Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Economics or Is It?

I've been in plenty of debates over the offseason regarding the Hawks offseason, which pleases me greatly. Normally, no one would give a rat's ass about the Hawks, so having some folks who really have an opinion makes me smile.

In those debates, there have been varying degrees of glee and consternation about the Hawks offseason. Our position has always been about championship moves (ones that pay off this year and in the future). I've included a link regarding the offseason moves made this year. I'll focus less on the ranking and more on what I look at and say - why not us? I've been very vocal about the fact that I think we've mishandled a few situations this offseason that I feel are critical to our progression toward title contenders.

In order to make sure we're all together on that thought process, our position was that the following things needed to be addressed this offseason IF our goal was to progress further than last season:

  • Perimeter Defense - Whether that's with a defensive stopper at point guard off the bench OR by replacing Bibby with a better defender
  • Rebounding - The Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league last year. Enough said.
  • Leadership - Whether that's with a true point guard who directs the offense and distributes the basketball (penetration would be nice as well) OR with a veteran who has won at least a conference title who is willing to help guide our young players on the ways of winning critical basketball games.
  • Toughness - If anyone watched us in the playoffs, it wasn't just a lack of talent, but it was a lack of fortitude and toughness that caused the blowouts. You cannot have your will taken if you want to be successful in the NBA.
  • Interior Depth - It should be obvious that we can't expect that no injuries will occur all season when our frontcourt is undersized already (with lean and under 7 foot centers and power forwards). You need serviceable help in general and ESPECIALLY when someone gets hurt.
  • Coaching - If you aren't going to fire the coach (our preference), then you certainly can't leave him with no contract extension. The ability to discipline and be patient with our young players is significantly diminished when a coach is not guaranteed that he's coming back next year.

So, check out this list of offseason moves -

With that in mind, here's the head scratching that we're doing this offseason:

  1. No contract extension for Mike Woodson. We've blogged about this before. While we detest Mike Woodson's coaching style in almost every measurable way, we don't want our coach to be neutered either. We'll see how the team and staff perform under the circumstances, but we won't be surprised if it's a disaster.
  2. Joe Smith - What are we waiting for? The last thing we need is for him to be on another team as their 4th big man. A one year deal keeps him from tying up your cap, so let's get it done.
  3. Lack of inquiry on Leon Powe, Fabricio Oberto, Drew Gooden, Chris Wilcox, Chris Andersen, Hakim Warrick, Brandon Bass at any point this offseason (not saying that all of these guys are the answer - I am saying that at the pricesthat some of these guys signed - we should be involved in some way.
  4. Trading David Anderson when we STILL have no 4th big man
  5. Lack of attempt to sign a younger point guard like Ramon Sessions, Jarrett Jack, etc at a cheaper price (or a trade for Sergio Rodriguez and Channing Frye for Law, Claxton). Just anything to keep us from being held hostage by a no defense playing Bibby.

Now, the theme in all of these five areas in my mind is money. There's no way that some of these guys could be available at those prices and we not make a strong push to improve our interior. So, I'm just gonna say it - I don't think the Spirit have the money. I don't see us spending up to the cap limit this year and maybe not even next. I think they were happy to simply say - let's sign last year's team (save Flip Murray - who I think we still might want to sign) and hope the team's collective improvement will be enough to keep us in the top half of the Eastern Conference. While it's certainly possible, it won't be without 5 or more teams fighting us with the very players we should have been in the mix for.

Of course, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague could present some measure of improvement, but when we consider Mike Woodson's aversion to playing more than 8 players AND grooming point guards (and lack of contract) and the fact that these guys are backups - it doesn't give a lot of confidence that the organization is interested in actually improving the depth and talent base of this team. We applaud them for bringing back Zaza and Marvin, but to sustain our ascent - we think more was necessary. Too bad, we probably don't have the money to do so.


thirdfalcon said...

Just curious, Why do you write in the third person in your posts? Do you have a team of researchers? Are you speaking for yourself and another person that thinks the same things that you do? Do you have multiple personalities? Inquiring minds need to know!

Aside from that, which is by far the most important part of my post, I'd only take issue with three things.

1) Our rebounding wasn't league worst, or even close to it. We were 17th in rebounding last year. That's a bit below average, and certainly not a strength. But League worst? Nope, sorry.

2)If Woodson is as bad as you say he is, and the ASG are as poor as you say they are, then the only thing that giving Woodson a contract extension is going to do is saddle us with an anchor that we are stuck with for the next 3 to 5 years. The cash strapped ASG wouldn't want to pay two coaches, and won't unless they have no choice.

3)There is some truth to your claim that the ASG simply don't have the money to spend on players this offseason. But I'm not sure who your comparing them too. Compared to the LAkers and other teams in big markets, yes we are playing with different rules. Compared to the majority of the NBA? We are probably about the same.

