Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 4:07 pm  |  33 responses

Links: Some Hawks Thoughts…

ATL, shawty…

by Lang Whitaker

The toughest thing about seeing the Hawks get drilled by the Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, was remembering that it’s the Eastern Conference Semifinals. I felt sick last night, upset that the season, which had such promise and so many great moments, ended with such a thud. I had to take a step back and remind myself that the Hawks are still a work in progress, that rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight.

Look, the Magic are 31-5 in their last 36 games. (You didn’t realize that, did you?) The Magic are hotter than hot right now and just rolling teams. Charles Barkley said last night that the Hawks getting drilled by the Magic wasn’t Mike Woodson’s fault — paraphrasing here, which is a dangerous thing to do to Chuck’s words, but he basically said the Hawks just didn’t have enough good players to beat Orlando. Maybe he’s right.

Counting the preseason, Orlando was 4-1 against the Hawks coming into the Playoffs, winning by an average of 26 points. In four games in the Playoffs, Orlando beat Atlanta by an average of 26 points. The Magic handled Atlanta all season, and last season too. Look at all the moves Orlando and Cleveland made last summer. The Hawks? They traded for Jamal Crawford, who helped them win six more games than they won last season. And they went hard after Joe Smith, signed him, and then played him a total of five minutes in the entire Orlando series.

Maybe the Hawks didn’t have enough good players to beat Orlando four times in seven games. After all, as of now, Orlando’s won 28 of their last 31, they’ve won 31 of their last 36, and they’ve won a total of 14 in a row. They’re the best team in the NBA. But losing four times by an average of 26 points per game? Well, it doesn’t reflect well on the Hawks players or Mike Woodson.

And starting right this minute, there are two huge decisions the Hawks need to make:
1) Do they re-sign Mike Woodson?
2) How much is Joe Johnson worth?

I’ve been saying all season that there’s a distinct possibility Mike Woodson is the type of coach who can get you from 13 wins to 53 wins, but maybe he’s not the coach to get you from 53 wins to the top of the Conference. Maybe a new voice in the locker room could motivate some of the guys to play more consistently, and even galvanize the fans in Atlanta. For a lot of the Hawks players — Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Jeff Teague — Woodson’s the only NBA coach they’ve ever had. I like Woody, and I admire his single-minded focus on defense. But a new voice in the locker room (and a new philosophy on the court) could be a relatively inexpensive way for the Hawks to re-energize the entire franchise.

As for Joe, I’m not sure he’s going to get a max contract from any NBA team. He’s 29 years old, didn’t have an incredible Playoffs, and with so many owners struggling to turn a profit, I’m not sure a basement-dwelling team will want to make that significant of an investment.

Last night on “Inside the NBA,” Charles Barkley said Joe Johnson can’t be the best player on your team, which is incorrect — Joe Johnson can definitely be the best player on your team; after all, Joe Johnson is the best player on the Hawks and they won 53 games. But what we now know is that Joe Johnson can’t be the best player on a team that uses the offensive system the Hawks use and expects to be considered a championship team.

If it was a team that played tough defense and shared the ball and had Joe coming off picks to shoot jumpers? Yeah, maybe Joe could be the best, or one of the best, players on that team. Assuming that’s what Joe wants to do. For the last five years, Mike Woodson’s basically given Joe free rein to do whatever he wants to do on offense, or at least it would appear this way. Maybe Joe wants to go play somewhere where he can continue to be The Man and have the ball in his hands all day on offense. There are teams out there who would consider this an upgrade to their current offense, and after all, the Hawks did manage to win 53 games this year with Joe creating his own shot most of the time.

Joe was Atlanta’s highest-paid player at almost $15 million this season. And to me, that seems about right. He’s a very, very good player, but not a max contract player. The Hawks supposedly offered him $16 million a year last summer, and he turned that down. This time it might seem more realistic.

Besides those issues, there are a couple of other spots the Hawks should upgrade. Most importantly, the Hawks need a point guard. Mike Bibby is now, physically, a back-up point guard, and he’d be a great back-up for the Hawks, logging 12-15 minutes a game. Bibby basically makes the mid-level next season, so his salary isn’t outrageous, and he’d be a nice spot-up shooter, almost like Derek Fisher. But I can’t remember the last time I saw Mike Bibby drive to the basket and shoot a lay-up. Without that threat, teams were able to pressure Bibby the entire game, not to mention single-cover him and take advantage of him defensively. Again, he’d be a tremendous bench player, but the Hawks have to upgrade at the 1. The Hawks could also use a perimeter defender, someone like Raja Bell, who was on the radio in Miami yesterday basically begging the Heat to sign him. I’d take him in a heartbeat to provide the same kind of toughness Matt Barnes gives Orlando. And don’t forget the Hawks also still have the rights to a certain SLAM columnist named Josh Childress, who’s team just lost in the Euroleague Championships.

