NBA AM: Atlanta Hawks Gearing Up For Busy Summer
Hawks’ Larry Drew Talks Draft, Free Agency And Trades: For the past five summers the questions surrounding the Atlanta Hawks have remained generally the same in nature. How long will ownership roll the dice on the core trio of Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Josh Smith? Will this be the season the Hawks finally breakthrough and advance past the second round of the playoffs? Is it time for the team to blow up the roster and start anew? Etc.
Earlier this week the team took a proactive step by hiring league veteran Danny Ferry as their president of basketball operations and general manager. Ferry, a former player, served as general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005-2010 attempting to construct a title winning team around three-time MVP LeBron James and for the past two years served as a vice president within the San Antonio Spurs organization.
Although Hawks’ head coach Larry Drew, entering the final season of his own contract, hasn’t had much time to interact with Ferry since his arrival in Atlanta he believes they are both united in elevating the team into the ranks of the league’s elite.
“Having the success he’s had first with Cleveland and then with San Antonio, we’re [both] looking to get over the hump,” Drew said of Ferry’s hire and the similarities of their focus. “We’ve been a team that’s been knocking on the door and I think we share the common goal as far as getting over the hump. We want to get to that next level and that’s going to be our focus.”
Ferry was very active during his stint in Cleveland’s front office acquiring All-Stars such as Shaquille O’Neal, Mo Williams, Ben Wallace and Antawn Jamison. Ferry was also a risk taker in free agency notably luring shooting guard Larry Hughes away from Washington in a deal which ultimately didn’t pan out as originally designed.
Drew believes that Ferry’s tenure in Atlanta won’t be any different from an activity standpoint and expects the team to be very active in free agency and entertaining trade offers from around the league.
“I’m sure once all of this draft stuff is over with we’ll sit down and we’ll start talking about personnel,” Drew said. “We’ll talk about free agents and possible trades to make us better.”
The Hawks have only six players under contract for the 2013 season and $61 million in salary commitments, which will put the team over the expected cap. This means the Hawks will have roughly $9 million to spend filling the remaining roster slots if they wish to avoid the luxury tax.
One of the pressing issues the team must address is the future of forward Josh Smith who is coming of a career season, but also reportedly has a standing trade demand in effect. Smith is entering the final year of his deal and potentially losing his talent in free agency next summer for nothing in return will likely force the club to at least listen to trade offers if they can’t get him to sign an early extension.
The team’s unfavorable position to the cap has also magnified the importance of selecting a player who’s ready to contribute in the nightly rotation from day one. The team owns the No. 23 pick of the first round. The only remaining Hawks draft pick since 2009 still on the roster is point guard Jeff Teague.
Drew makes it clear he’s not looking for a developmental project at No. 23, but a guy who can come in and produce immediately.
“That’s an understatement,” Drew said when asked if he’s looking for rotation player in the draft. “When you go into a summer, come July 1, we’ll only have six players under contract. So we have some holes we have to fill. We have to analyze what we have and we have to look at the personnel where we’ll need the most help from.”
With only six players currently under contract the Hawks have depth needs at point guard, small forward and center. With so many holes to fill Drew says the team isn’t looking to draft for a specific position, but will take the best available talent on their big board.
“At [pick] twenty three it will probably be the best player available unless somebody slides,” Drew said. “We have targeted some names that we hope will be there and the probability they’re not and then certainly we’ll just have to move to the next guy. In most cases it will be best player at that time.”
A few of the prospects who could be on the board at No. 23 include Syracuse’s Fab Melo, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor, Iowa State’s Royce White, Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie and Memphis’ Will Barton.
The Hawks have reached the playoffs the past five seasons, but have yet to advance past the second round during this time period. Rick Sund, the team’s previous EVP and general manager, will remain with the team in a consulting role through the end of July in order to help Ferry transition into the new role.
Sund maintains he has no plans to officially retire and will entertain any front office job opportunities as they are presented in the future.
Clippers Interested In Lamar Odom: According to a report by ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Los Angeles Clippers have started to engage in trade discussions with the Dallas Mavericks for embattled forward Lamar Odom which would also involve former All-Star guard Mo Williams.
However with Dallas expected to be in hot pursuit of point guard Deron Williams this summer any potential deal would likely need a third team involved to take on (Mo) Williams’ contract so the Mavs could maintain its financial flexibility in free agency.
The Mavericks currently have until Friday to buy out Odom’s deal for $2.4 million and in the meantime Odom’s agent Jeff Schwartz has been actively looking to find a landing spot for his client.
According to the report, the Los Angeles Lakers may emerge as the third team in a proposed Clippers and Mavericks deal, with the Lakers owning a trade exception large enough to absorb Williams’ $8.5 million owed for 2013. The Lakers may be in the market for backcourt help since their point guard at the end of last season, Ramon Sessions, has decided to opt out the final year of his deal and test free agency
Odom played in 50 games for the Mavericks in 2012 suffering through the worst season of his thirteen year career and routinely clashing with team officials in Dallas.
Odom was draft by the Clippers in 1999 and played with the team until 2003. He also won two championships with the Lakers (2009 and 2010).
Focused Carmelo Anthony Sees Title In Knicks’ Future: After nine seasons, All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony remains the only player selected in the top five of the 2003 draft who has yet to win a NBA title.
Fueled by a disappointing first round elimination at the hands of the eventual champion Miami HEAT this season, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson suggested to Anthony that he lose some weight in preparation for 2013.
Anthony heeded the advice and has subsequently lost twelve pounds working out in Los Angeles and is now down to 239 pounds which surprised Woodson on a recent trip out to the west coast.
“They were kind of shocked to see me down in weight,” Anthony told Howard Beck of The New York Times on Woodson’s reaction to his conditioning. “They came to my workout, saw it. They’re actually excited how much hard work I’ve put in since the season ended.”
In two postseason trips with the Knicks, Anthony’s season has ended in the first round. But the nine year veteran believes the Knicks will be hoisting championship hardware soon – possibly within the next two years.
“I believe my time is coming,” Anthony said. “Whether this year or next year, I truly believe our time is coming. We’re going to keep playing for that.”
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on the schedule today. Alex Kennedy will kicks things off at 3pm EST. Get your questions for Alex in here. Next, I will be hosting my weekly chat at 8pm EST. Feel free to drop me a line on anything NBA related. You can always find our upcoming chats HERE.