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?
By Mark Bradley