Hawks GM Rick Sund has a lot to think about. I don’t think the Hawks need an extreme makeover, but it’s no secret that the Hawks have hit some sort of plateau, and something’s gotta give. Of the eight teams that made the Conference Semifinals, seven of them were in the NBA’s top ten in salary. The Hawks were 22nd. The Hawks have done a remarkable job of rebuilding without getting stuck under a lot of terrible contracts. But at some point, if they really want to be able to compete with the NBA’s upper echelon, they’re going to have to spend some money. That doesn’t mean they should be irresponsible with it, but basically, if the Hawks don’t do something this summer, they’re just treading water.

And in the NBA, if you don’t try and make your team better every chance you get, you lose.

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  • http://www.newyorkshockexchange.com Silk32

    Big Hat . . . No Cattle http://clicky.me/a0u

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton
  • http://www.slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    I’d imagine there are a lot of Hawks fans who want heads to roll after this series, but 53 wins and the second round isn’t the worst place in the world for your team to be (see Raptors, Toronto). Maybe they need a new coach. Excluding Jerry Sloan, coaches don’t stick around for a team’s complete journey. MW got them to a good spot and now maybe it’s time for a different kind of coach to come in and to take them to the next level. Spending cash would also help.

    And you know, if JJ wants out of ATL, the Raptors are exceptional at putting the weight of the world on very, very good players who aren’t really true max contract types. Just saying.

  • http://www.twitter.com/notebooknick NotebookNick

    I think some extra depth could definitely help this Hawks team, especially at the 1 spot. Chill would be a nice add to the bench, but what happened to Joe Smith? Wasn’t he contributing throughout the regular season? I didn’t see him at all in any of the Orlando games.

  • Khalid Salaam

    well you could always try to get chris paul. i mean he should have been a hawk anyway so why not? he’d have to take a pay cut to stay in nawlins and thats a team even with paul that isn’t a true contender. they don’t have the money to offer paul a max deal (his current deal isn’t up yet so thats good for next years budget) so they have to be exploring their options. why not put a package together (draft pick, marvin williams, jeff teague and whatever is needed to make the money fit) and make a run at him. the hornets can start a cheaper pg in darren collison and use the picks and players to upgrade their many positions. hawks can bring back childress to replace williams. this is assuming they bring back johnson but if he wants max money than consider other options. sign and trade for bosh? i dont know. i’m not a hawks fan but this roster has flexibility both talent-wise and money wise. The hawks are surely in a better position than my sixers. anyway, those are my ideas for the hawks. what fan base is next??

  • no id

    Right on point Lang..You couldn’t have said it better..Do you think Sund will be in the process of finding a new coach first? And what names would you suggest?..Cause we ALL know Woodson will not be re-signed after this.

  • http://www.anwilson.blogspot.com rainman10

    I say they should go after Greg Oden, Joel Pryzbilla, or sign somebody like Brendan Haywood to start at center. Being able to get a roster that moves Horford to Power Forward may be the most important thing this team does all year. Going small can be a good second option/unit, but it isn’t going to make a championship team.

  • http:slamonline.com Allenp

    Lang sees the same problems I see, I particularly agree with his comments on Joe Johnson.
    Joe and Brandon Roy are about the same player. In order to win a ring with them as your best player, you need to go the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics route. Structured offense, lockdown defense. You can’t be running isos and pick and rolls all game.

  • http://slamonline.com AlbertBarr

    CP3 on the Hawks, eh, Khalid? That would be sick. Definitely would change the hawks from being solely an iso team

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Khalid: Um, Chris Paul signed an extension a while ago. He makes as much Joe, though I think he makes like 20+ the last year of the deal, and is signed thru 2012. Also, FWIW, they can’t just “bring back” Childress, because he’s got one more season left on his deal in Greece if he wants to stay there. They’d have to make it worth his while to come back.

  • http://Twitter.com/pdxgaybball Dma

    Bibby took zero FT attempts. An upgrade at PG and C would be a great start. Minnesota has a bunch of PGs right? Sessions is worth at least Marvin Williams.

  • http://www.basketbrasil.com.br Rubens

    Can we mix Woodson with D’Antoni and make one coach?

  • Atrain

    They should let Joe Johnson walk. Hes not a max player and obviously doesnt care if he stays in ATL or not. We’ve seen this attitude before in Phoenix. If he signs a max deal it’d be like Mike Redd again, supreme offensive talent but not much else to show for it

  • Diesel

    @Rubens – imagine the facial hair awesomeness you would have created with that one coach.