I'll just leave you with one more thought. Perhaps the sticking point for Joe Smith is the contract length? We don't really know since he's a lightly regarded free agent. But maybe what he's looking for is a long(er) term contract.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...


I'll leave you with a few things.
1) Most writers (editorial or not) do write in 3rd person. So, that's how I write in general.

2) I really, really, really need you to do just a tad of research before you take issue with something I report. Remember that this is what I do. I'm rarely going to report something that isn't fact and say it's fact. I have no vested interest reporting things to make my ideas or thoughts sound more right than they are. So, I said the Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams and that's 100% true by every rebounding metric. It is absolutely false that we were not 17th in rebounding based on any metric that I would use. We were 23rd in rebounding, we were 25th in rebounding differential, and 20th in offensive rebounding. IF you look at the teams below us, you will see that none even close to a playoff berth with the exception of the Miami Heat and New Orleans (and I think you saw what happened to those teams in the playoffs). So, the point here is if you want me to pay attention to your comments - at least get the stuff that's fact correct. Please! So, again, I repeat - we were one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA last year, not average, not league's very worst, but one of the worst. Period.

3) As for Woodson, I think you're trying too hard here - if I'm the GM or owner, Woodson's fired today b/c I want to get on the championship path now rather than possibly next year. But if I'm talking with ownership and asked them if they believe in Woodson and they say yes, my opinion is why aren't you backing that up my giving him an extra year or two for a guy you want US and the TEAM to believe can take you to the next level.

So, my sentiments about Woodson's coaching aside, if you want me as a fan to believe he's the coach - you don't leave him in a lame duck status where someone like Josh Smith or a young player gets frustrated and just shuts down b/c they know that the coach isn't guaranteed to be here for very long. A mutiny on a coach that wasn't brought in by or has a stamp of approval from the current GM and was going to be fired by the previous one is not hard for me to fathom.

So, I do believe he's bad, but I'm irrelevant. If they think he's good - give him 2 years. If they don't, fire him. But lame duck has a lot more risk in it for 2009-2010 for my tastes.

4) Lastly, I don't think big markets has anything to do with it. San Antonio had the best offseason in my opinion and they are as small as it comes, so I'm not sure that it's different rules. I think we are more cash strapped than most of the league if we can't come up with 2 years and $2M for Leon Powe. So, I would vehemently disagree with that assessment esp. when there is a salary cap there to normalize the playing field. You just have to be smart about your cap management and it's my belief that our cap management is being tied in some ways to our ownership's pocketbooks and not because we are leveraging ourselves to find the right players to help us compete for a title.

Finally, your assessment of Joe Smith could be true. My guess is that we're hoping (like we did with Childress and Smith and Williams) that the economy brings the price tag down. Unfortunately, unlike those guys - there is no way to match a contract once a team gets his John Hancock somewhere else.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

oops, meant to say it's 'absolutely false that we were 17th'

thirdfalcon said...

Your right about the rebounding stats, my bad. I was going off of memory.

But, I think we've talked about this before but our rebounding problems are tied to Josh Smith. As long as he's playing big minutes (and not improving) at PF we are going to have problems with our rebounding. It could get better though, but I can't say that Joe Smith would improve things that much in that area.

San Antonio is well over the cap right now, but remember for years they never went over, or at least not very far over, the cap. They realize that their window to win a title will close soon, and they are going all out to get there.

They most likely could have made a move like this sooner but they didn't feel like they needed to, and they likely couldn't afford too have such a high payroll every single year. But once Duncan retires, I can almost guarantee you that their Payroll will shrink back down.

Our situation is different. Do you really think we should push all our chips to the center of the table right now?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, I can't dispute the assertion that Josh Smith must hit the boards, but I also think that you need viable options that allow you to sit him when he doesn't bring it. Right now, there isn't anyone who does any better unless you play Horford and Pachulia together, which is something inexpicably Woodson will not do.

I think you highlight another point that I made - I agree Joe Smith doesn't make us a rebounding powerhouse - it may make us better than we are now where we are looking at Morris, Hunter (who may not make the team), and ..uh, who knows to help us on the boards.

Final note - I have never said anything about pushing chips anywhere. I have said that the money we have spent hasn't always been well spent. I don't think money spent on Crawford and Bibby given where we are is money well spent. We don't need ALL of those players, but having one or two at reasonable prices would have been a step forward. I'd love to see if Powe could provide us what he did for the Celtics. A toughness, a rebounder, and an enforcer from a champion would have been great in my eyes. Someone like Brandon Bass was worth the $4M/yr based on his youth and rebounding prowess.

