel with the 48th pick of this draft.

Etan Thomas actually got deactivated in the playoffs for being terrible. His career is very possibly over. And he made more than any 2nd round pick would have last year. Pathetic allocation of assets.

Octavius

June 27th, 2011
4:56 pm

MAYBE WINNIPEG WILL TAKE THE HAWKS TOO.

Presham from Port Arthur

June 27th, 2011
4:57 pm

i knew the hawks wasnt gonna make any moves in the draft…they really dont want to trade josh although they say they do. If josh ever gets on a team with a pure point gaurd(jason kidd) he’s an instant allstar. Somebody has got to step up and get josh head in the game. When in the paint he’s gonna fill up the sheet. when out the paint he needs to be covered up with a sheet cause we dead. With that said i really think Jeff Teague is the key to next year, if he works on his shot.

OldMonty

June 27th, 2011
5:00 pm

Strange as it may sound, I think there might be another way for the Hawks to have hope (regulars help me out, here). If I understand correctly, one of the main talking points in the labor negotiations is the ability of teams to cut or drop one contract, irrespective of the team’s relation to the salary cap. If this were to come to pass (and who knows what kind of labor deal we are going to see or if we will even get a season), we might be able to rid ourselves of Joe’s contract and have some flexibility. I say this not to bad mouth Joe or Joe’s play, but until that contract is dealt with, we will not see much movement in the makeup of this team.

Has anyone else heard of this possibility?

Bobby Knight

June 27th, 2011
5:02 pm

Can’t call ‘em a team. I’d call ‘em five guys that wander around on the court for a while and then on a completely random basis…somone shoots.

PD

June 27th, 2011
5:07 pm

Rick Sund is not a good GM. You guys complain about Billy Knight for passing up picks. I am not sure he would have screwed the team’s salary cap in one season…….Oh and blow draft picks season after season. All that work BK put in to clear the books Sund has ruined in 2 seasons. He has done nothing better than his predecessor other than tow the line into the deep end.

Josh Smith shouldn’t be traded they need to figure out how to get Marvin’s contract covered by insurance to clear his 8 million dollar salary and re-sign Crawford or get JR Smith Al Thornton or Samuel Dalembert.

You should have known he was bad when he re-signed Joe Johnson and confirmed it when he traded Bibby one of the worst moves of this past season.

kudzu

June 27th, 2011
5:07 pm

Trade Josh Smith for next year First Rounder, then throw (sneak) in Joe Johnson, too… Start over…