  • TyMo

    I don’t think Johnson is the best player on the Hawks. I think he’s the best scorer, maybe one of the best scorers in the league. But if he scores 15 or fewer points in a game, he’s pretty much worthless. Horford and Smoove can still have a huge impact on games even if they don’t score a lot. I really don’t think JJ can be “the man” to lead a team to the Finals. He needs to be with a solid PG that will take control of the offense and let Joe pick his spots. But let’s be fair, his struggles weren’t the only reason ATL got dominated in this series.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Seems like it’s a tough (impossible?) fit for the Hawks without a lot of salary maneuvering, but I do think CP3 will be very available this off-season and that he will be as big an acquisition as any of the free agents that may or may not switch teams.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    joe johnson and carlos boozer will be balling with devin and brook next season. o and bron will go to miami, maybe bosh too

  • http://www.youtube.com/tripledouble TripleDouble

    Tarzan, who is “o”…? I’m fearing I’m gonna feel dumb when you answer this… (Clay Bennett) “shiiiiiiiit”.

  • ClydeSays

    Agreed that the Hawks need a playmaker/defender at PG. Bibby was best on the Kings when he was basically undersized SG. That was a pass happy team, so his playmaking wasn’t an issue. He was also 5 years younger. Moving Horford over to PF might help too. One of the reasons the Magic were able to dominate is that they won that matchup consistently.

    Woodie doesn’t seem to have the attention or respect of his players, which is coaching death. I think it’s a big leap from getting young players to succeed as a team to advancing with vets in the playoffs.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Hey, I’d love to have CP3. But I don’t think there’s any way in the world he’s getting traded.

  • Sparker

    wherever cp3 is, he’s going to be deadly. don’t know if u saw this, but charles barkley told him TO HIS FACE ON NATIONAL TV that deron williams is now a better pg than he is. that type of thing even motivates millionaires.

  • Khalid Salaam

    @Lang: why wouldn’t nawlins trade paul? they are struggling money-wise.(unfortunately) and as i said his deal isn’t up yet so which means there might not be much of a bidding war with other teams. the hawks can come in and grab him on the low and the cheap. granted he’s the face of the franchise, a perennial all-star, top dog point guard type of player. trading him would be awful for hornets fans. but thats a team with limited money and they don’t have that much talent. yeah they got a welcome surprise in their rookies but they still need more to compete not only in the west but in that div. collison showed flashes of brilliance last year, maybe it was a fluke,maybe not idk. but with the talent the hawks send back theh hornets can upgrade. unless they get lucky in the draft again they have little chance of getting better. its certainly worth the effort of checking this possibility out.

  • Sparker

    and it’s kind of weird what has happened to joe’s game over the past few years. in phx, he was a stopper and a back up pg who let his game do the talking. he could play the 2 and fill holes in the offense as needed, and even take over for stretches. i definitely got that he would want to be the man, but why do i keep thinking he’s becoming michael finley 2.0?

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Khalid: They aren’t going to trade CP3 precisely because they’re struggling money-wise. George Shinn is trying to sell the team, and he’s going to want to get the most value possible. You can’t do that if you give away the most valuable asset your franchise has. And if Shinn does sell, to Chouest or someone else, I don’t think the new owner wants to be known as the guy who came in and immediately got rid of the franchise’s best player.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Khalid: Two other things: The new guy, Chouest, supposedly wants to build around Paul:
    Also, remember that in trades there is no getting someone cheap — salaries have to match. If the Hornets don’t want to spend the money on someone, they could trade CP3 for expiring contracts, but those wouldn’t expire until this time next year. You’re still paying the same amount of money, so why not just keep Paul? It just doesn’t make any sense to move him.

  • DJ Pierrot

    Tony Parker to the Hawks ?

  • Khalid Salaam

    @Lang: I just think its worth a try for hawks mgnmt to inquire. to make the money work easier put josh smith in the mix instead of marvin williams, whatever it takes. im just saying the hawks have options. don’t squander your assets by being passive. if not paul then who would you like to see the hawks get?

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Khalid: I want to see how the Woody thing works out first, and then the Joe thing, then figure out who fits with what we’ve got.

  • Khalid Salaam

    @Lang: fair enough. One more thing though- it could be worse. you’re edgy because this is the 1st real potential coaching change in 5 years. in that same time the sixers have made 4 head coaching changes. FOUR!!

  • mj23

    CP3 had his meniscus removed, so Hornets would be smart to trade him now while he still has value. In another 2-3 years, he may develop knee problems, but he would be a great pickup for the short term.


  • BH

    the PG we need is Shaun Livingston! he’ll come cheap, he’s a serious upgrade on D, and he creates for our athletes — something Joe never did and Bibby hasn’t been able t do since 2004

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/officerbarbrady what

    Get rid of Woody and bench Bibby. Everything else can work itself out from there. Teague’s gotta play point guard, the Hawks gotta have an NBA offense, and they gotta adjust on defense when people start exploiting the switching.