Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Same Old, Same Old

It's time for an offseason update on our beloved Atlanta Hawks...

When we first made an update about the Hawks' offseason, there were two new Hawks acquisitions of note - Jamal Crawford & Jeff Teague. At that time, we noted that the ability for the Hawks to prevent a fall from the 4th seed would reside in improving our talent base on both sides of the ball (most notably on the defensive side). We said we'd reserve judgement until August 1st. Well, it's August 5th and we still are relying on last year's team to fix the holes that were exposed down the stretch and in the playoffs last year.

Honestly, we can't find a reason to be optimistic about much so far. The coach (who Hawk Str8talk doesn't have a lot of confidence in) has not been extended a new contract. On one level, that's great - it means that the coach has as much to prove as anyone. Unfortunately, in the NBA world, that also comes with two downsides - the potential for a player to simply trying to get said coach fired and little motivation to groom Jeff Teague (our point guard of the future) with your future compensation on the line (and we've noted here that while we think that's best for the Hawks future - we realize that unless Teague plays lights out - it's not in Woodson's interest to play through Teague's mistakes and learning curve). We've noted many times that the Hawks need depth to keep this team fresh for the playoffs.

We signed an aging, no defense playing point guard in Bibby when there is seemingly a younger, defensive minded PG that could be had on the cheap who was more productive last season still available. We also signed Zaza Pachulia and we look like we will sign Marvin Williams (let's get that done already). To date, we have yet to sign anyone who would ever play in our 3 man C/PF rotation of Zaza, Al, and Josh and, if Acie Law is any indication, we aren't sure if Teague will see enough playing time to matter with regards to our PG/SG guard rotation of JJ, Bibby, and Crawford.

So, where does that leave us? With hoping that a backup shooting guard and backup rookie combo guard trumps the moves made by 8 of the 15 teams (we believe that we can beat the Pacers, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, and Bobcats). Nothing we've done should scare the Big 3 in the East, so that stands to leave a potential of 6 teams vying for home court advantage next year. In a year where a drafting of a big man like Blair, signing a Sessions for anything over $4M/yr could have brought him to Atlanta (even as a backup if we're convinced he was not ready to run the team) and a trade of Claxton / Law for a big man of some consequence, we stood essentially pat. No matter how folks have tried to slice it - I still haven't seen how offseason improvement of our current players (which is what I think all teams are counting on from their players) and two backup guards are going to improve this team. The only viable argument I can buy would be that the gap btw us and the rest of the East was so vast that even if they get better - we're still going to be in the 4th seed.

It seems like the front office's hope was that the gap we believed was between us and other teams will stay that way or that our young frontcourt got demonstrably better this offseason (and that we stay injury free and that Woodson learns how to sit Joe Johnson for about 5 more minutes a game and...oh, let's just stop here). Let it be said that we are still waiting for the move that makes us take a step forward in the areas we were lacking - like rebounding, perimeter defense, interior depth, toughness, and leadership. The first sign of that and maybe we'll turn our offseason frown upside down.


Xavier said...

Well ATL there are reports that we are talking to JJ about an extension. Maybe that will turn that frown upside down.

thirdfalcon said...

lmao, I guarantee you it won't

Xavier said...

Hee Hee

thirdfalcon said...

Since things are pretty dead here, I thought I'd pass on this Aldridge link.

He ranked the Hawks offseason at 10. Where would you rank the Hawks offseason ATL?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Saw that and I'm not big on offseason rankings anymore than I like preseason football rankings (how can you really know what to rank a team before they've played a game?), so no rankings from me.

I did find it interesting that he (like me) sees the Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, and Sixers all in the same class as the Hawks, which is what I was saying very early in the offseason before we even signed the rest of our team.

So, to me, if you were going to be content with basically bringing back last year's team - then I'd say it was successful. If you wanted to see us address our weaknesses from last year, I'd say it's a colossal failure. And so no one starts a war - colossal failure doesn't mean we won't compete for a playoff spot, but competing and almost assuredly attaining a playoff spot wasn't what I wanted to aspire to this season.

