The Hawks were long linked to Shaquille O’Neal, but despite the Hawk’s need for a big, strong post defender (to tackle the challenges Al Horford is ill-suited for) and some interior scoring (ATL was 21st in the league in field goal attempts at the rim last season), it wasn’t meant to be. O’Neal is now a Celtic, and he’ll have tons of fun tangoing for minutes next season with Jermaine O’Neal and the recovering Kendrick Perkins.
To the Hawks’ credit, they drew the line for Al Horford’s benefit (link via Hoopinion). Shaq doesn’t deserve to start over Horford even if the Hawks lack an interior presence to deal with the the league’s giants, and going with Al over Shaq was the right move.
So instead of O’Neal, the Hawks will look to Plan B. Or, judging by the talent of their targets, Plan Q, at the very least. According to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks are looking at signing Francisco Elson, Josh Boone, or Brian Skinner to fill in minutes at the middle. These are harsh times, and teams looking for bigs are finding the remaining pool of useful free agents rather meager.
O’Neal may only vaguely resemble the player he once was, but he’s still much, much better than any of the Hawks’ remaining options. Shaq is still a reasonably effective low-post threat even at his advanced age, and while concerns over his pick-and-roll D are both well-known and very valid, he does have some defensive application.
Boone? A wiry non-rebounder that exists in never-ending state of biting on pump fakes. Elson? Stuck without particularly usable size or mobility (He’s 7’0”, but would you know it?), and lacking in the offensive utility that could secure him a roster spot. Skinner? Fantastic beard, and perhaps the best player of the three. Still, all Atlanta has at center right now is Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, and Jason Collins. Skinner may not be an awful option for a third center, but if the Hawks signed Collins, they would have two low-quality Cs in reserve, without adding any quality bigs.
Right now, Atlanta can’t win. They’re set to be a tad soft inside once again despite Al Horford’s best efforts (and Zaza doing what Zaza does), and the only heroes on the horizon are highlighted by their generally ineffective largeness or quirks in their coiffure/facial hair stylings. Well done as always, Hawks. They may end up getting bigger, but they’re still not getting any better.