Danny Ferry’s Overhaul Gives Hawks More Options
The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the most successful NBA franchises in recent history, recording five consecutive playoff appearances. However, it has been the club’s inability to advance past the second round of the postseason during the streak which has garnered the majority of attention. The widely held belief was the team’s core had reached their ceiling as a collective unit and changes needed to be made.
The first change for the organization came in June when the franchise announced the hiring of Danny Ferry to take over as the team’s president of basketball operations and general manager.
Ferry hit the ground running and started implementing his plan of getting the Hawks over the proverbial hump, first by dealing six-time All-Star guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets and then trading starting small forward Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz.
According to Ferry, the moves weren’t easy to make because of the solid contributions of Johnson and Williams over the years, but needed to be done to usher in a fresh start.
“Difficult decision to make in moving guys of that caliber,” Ferry told HOOPSWORLD about making the Williams and Johnson deals. “I think the mindset was that we probably weren’t good enough and the status quo wasn’t going to make sense if that was the case.”
Landing in the middle of the pack is a destination where NBA teams dread being slotted and avoiding mediocrity was clearly Ferry’s motive for the roster shakeup.
“We were right around that fourth, fifth, sixth frame of the East and ultimately if you want to try to get higher than that, then some changes needed to be made,” Ferry added. “Those were the [deals] we were able to make and hopefully we can make some good decisions ahead to put us in a better position.”
While Johnson was undoubtedly the driving force that helped elevate the Hawks back into relevancy in recent years, trading him allowed Ferry to save the franchise close to $90 million over the next four seasons. The Williams move netted another $15 million. Both deals were masterfully made while acquiring very little long-term debt in return.
As it stands currently, the Hawks will have roughly $30 million in salary cap room next summer and could become major players in a free agency class headlined by center Dwight Howard and point guard Chris Paul.
Still, Ferry says the Hawks will remain fiscally responsible with their newly acquired cap room moving forward. Translation: Don’t expect wild spending from the franchise just because the money will be available.
“You don’t do things necessarily for cap space,” Ferry said. “Sometimes cap space can be fool’s gold. I think it put us in a position where we can be opportunistic, whether it’s trade or whether it’s cap space; whatever it is to take in players or make trades or actually sign free agents. There are more options available to us right now and hopefully we can make good decisions to put the club in the best position going forward.”
Josh Smith, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague are the only four Hawks remaining on the roster from last season. Without some of the leadership returning from years past, Ferry is banking on Teague stepping into a larger leadership role for the team and believes the more the young guard gets to play, the better he’ll ultimately become as a professional.
“He’s still a young player,” Ferry said of Teague. “Last year was the first time where he just played. He got to play, totally green lighted. It will be interesting to see how he matures this year and continues to develop with things. It will be more his team. We don’t have Joe. We don’t have Marvin. It will be more of Jeff’s team than it has ever been. I think he’s capable of stepping in and doing a good job with that.”
The Hawks have been very active this summer acquiring a plethora of shooters for head coach Larry Drew’s motion offense. Veterans Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and rookie first-round pick John Jenkins can all stretch opposing defenses with their range on the perimeter.
Ferry says the addition of these shooters will make life easier for his frontcourt of Smith and Horford, while also opening the penetration lanes for his point guards Teague and Devin Harris.
“You have guys who can shoot the basketball like that, it really helps with ball movement,” Ferry said. “It really helps with spacing. It really opens the court up for other players. Devin Harris, Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Josh Smith, when they’re on the court with one or two of those guys, the court will really be open for them to get the angles and the path to basket into the shots that they need.”
The new-look Hawks will be on display as they open their preseason versus the reigning NBA champion Miami HEAT on October 7 at Philips Arena.