Can a Blue Devil Really Be Atlanta's Savior?

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The June 2012 issue of GQ contains an article entitled “Stop Flipping! The New Rules of Television.” It’s a rather robust, if standard, breakdown of the current TV landscape, and how we viewers interact with it. Most all of the usual suspects are mentioned (Louie, Downton Abbey, Hulu, etc.), along with some surprising inclusions (The Good Wife, Funny or Die, and ... Californication?!). Of the eighteen New Commandments of channel surfing posited in the piece, one stands out in particular:

Rule #4: Do not waste time on shows that are just good enough.

Before this new Golden Age of dramas/sitcoms/reality-shows-about-sifting-through-junk began, we felt an obligation as Americans to check out EVERY noteworthy program. In the past, this wasn’t exactly a tall order; the relative dearth of great programming back then made it a more than feasible undertaking.

Flash forward to today. We’re awash in so much superlative material on the small screen, it seems virtually impossible to even keep track of it all, much less actually tune in to everything. At this very moment, you can probably name at least three shows your friends regularly prescribe for you to check out that you simply haven’t gotten around to yet. On a similar note, there might be a program you even started watching at one point, but are currently so far behind, it feels like a Herculean Labor just to circle back around to it (mine is Justified). The point GQ is trying to make: with so much truly special stuff out there, why devote precious time and brainpower to a middling drama such as The Killing.

Which brings us to the Atlanta Hawks.

Over the last five seasons or so, the Hawks have been a quality NBA franchise.They’ve finished with a winning record every regular season going back to 2008. Up until last week, they had two All-Stars on their roster (Joe Johnson and Al Horford), along with a promising young point guard (Jeff Teague) and forward Josh Smith, who is somehow simultaneously the league’s most deservingly and unjustly underrated talent.

Despite that sustained run of success, it was becoming more and more clear that Atlanta simply didn’t have enough to compete for an NBA championship—or warrant the media attention granted to teams in that class. When the Hawks were ousted in the first round by the Boston Celtics this postseason, it seemed more like a foregone conclusion than a dogged contest between evenly matched playoff foes. We knew the Celtics had the pedigree and mental toughness required to make a run at the Finals. We’ve seen them do it numerous times before. No one had any reason to think that Atlanta, after so many years of knocking on the door and finding no one home, had suddenly developed the deftness of mind and skill necessary to down one of the Eastern Conference’s perennial faves in a seven-game series.

Good. But not good enough.

So how does a perpetually stonewalled franchise go from being lambasted by Chuck during commercial breaks, to partying with LMFAO after the final game of the NBA season? How do the Atlanta Hawks elevate themselves from the ranks of Boardwalk Empire, X-Men: First Class, and Robin Thicke, into the hallowed territory normally reserved for Breaking Bad, The Dark Knight, and D’Angelo?

Well, it would appear the first step was bringing in this man.

Danny Ferry is the new “guy who makes all the decisions” in Atlanta. Prior to the Hawks gig, he made all the decisions in Cleveland from 2005-10 (general manager), and then spent two years probably being involved in some decisions in San Antonio (VP of basketball operations).

During his five-year tenure with the Cavs, Ferry’s primary task was finding a second superstar to pair with Lebron James. To this end, Ferry provided The Chosen One with: a past-his-prime Shaq, Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Larry Hughes. Yikes. If only there were someone around back then to tell Danny that all ‘Bron needed was a one-legged Dwyane Wade and some three-point shooters...

Thankfully, it appears Ferry learned a thing or two during his follow-up gig in the Spurs organization. As opposed to betting the farm on not-quite-stars the way he did in Cleveland, Ferry has gone on record stating he wants Atlanta “to have a value-based identity with good guys who play hard, who play together and share the ball that can be professional on the court.”

Ferry inherited an Atlanta team with a core nucleus that wasn’t built to win it all. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. And that isn’t to take anything away from each player individually; clearly, Johnson, Smith, Horford, and Teague are quality professional basketball players. But, the Hawks front office was fooling itself over the years into thinking that this particular combination could be the four best guys on a Finals-caliber squad (especially after watching this year’s Miami/OKC throwdown).