Giving someone a very hard time for an Eastern Conference Finals slot was the goal I hoped we'd be shooting for this season...and I don't think that's even close to achievable based on what we've done this offseason.

One other note - I was asked about JJ and his extension. At 5 yrs and 75M, I'm not a fan of signing JJ for many of the same reasons that I didn't want Mike Bibby back. JJ is a great player, but unless Al and/or Josh make the leap to be better than JJ - this team will never get better than it is. So, being tied to a 32-34 year old JJ isn't necessarily going to be a good thing at 15M per AND, if Lord forbid, Mike Woodson continues to run him into the ground at 40mins/gm - I'm afraid of what he'll look like in 2-3 years (I cringe watching Jermaine O'Neal at his 20M salary).

None of that means that I don't love JJ, I do. But I don't know that we need to worry about an extension now when no teams are going to have 15M to put into JJ next offseason. The economy has allowed us to sign guys on the cheap - I'd rather go after a player that's better than JJ for that money and trade players if necessary to get the pieces we need to fill his position. I think we all agree that superstars are what we need. If Al or Josh can't be at least equal to JJ in current production, we need to think about how to move and find pieces that are.

Jesse said...

I saw Kleiza signed with Olympiakos the other day. I wonder why we didn't go after this guy when it was clear that Denver couldn't keep him without paying double because they are already into the luxury tax? He would have been a great addition to our non-existent front court depth.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I think it's becoming clear that the economy is affecting the Hawks. I think that's why they focused on just signing their core - same for the extension talk with JJ. I don't think they can afford the extra pieces. I don't have a lot of confidence that we are going to add anyone else of significance (I think we're hoping that Joe Smith is going to take a hometown/championship discount when he's not from here and we aren't championship ready).

So, like I say, we're stuck in the playoff mix for every position below top 3 in the East. It might have been all that we could do to keep what we had, so I won't blame Sund for anything, but that Jamal Crawford trade..I still believe we could have signed Flip on the cheap and traded Law/Claxton for a piece that upgraded us in areas that we needed much more than backup shooting guard.

That'll be the failure of the offseason to me.

thirdfalcon said...

why give Kleiza 4 to 5 million (assuming he would have signed for less than 6), when he's a) a small foward, and b) 6-8, and c) has a rebounding rate of 10.4?

There is really no reason to overspend on guys that deep in the rotation right now. Joe Smith as been the guy that's the best fit for us from the start.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Agreed - no one was signing him at that cost, so it was really only the difference btw the NBA at $3M tops and Europe at twice that.

Final note - Joe Smith is the best fit for us at this late stage in free agency, but I sure wish we had started our quest back in the beginning of the offseason, but I think it's obvious now that the only priority is to sign our free agents and hope that the economy drops someone in our laps.

And with all the teams ahead of us, I don't see us signing Joe Smith, so barring some significant steps forward by our frontcourt (and the allowance from our coach to let it blossom) AND health - I see myself getting mentally prepared for a season where we'll be competing with the middle class of the East and exiting in the first round. I just hope we show some heart when it happens.

thirdfalcon said...

really? who specifically do you think needs Joe Smith, and who do you think is willing to sign him for 4 million (which is what he will cost when you factor in the tax)?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I'm not a GM in the league, so I'm not going to try to assess who needs Joe Smith. I do know that every other quality vet bigs have been snatched up and there's only one left who I can even conceive of Mike Woodson playing and that's Joe Smith, so since we all know that and he's not signed...

I'd say 1 of 2 things - either he's willing to wait until the Hawks (if he wanted to sign here) will give him what he wants OR he'll wait until his services are needed by a contender (which is what I'd do) and sign for the same money that the Hawks offered. So, I don't need to know who wants him to determine whether or not he's not coming here.

And to be clear, there are several teams with cap room where the tax has no bearing on his ability to be signed, so I think it would be foolhardy to think we're in some sort of driver's seat for Joe Smith's services.

thirdfalcon said...

