2011 NBA Offseason: Atlanta Hawks

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Atlanta Hawks (Last Year: 44-38)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

The Hawks were not going to turn water into wine with only one pick in the middle of the second round. They need size, and Keith Benson is 6-11 so he will compete for a roster spot which is all you can expect out of a mid second-round pick. (Team Grade: Makes sense)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

48. Keith Benson, C, Oakland
The Hawks have been looking for some size, and while Benson is 6-11, he is very soft. Unless he can learn to play the four or add some muscle, I am not sure about his future in the league. Still, he is worth the risk here with the 48th pick. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
Rather than losing Joe Johnson via free agency last offseason, the Hawks threw a max contract his way, convincing him to stay in Atlanta. How did Johnson respond? By posting his worst numbers since arriving in the Atlanta. That dip in production played a part in the once rising Hawks franchise taking a step backward. They finished nine games worse than they did a year ago but were still able to win their opening-round playoff series against the Magic before falling to Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Johnson was not the only Hawk to regress this past year. Jamal Crawford struggled to match his production from the 2009-10 season when he was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. Marvin Williams once again failed to the turn the corner and is proving to be a big disappointment as the second-overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Mike Bibby was a shell of his old self and was eventually dealt to Washington for Kirk Hinrich, who was not much of an upgrade and left Atlanta shorthanded in their second-round series as he was straddled to the bench with injury.

There were some positives along the way though for first-year head coach Larry Drew. Josh Smith remained an all-around force on the floor and actually showed slightly improved maturity despite the fact he still thinks he is a dangerous jump shooter. Al Horford continued to produce at a high level though it is becoming more evident that his destiny as a pro might be better suited off at power forward rather than center. Second-year point guard Jeff Teague showed flashes especially in the postseason.

Depth was a major issue for the Hawks especially after the trade with the Wizards that sent role player Mo Evans and last year’s first-round pick Jordan Crawford to the nation’s capital. Atlanta struggled to find consistent production outside of its top eight players and brought in journeymen veterans who failed to get the job done.

With a ton of money tied up in their big-name players, the Hawks have to find an affordable way to improve, which could be a challenge depending on how the new rules in the CBA are structured. If the rules tighten up, Atlanta could be headed for another year of regressing.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia

PF: Josh Smith/Keith Benson

SF: Marvin Williams/Pape Sy

SG: Joe Johnson

PG: Jeff Teague/Kirk Hinrich

NBA Free Agents:

SG-Jamal Crawford (UFA)

C-Jason Collins (UFA)

SF-Damien Wilkins (UFA)

C-Josh Powell (UFA)

C-Hilton Armstrong (UFA)

C-Etan Thomas (UFA)

PF-Magnum Rolle (UFA)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $64.3 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Re-Sign Crawford: Since Atlanta is already massively over the cap, it cannot afford to go out on the market and find a suitable replacement for unrestricted free agent Jamal Crawford. However, since they are already in a tight financial situation with a likely shrinking, possible hard cap being put into place, it is uncertain as to whether or not the Hawks will be able to pay Crawford his market value. If Crawford ends up signing elsewhere, Atlanta will have to find a wing scorer who can provide a punch off the bench or carry the second unit when needed.

2. Defensive-Minded Center: Jason Collins actually started 28 games at center for the Hawks. If that does not aptly describe how starved they were for a defensive presence in the middle, maybe this will… Atlanta paraded a plethora of journeymen centers (Hilton Armstrong, Etan Thomas, Josh Powell) on the floor trying to fill a hole in the middle. Again, with their already high payroll and no first-round pick, finding a legit big man who can play a meaningful role might be difficult.

3. Round out the Roster: We have already touched on a backup shooting guard and center, but with only eight players under contract for next season, Atlanta needs bodies at pretty much every position. They could use a backup power forward, a shooter on the wing and an upgrade at small forward. I would not be surprised if they dangle Kirk Hinrich’s expiring contract for a couple of players, or even try and trade one of their big contracts like Josh Smith in hopes of adding more depth.

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