Ferry’s first step came during the 2012 Draft, when Atlanta selected John Jenkins out of Vanderbilt. Jenkins, arguably the best pure shooter in the class, was the SEC’s leading scorer in his final two collegiate seasons. Check out his numbers from those two years below:

2010-11: 19.5ppg, 46% FG, 40% 3PT, 89% FT
2011-12: 19.9ppg, 47% FG, 46% 3PT, 84% FT
 

Drew is notorious for favoring veterans over young players in his rotations, but if he softens on that stance, then Jenkins could become a solid player for the Hawks’ from day one. However, Atlanta wasn’t exactly hurting in the long-ball department last season. The Hawks hit 37% of their three-point attempts in 2011-12good enough to finish 5th in the NBA. Given Jenkins’ rather limited skill set (a solid stroke from beyond the arc, and that’s about it), an argument could be made that drafting him wasn’t the best possible play. Not bad, but not great. Like the Hawks themselves.

While Atlanta’s draft day activities didn’t exactly send shockwaves throughout the Association, their next step was a doozy. On July 2nd, after seven seasons as a Hawk, Joe Johnson was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package of expiring contracts, and BK’s conditional first round draft pick in 2013. Hours after the Johnson deal was inked, small forward Marvin Williams got dealt to Utah for guard Devin Harris, whose deal also comes off the books in 2013.

Ferry, who’s already being lauded as a GM of the Year candidate for moving Johnson’s elephantine contract, is clearly looking to provide the Hawks with as much cap space as possible. Whether he intends to use that cap room to pursue 2013’s marquee free agents—Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and James Harden—is unclear, but Atlanta definitely has more flexibility now than they’ve had in the past.

On top of that, the Hawks actually may have improved as a team in light of those deals. They maintained their three most promising young players in Smith, Teague and Horford. The addition of Harris (11 ppg and 5 apg in a crowded Jazz backcourt last season) shouldn’t result in too far of a dropoff from Joe Johnson’s production. Include the notable acquisitions from Brooklyn—three-point specialist Anthony Morrow and tenacious perimeter defender DeShawn Stevenson—and the Hawks appear to have bettered their on-court product, all while positioning themselves to be a major player in next season’s free agency race.

The question is whether this new mindset will translate into postseason results. At this point, the answer is clearly “no.” Atlanta is still a far cry from being considered one of the NBA’s elite. But, when you consider these first moves, and the knowledge Ferry (hopefully) gained during his years in the Spurs organization, you can start to see where things might be heading.

So, as is oftentimes the case in these situations, the answer is “wait and see.” What happens between now and the start of next season is anyone’s guess. But there are some signs that the franchise’s long, hard journey to NBA relevancy is beginning to wind down …

I mean, you just read an entire article about the Atlanta Hawks. When’s the last time THAT happened?

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Comments

When the Hawks were ousted in the first round by the Boston Celtics this postseason,cheap bolshoi ballet tickets it seem more like a foregone close than a dogged contest between evenly harmonized playoff foes. We knew the Celtics had the rare breed and mental toughness requisite to cheap mamma mia tickets make a run at the Finals. We’ve seen them do it frequent times before.

#atlshawty

"The addition of Harris (11 ppg and 5 apg in a crowded Jazz backcourt last season) shouldn’t result in too far of a dropoff from Joe Johnson’s production. Include the notable acquisitions from Brooklyn—three-point specialist Anthony Morrow and tenacious perimeter defender DeShawn Stevenson—and the Hawks appear to have bettered their on-court product"

1. Just because you have other guys that play the same position as you does not mean that position is crowded. Earl Watson was getting time over Devin Harris, do not mistake this for a compliment to Earl Watson.

2. DeShawn Stevenson shot 28% from the field last year.

3. Anthony Morrow made 37% of his 3-pointers. Not bad, but no one calls Matt Bonner a game-changer either.

Anyway, my point is that Joe Johnson was a both prolific and surprisingly efficient as a scorer. His contract was awful, but they did make the playoffs even missing Al Horford. Teague is an above average point guard but by no means elite. Realistically without a healthy Horford, I don't see much shame in losing to a good Boston team in 6.

Just because you clear a lot of cap room does not mean that you will spend it wisely, or that the star players will be interested in playing in Atlanta. Lets not knight Danny Ferry quite yet.