With the 2010-11 season coming to a close for the Atlanta Hawks we now turn our attention to the off season and forecasting how this team might look next season. We have already discussed John Hollinger's positive outlook for the Hawks. Hollinger basis a lot of his reasoning on the play of Jeff Teague against Chicago.
Michael Cunningham and Zach Lowe have also weighed in on the Hawks and both agree on one thing. We are going to have to let the CBA situation sort itself out before we can be sure about this Hawks team next season. It is expected that teams will have fewer options once everything is sorted out and their may not be as many ways to circumvent the salary cap as there are now. Any thing that is said right now is speculation because the rules will in all likelihood change.
Cunningham points out that under the current rules, Atlanta would have roughly 3$ million dollars to sign six players just to get to the league minimum of 13 players.
Under the current rules it’s hard to see how the Hawks could even fill out the roster with the minimum 13 players without paying the tax. Right now their options are limited to trades and using exceptions to acquire players whose salaries that don’t put them over the tax level. Assuming the tax threshold is about the same as it was the past three seasons, about $70 million, the Hawks would have roughly $3 million of wiggle room to sign six players.
That would suggest that somebody making a large salary number might have to go in some kind of cost cutting move and that is before we have even talked about whether or not the Hawks should attempt to bring back Jamal Crawford. Lowe suggests that Atlanta may look to part with a player like Marvin Williams.
But Marvin Williams, owed about $8 million year through 2013-14, might be. The Hawks, more than almost any team, need the new CBA to include some form of long-term salary relief.
The only problem with that plan is whether or not Atlanta can find a trade partner that is willing to take Williams. I am not sure that Williams can't be a productive player somewhere on an NBA team but it is growing more and more apparent that he needs a change of scenery to be successful. In Atlanta he will forever be judged on who he isn't (Chris Paul) rather than what he is. Lowe also discusses that in the latest CBA proposal by ownership that was rejected by the players included a one time amnesty clause where each team could waive one player without salary cap penalties. In other words, if that scenario came to pass, Atlanta could elect to waive a player like Marvin Williams and he would no longer count towards the salary cap. Williams would still be paid his full contract but that money wouldn't factor in on Atlanta's salary cap calculations. It is that kind of uncertainty that makes forecasting this off season that much more difficult.
The Jamal Crawford situation isn't that difficult in my mind to forecast because I simply don't think that Atlanta can afford to bring him back even if they are able to dump a player like Williams. Somebody will throw money Crawford's way and the Hawks would seem to be well served moving into next season with some sort of rotation made up by Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich. Crawford is 31 years old and the Hawks are heavily invested in the shooting guard position already (Joe Johnson). Hinrich is capable of playing both guard spots but won't bring the offensive firepower that Crawford did but will provide a much more well rounded game at both ends of the floor.
Jeff Teague played like a seasoned veteran in the Chicago series and I feel like he did enough to prove that he is the answer to Atlanta's long search for a point guard. His performance was a small sample size but he was going against the league MVP and one of the top defenses in the NBA. It was his performance in the playoffs that single handedly changed the outlook of this team going forward in my opinion. Adding even more uncertainty to the situation is the ongoing speculation that the Atlanta Spirit group is about to sell the Atlanta Thrashers. How this will effect the Hawks is unknown at this point.
One final point that I feel like needs to be addressed as we transition to the off season was the Kirk Hinrich trade. Atlanta gave up a lot when they sent Mike Bibby to Washington along with Jordan Crawford and their 2011 first round pick. As much as I like Kirk Hinrich the question has to be asked if whether or not Atlanta could have solved its problems simply by playing Jeff Teague. Jordan Crawford could have been a sensible and cheap option for replacing Jamal Crawford this season. However, I do like Hinrich and his veteran defensive presence and expiring contract could be valuable in the future. I am not sure of the value of the 2011 first-round pick as this draft is being billed as one of the weakest we have seen in some time.
These are some of the many questions that we will be discussing and debating as this off season unfolds. Starting very soon we will be taking a player by player look at the Hawks roster and how it might look when the season begins next season.