The positive reviews of the Atlanta Hawks' offseason continue to roll in with CBSSports.com's Zach Harper being the latest to weigh in. Harper gives the Hawks an A- for their offseason and doesn't see a whole lot of drop off for the team next season despite losing Josh Smith in free agency.
Before Ferry took over the Hawks, I hated their plan of 45 wins and a first-round exit just to grab some playoff revenue. Maybe they would get to the second round but you could guarantee it was never getting past that point and it just seemed like a successful treadmill team. In two years under Ferry, they now look like they have some breathing room, a ton of cap flexibility over the years, and a style that is a lot more modern in terms of where the league is headed.
I wouldn't be shocked if the Hawks won about 45 games this season and grabbed the sixth seed for their troubles, but it doesn't feel the same as it did before. It feels like they might take a step off the treadmill and go for a stroll outside just to see where they can end up.
The entire review is a good read as Harper discusses free agency and the drafting of Dennis Schröder and Lucas Nogueira. One thing that is sure to catch some Hawks fans' eyes is where he says the Hawks replaced Smith with a better player in Paul Millsap. While Millsap is not as good a defender as Smith, the Hawks can expect him to be much more disciplined on offense and therefore much more efficient. Overall the gain they get on offense will likely offset any loss on the defensive end.
Interestingly, ESPN.com's David Thorpe shares a similar line of thinking to Harper in regards to replacing Smith with Millsap.
Sure, Smith is an elite athlete with better overall skill than he's known for, but he never has been as efficient or played as consistently and intelligently as he needed to for the Hawks to rise to new levels of success. Paul Millsap might be a big upgrade, and the Hawks have a number of talented and quick guards who can grow into fine, if not great, players. Losing Smith will hurt Atlanta's shot-block numbers, but if it can maintain its overall defensive play and improve one of its bigs on offense -- which is entirely possible -- it should expect a better season in 2013-14.
Could it be that the Hawks upgraded their power forward position for just $19 million over the next two seasons? It might not be quite as far fetched an idea as some would think.