The Cards and Chips in Danny Ferry's Hands

Jeff Bottari

Ever since Atlanta GM Danny Ferry traded away Joe Johnson, the Hawks have been in a phase of gathering assets while instilling a culture of competitive character. Ferry could add more chips on Thursday night or use some to bring in a proven talent.

Most coverage of the draft has centered around what Atlanta will do with the #15 pick. There are good reasons for Atlanta to remain at 15 and select one of several good prospects that fit the developmental culture and have skills the team needs. It is difficult for fans to hear about building assets when wanting to cheer on a winner, but long-term success is found in building the right foundation. Ferry established this foundation by dealing away Joe Johnson's contract and putting in place a plan for properly developing players.

The Hawks have a relatively deep roster and many future assets--including all of their own future picks. Ferry has the flexibility to move up and down the draft as needed. This could mean that he could stack current and future assets to make a splash in moving up the draft or in acquiring a player from another team. He could choose to move down and acquire additional picks for future development or to be used to acquire more talent. Ferry has built a strong reputation for keeping his cards held close to his chest. What we most know about the GM's plan for Thursday night is that we do not know anything. What we do know is that he has a lot of chips to use and there should be no surprise if some of them are pushed into the pot in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Here is a rundown of the chips Ferry has most readily available to use on draft night:

  1. 2014 Draft Picks: Selections 15 and 43
  2. 2015 Draft Picks: Atlanta's picks, the right to swap 1st round pick with Brooklyn, Brooklyn's second round pick
  3. 2013 Draft Selections Dennis Schroeder and Lucas Nogueira
  4. Lou Williams and his expiring 5.45 million dollar deal
  5. John Jenkins

There is no player on Atlanta's roster that is untouchable, but the above players and selections are the most obvious choices to be moved should Atlanta find the right partner. The Hawks have 10 players under contract if they keep the options on Antic and Muscala--which all signs indicate they will. Should Atlanta choose to bring over Lucas Nogueira and draft a player at 15 to be placed on the roster, the estimated cap room for free agency is around 11.5 million if all free agents are renounced. Any offers made to Mack, Scott, or Brand would have to be reduced from that number. I expect Ferry to renounce any players that he does not intend to offer a signing sheet. In this scenario, Atlanta has 3 roster spots for free agents including its own. Additionally, there is a possibility of the second-round choice being on the roster and Atlanta having three more selections in the 2015 NBA Draft.

All of this would seem to make it unlikely that Ferry will choose to bring over Lucas Nogueira, draft a player expected to be on the roster at #15, and not make an additional move involving a player on the current roster. Whether that happens Thursday night or before the season is unknown. It has to be considered when looking at tomorrow night's draft because the selection Atlanta makes goes well beyond the simplicity of taking the best prospect available or meeting a need. Some of those considerations include: Is there a player at 15 ready to contribute to the rotation immediately? If not, do you choose a player to be stashed? Is their a chance to get more than one player ready to contribute? If so, do you try to pick up an additional pick? Is there a number that Atlanta needs in cap space to acquire a specific free agent and does stashing a player help get to that number?

Here are a few values to consider in looking at all of these pieces:

  1. This is a deep draft--maybe the deepest in 20 years. The hype for the top fizzled, but the depth is unprecedented in my time following the draft. It is possible that players selected at 30-35 are more like players typically selected in the 18-20 range. If there is a time to deal a future first-round selection than this draft may be a great opportunity to do so. The value is not in doing so to move up, but to pick up another player of higher quality than a typical draft. Atlanta dealing the lottery-protected 2015 pick to get up to 19 (where Chicago may not want to spend additional money on a player) or in the 20s makes a great deal of sense. The players listed in the top 21 of the Peachtree Hoops Draft Board are all lottery selections in most drafts. Any future lottery-protected pick is worth surrendering to land on of them.
  2. Second, Schroeder and Noguiera continue to be exciting prospects and I do not believe the front office has a different opinion on them than last year. They are still very much a part of the plan. However, I do not believe either would go in the top 20 of this draft. If you can get a top-20 pick for either player, it is worth doing. Schroeder continues to be highly regarded in scouting circles and dealing him for a top-20 pick would allow Atlanta to re-sign Mack (an ideal backup point guard) while bringing in a young player at a greater position of need.
  3. Third, Lou Williams should be more effective next year in his second season under Coach Bud and a full season removed from knee surgery. That being said, I would take a second-round pick in this draft for him if Atlanta is going to bring back Mack. It would free up an additional 5.45 million in free agency and allow playing time for a healthy John Jenkins or a first-round wing selection. With a lot of seasoned college point guards available in the draft, Atlanta may even find a third point guard ready to help in the second round.

These are some of the chips at the table for tomorrow's draft. If Ferry calls you to ask for help, which ones would you play?

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