Few teams are going to have a more interesting off-season than the Atlanta Hawks.
From the general manager whose contract is up to the coach with an option hanging out there — not to mention the Josh Smith trade request — there are nothing but questions in Atlanta this summer.
In theory they could look similar at the start of next season — all five starters are under contract for another year — Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Smith and Al Horford… plus they have Zaza Pachulia, too.
But that’s it. Nine players are free agents for the Hawks — Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Vladimir Radmanovic and Jerry Stackhouse are the biggest names.
It’s just hard to discuss what direction they will go until the status of general manager Rick Sund is cleared up. If ownership brings in a new general manager the status of coach Larry Drew and his contract option is certainly up in the air. It might be even if he stays.
Whoever is calling the shots will have a lot on their plate. That starts with Smith, who reportedly requested a trade last year and was shopped around, but with no takers. Smith is an All-Star quality big man owed $13.2 million next year in the last year of his deal, he could be moved but brining back equal value on the court would be very difficult.
The Hawks could keep their starting five — which went to the second round of the playoffs three straight years but couldn’t get by Boston missing Al Horford for most of the season and the start of the playoff series — and try to build a bench around them that could take the Hawks to the next level.
Ahh…but there is that little problem of money.
The Hawks at nearly $61 million in payroll are already over the salary cap and $10 million away from the luxury tax line. They have a mid-level exception ($5 million) and can re-sign the players on their roster they want to have back. But this is a team that does not go over the tax line, so it is about $10 million to fill in 9 roster spots. Do the math. You’re not brining in a whole lot of depth and quality with that money.
Does the Hawks bring back Ivan Johnson, showed flashes of good play and flashes of immaturity? What about Tracy McGrady? Jannero Pargo?
It feels like the Hawks could see a big shakeup this summer, with changes to the core of the team, starting with Smith. Horford is the anchor and Atlanta could start to rebuild around him.
They just need to decide who is doing the rebuilding.