So, I realize it's a process. I'm just saying that this season was more lateral (if not downward) than upward incline to me. Shoot, we could have SAVED money by signing Sessions instead of Bibby.

thirdfalcon said...

Well yeah it's lateral unless our players improve significantly. I don't think anyone except maybe Bob Rathburn would dispute that.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

And I absolutely agree that it's possible that someone gets significantly better - I just am not counting on significant better at this stage. It's about to be Josh's 6th year - Al's 3rd year - Marvin's 5th year. I acknowledge that they are young, but I think we're about to be past the point where we should expect that they will get anymore than 10% better than they are right now.

This is the year when I expect Al Horford to either begin to dominate (i.e. 18pts and 10 rebs/gm) or for people to stop thinking he's untouchable for this team. Right now, Al's not even as good as Emeka Okafor in my eyes. I need him and believe he's talented enough to do much more, but he's my biggest example (bigger than Law) where the coach can affect a player. The fact that Al doesn't get touches in the post just shows me that Woodson doesn't know what he's doing OR he does and we need to take Al off the pedestal Hawks fans have him on.

Averaging 11 pts and 10 boards is just not enough from one of our if I'm expecting (or hoping) anyone to get MUCH better - it's Horford.

thirdfalcon said...

That's fair. I don't think he is as good as Emeka either. Maybe more reliable and with better health, but not better. I have never thought that Al was going to have a post game that is comparable to someone like Al Jefferson. I just don't see him as that kind of player.

If he can average 15 points, 10 boards, and continue to play good defense, then I'll be happy. But maybe he's the expendable guy that we can trade.

I do sorta think he's one of those players, a la Shane Batier, that is better than his stats might indicate. But since we don't have access to the Rockets' advanced stats, and I'm not a fan of +/- at all, I don't really have a way to prove that.

Xavier said...

ATL how do you figure the Hawks would have saved money by signing Sessions. Looks like whoever signs him is going to have to at least offer at least the MLE for more than 3 years.

Bret LaGree said...

Out of the two parties I don't think it's the Hawks who are postponing signing Joe Smith. Atlanta ain't his first choice but he might settle.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Bro. Bret, we love it when you stop into our little establishment over here. Been lots of spirited debate this offseason (hope it spills over to the real season)...

Thanks for your thoughts. It supports my belief that I don't think he's signing here. There is nothing here that says - vet at end of career signing. The ownership is broke, the coach sucks and doesn't play a lot of players, it's not my hometown nor are they going to win a title so there's no reason to sign for cheap.

All say - why would Joe Smith come here? Which leads me back to - our offseason sucks if you wanted to see us improve the talent base where we have weaknesses.

And for Xavier, I won't argue that it's major savings, but on a per year basis - we would have saved about 100K or so - Bibby signed just above the MLE. So, all things equal (even if I have to put an extra year on the contract) - I'd rather have the 23 yr old point guard who can penetrate and play defense (we'll see whether he develops a 3pt shot one day) than the 31 yr old point guard who only gives me 3 pt shooting.

thirdfalcon said...

Well, maybe your right and Joe Smith will just wait until a contender signs him. I think he's going to be waiting until well into the season if that is going to happen. As I said before if one of those teams wanted him, he'd likely already be signed.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

You never know, but I'm going to bet on the fact that he's signed by training camp by some team. I think we need/want Joe Smith more than Joe Smith needs/wants us.

Again, my point isn't that he wants to be on a contender. I'm saying that if I'm Joe Smith - I'm either a) willing to take a discount to be on a contender
b) willing to take a discount to play in a hometown or some place of interest to me and my family or
c) willing to get paid market rate to play for anyone else.

In a nutshell, guys play for money, playing time, or rings. There's no reason for Joe Smith to come to the Atlanta Hawks if he's definitely not getting 2 of 3 and might not get the 3rd (playing time). That's my assessment.

thirdfalcon said...

I don't think anyone is going to blow our offer out of the water money-wise. If no one was willing to offer Hakim Warrick more than 3 million, I doubt they are going to offer Joe Smith that. If he signs with a contender it will be for the league minimum. You can count on that.

And even if you were right that Woodson will always refuse to play more than 8 players. That still wouldn't be common knowledge. From a disinterested observer's standpoint, Woodson has never really had more than 8 good players, so they wouldn't think it's that out of line. You have to follow the Hawks very closely and have very strong opinions about them to make the conclusions that you do about Woody.

My guess is he's holding out in hopes of getting more money, an extra year, or an extended role with a championship team.

He probably isn't getting more money in this market. He might get onto a contender, but only if he's very patient. And he might get an extra year, but only from us, and only because we are so desperate.