Who's better than us that has cap space? Boston, Orlando, L.A., Cleavland, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Utah, and New Orleans are all well over the cap; and I don't see any of them paying 4 million for a 5th big. And he would be the 5th big man in Portland. If any of those teams wanted him he would have signed with them by now.

As a side note, pretty interesting that all of the teams that are projected to finish ahead of the hawks, save Portland, are all over the cap isn't it?

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

I think you're thinking that this cap space matters a ton. First, I don't think Utah or New Orleans are better than us (once Boozer gets traded), but those are the only teams you identified that actually have acted like they care about the cap.

So, again - I think you seem to think that having depth is something that these teams aren't seeking beyond 9-10 players and that $2M is a barrier. Great teams make sure that they are prepared for injuries and the like, so if you don't think that these guys won't sign Joe Smith to make sure that they are deep enough to make a run at the title, then I see why we disagree so often. There are more than enough billionaires in the NBA that aren't worried about the salary cap.

Again, it's no default for Joe Smith to come to Atlanta. NONE - I'm not even expecting it at this stage.

thirdfalcon said...

It's not default, but you do have to admit that 4 million is allot to pay for a marginal improvement over your 5th man. Also your assuming that Joe Smith doesn't care if he ever plays or not. He would be able to bring value here. The teams that are better than us would only use him if they had injuries.

Xavier said...

Colossal failure ATL? So are you saying besides the big 3, the other teams in the east had colossal failures this off-season also? Just because it appears we aren't championship contenders this season does not mean we are not in a good position for the next 3 or 4 seasons. I think the Hawks remained competitive but are flexible by not signing any bad long term deals. Besides Bibby ever player is moveable so if at the end of next season and a change has to be made for us to get better, I think that move can be made. And if we advance further this season, we can tweak the roster if need be. I too, wish we signed a big man also, but not if we had to sign that big man longer and for more money that let's say a Boston(which is what we would have had to do). And I don't think we can absorb that risk just yet.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

@ TF, I'm not sure what rosters you're looking at, but I don't have to do a lot of research to see that there are several teams where Joe Smith is the 4th big man easily. He's the 4th big man in Cleveland (O'Neal, Varejao, Big Z..Powe could be 4th if/when he gets healthy); in Boston (Wallace, Garnett (if healthy), Perkins - I think he's better than Scalabrine), in Chicago (Thomas, Noah, Miller - why not there if they don't get Boozer), in Denver (if you think he's better than Balkman), LA (unless you think he's worse than Mbenga or Josh Powell)

I could go on, but my point is that these teams (save Denver) haven't shown anything that shows that based on finances they wouldn't add a player better than what they already have to win a title. So, I again say it is as foolish as thinking Ramon Sessions wasn't available to believe that Smith wouldn't be licking his chops to play for one of these teams who is a championship contender vs. the Hawks where he's going to be signed on the cheap (AND not have a shot at a title and not be in his hometown).

And unlike in Atlanta, these teams have a track record for having rotations larger than 8-9 players, so I don't think Joe Smith will be lacking for minutes befitting his skill set. I certainly would be worried about PT playing for Mike Woodson based on his track record.

@Xavier, here's the difference btw your impression of things and mine (and mind you, I respect your position - I just don't share it). My opinion has already been stated regarding players we could or couldn't have pursued this offseason and my belief that we didn't address ONE weakness this offseason, so I'm not waiting until next year to assess whether this offseason was a success. So, if you look at keeping the core as success and some flexibility

I was fine with letting parts of the core go if it was done to address our weaknesses. We didn't address a weakness in my opinion and if that was my litmus test for what I wanted to happen this offseason, then that's my assessment.

When I see a HUGE hole in our inside game and depth and see guy after guy sign on the cheap (today's example - Leon Powe at 2 years for the league minimum...a risk worth taking at that price) and us with a glaring hole - I say failure. It's teams with 2 more big men better than our 4th best one. So, to me, having flexibility when I don't have a track record for what we would do with it doesn't give me any level of reassurance.

If you are happy, I am not one to tell you not to be, but based on what I wanted to see happen this offseason to strengthen this team - not one has occurred. Hence, my grade of a 'colossal failure'.