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Atlanta Hawks ownership, front office questions will determine off-season direction

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The Atlanta Hawks have a big off-season coming, but two question marks hold the keys to the team's immediate direction.

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The Atlanta Hawks are under new management.

If you've been asleep for the better part of 45 days, the Hawks have been sold to a new ownership group that includes Tony Ressler, Sara Blakely and former NBA All-Star Grant Hill. That, of course, means that the Atlanta Spirit Group is no more, and that fans of the team are freed from the tyranny of previous management.

In another twist, the franchise is still without a general manager. Yes, Mike Budenholzer has been functioning as the team's leader in player personnel and assistant GM Wes Wilcox has been prominently involved, but to this point, there has been no closure on the Danny Ferry situation, leaving some questions about who will head up basketball operations moving forward.

Why, you ask, am I recapping this for you?

Free agency is coming.

There has already been plenty of talk about the futures of DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap, with both players entering unrestricted free agency after soundly outperforming their previous contract in Atlanta. Each forward is due for a substantial raise (which is an understatement with regard to Carroll), and many amateur salary cap "experts" have been pining for a way for the Hawks to keep both while simultaneously improving the roster elsewhere.

However, there are two snags in any of that thinking, and they come in the form of the aforementioned new ownership and the questions surrounding the front office in general.

Will Tony Ressler and his crew be willing to spend money in a way that the ASG never would?

Optimists (myself included) are banking on this fact, but even if Ressler, Blakely and company have deep pockets, there is no certainty that they will be willing to join the NBA's elite with regard to spending, especially if that comes with the sharp cost of crossing the luxury tax threshold. In the short term, this may not be an incredible burden on the 2015 off-season, but decision-makers must be armed with future knowledge of the cap sheet, and if Carroll and Millsap are retained, it will greatly affect flexibility moving forward, especially if there is a mandate to avoid the tax.

Who is making the basketball decisions?

Regardless of who is making the choices, money is always a factor, but will there be a new general manager in place before the NBA Draft? Is Danny Ferry gone for good?

It would be disingenuous for me to speculate on either question, given that I have no inside information at this time, but Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox are certainly the "face" of basketball operations. Knowing who has the final say would certainly matter a great deal with regard to both the draft and free agency, especially given Budenholzer's intense familiarity with both Millsap and Carroll.

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The Atlanta Hawks are in fantastic shape. The salary cap sheet is clean to the point where there isn't a single bad contract on the roster, the team holds the 15th overall pick in a reasonably deep draft, and the NBA's Coach of the Year is in place to lead the way on the floor. Still, there is a great deal of uncertainty for a team that just won 60 games, and until questions are answered with regard to ownership (and even their full-fledged arrival) and basketball operations, speculation as to specifics for the summer can only be classified as educated guessing.