But there is no way that Joe Smith is saying to himself, "if they didn't play Soloman Jones why would he play me?" And if he is thinking that, then screw him. I'll take my chances with RandMo over an 14 year vet that doesn't think he's better than Soloman Jones

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@TF, well, not surprisingly - we disagree about your entire final post. So, we'll see what happens.

I don't share your belief that Joe Smith's options are as limited as you believe they are.

I'd also say - don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say that he will always play 8 men. I did say he's always played 8 with 9 being played only if injuries or fouls hit. We already debated the fact that I don't believe that that's how you coach a well balanced team that's ready for the postseason. So, I just want it established that I said that that's his history and I'll have to see him do it differently to change my belief.

Of course, I am a very close observer (I watch every game on TV, and I go to every home game and some road games) and so I have strong opinions about the team, but I think it's a huge leap to believe that players and agents don't follow the teams enough or have friends on NBA teams that would give him insight on what may happen if they join a team. Not only that - this idea I have about Woodson's rotation has been the subject of MORE than a few articles from beat writers here and nationally, so this isn't some Hawk Str8Talk or even blogger generated idea or belief.

Like I've always said, you and I share pretty different beliefs about this rotation thing, so let's just leave it there and see what happens because I think I've been pretty adamant about the point that Woodson having only 8 good players is beside the one would have considered Shannon Brown or Josh Powell or Mbenga as 'good players', but they play for some coaches, not for others. So, it's not about 'good players' in my opinion for why Woodson won't play players. Even when injuries or foul trouble has dictated that he play players, he hasn't.

So, I don't think it's just about that - he's just not judicious about minutes for whatever reason from what I see. And we don't have to debate that - I think our opinions on this are well established.

thirdfalcon said...

Why so defensive? I'm not sure what about that gave you the impression that I was picking a fight about whether or not we should expand the rotation. You said that one of the reasons Joe Smith might not want to come here was that he might not get the playing time that he wants.

I assumed that you were basing that on other assumptions that you have clearly stated that you make in regards to your lack of faith that Woodson would expand his rotation. However, you have to admit that we have never seen what Woodson would do if he was given a 4th big man of Joe Smith's caliber.

Now, at the moment I'm no interested in whether you are right about Woodson in general or not. I'm only saying that it does require a leap to go from; Woodson won't consistently play Solo, to Woodson won't consistently play Joe Smith.

I know why you think that he won't, but I don't see any reason that Joe Smith would think that. It's not like people outside of the Hawks blogosphere are overly interested in Woodson's subbing patterns.

When people do write about Woodson it's usually something shallow like; he's a joke, or he's done a decent job. I have yet to see a in-depth piece about Woodson anywhere outside of the AJC. He's just not someone that people care about on the national level. Of course any evidence to the contrary is welcome.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

not really defensive, just thinking that because of where we sit on these things - it may seem like the other person is making a leap.

I think you're making a leap to think that Woodson is thinking that it's the caliber of player that forces his hand. You think I'm making a leap to believe he wouldn't play more talented players. In this case, I think for the amt of minutes that you'd have your 4th big man play - I think it matters much less how talented a player is, but I understand and I'm not believing there's a fight to be had.

Final note - I can't cite where to find the actual articles, but Hollinger at ESPN and Lang Whitaker at Slam Magazine are two folks off the top of my head who have questioned Woodson's use of his bench over the past 2 years.

thirdfalcon said...

Whether or not Woodson would play Joe Smith or not is really beyond the scope pf my argument. I'm just saying that unless you have followed the Hawks closely over the past couple of years, you'd have no reason to wonder whether Woodson would use four good bigs if he was given them.

If you look at the numbers closely all you would see is that he played the players that were good when they got here, and he didn't really play anyone consistently that was picked lower in the draft than mid first round.

The only time that we have had a forth big man with a pulse during Woodson's tenure was the year we had Lorenzen Wright, and he played. Obviously that's not a perfect example, but the fact that's the best example that we have shows that should Joe Smith sign here, it would be unprecedented depth for a Woodson frontcourt.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I don't know if I'd call Joe Smith a big upgrade, but I'll agree that his inclusion would make for the best 4 big men Woodson has had.

I'd love to see him get 'em to see what he'd do with them. I'd have no problem with being wrong about everything I've thought about him. It would please me greatly for my impressions to be proven wrong.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I don't know if I'd call Joe Smith a big upgrade, but I'll agree that his inclusion would make for the best 4 big men Woodson has had.

I'd love to see him get 'em to see what he'd do with them. I'd have no problem with being wrong about everything I've thought about him. It would please me greatly for my impressions to be proven wrong.

thirdfalcon said...

I doubt Aschburner has been reading our back and forth, but this column seems made for you, ATL.

thirdfalcon said...