In a single 24-hour period, new general manager Danny Ferry set the Atlanta Hawks up for a rebuild/reload process that seemed virtually impossible to construct in previous days. With the reality of Joe Johnson’s remaining 4 years and $89 million looming over the already cash-strapped franchise, he was the solitary piece that had to move for any dream of a roster reconstruction to take place, and Danny Ferry pulled that move off when he agreed to send Johnson (and his contract) to the Brooklyn Nets. By the end of the day, Hoopinion’s Bret LaGree was tweeting that “Now Danny Ferry’s just showing off.” Before we tackle the end-game of the Johnson move combined with everything else, let’s take a look at the specifics of trade #1.
Brooklyn receives: Joe Johnson;
Atlanta receives: Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, a newly signed Deshawn Stevenson, and a protected 2013 1st-round draft pick
In a word, brilliant. Let me first say that I am a Joe Johnson fan. It is in no way his fault that he is owed $89 million over the next four years, and he’s one of the most important players in the history of the Atlanta Hawks franchise. That’s not hyperbole, as he was the best player on a team that pulled the franchise out from complete laughing-stock status to the perennial playoff team that they’ve been recently, and Johnson’s willingness to take on the leading role in Atlanta led to that.
That said, the contract was an albatross from the second it was signed, and this particular core of players had peaked with 2nd-round playoff exits. The move to trade Johnson for spare parts was one that I completely support. With regard to the pieces coming back from the Nets, all 5 of the players are expiring contracts that will come off of the Hawks books after the 2012-2013 season. This is a pure salary dump in every sense of the word. Anthony Morrow and Jordan Farmar are capable NBA rotation guys if deployed correctly, and Petro could be useful as a 4th big for this season, but I have to believe that the names and faces didn’t matter to Danny Ferry, because the salaries matched. From an on-court basketball standpoint in 2012-13, the Hawks became worse with this move, but going forward, the move is an overall positive, even when standing alone.
Let’s take a look at move #2.
Utah receives: Marvin Williams
Atlanta receives: Devin Harris
This move is highway robbery from my estimation. Marvin Williams has 2 years remaining on his current contract totaling nearly $16 million, while Harris is entering the final year of his deal at $8.5 million. In short, they have similar cap figures, with Harris coming off a year earlier, and non-coincidentally lining up with the entirety of the Nets player haul, and the expiration of Josh Smith’s contract. Oh, did I mention that there is a bonus? Devin Harris is a better basketball player than Marvin Williams. If the contract situations were exactly the same, I wouldn’t bash Utah for making this trade because Marvin is a capable player who posted a better-than-league-average PER last year, and Harris has fallen off from the season when he put up a 21 PER in 2008-09.
So what has Danny Ferry accomplished big picture?
Overall, he traded $100+ million in long-term commitments for expiring contracts, and even a small upgrade from Williams to Harris. The core of Johnson/Horford/Smith/Williams had clearly reached its peak with various early-round playoff exits, and while that was a giant step in the right direction from the previous regime, it was clear that a legit championship contender would never emerge without a full reboot.
In one day, Ferry accomplished the amazing feat of providing hope for the title-yearning fanbase that exists in Atlanta. It’s crucial to remember the long-term outlook. There is no question that the Hawks have willingly taken a step back on the court for the 2012-13 season, because trading Joe Johnson, the basketball player, for the 5 players they received from Brooklyn has no positive on-court impact. This is undeniable, but with the cap flexibility, roster possibilities, and renewed optimism, any informed Hawks fan would be forced to take this and run with it.
You will see various proposed possibilities of Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul arriving on the scene in the next 12 months, and if you choose to buy-in to them, I wish you well. Is it possible? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. That said, if you asked me a week ago whether the Hawks could clear Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams off the books for expiring contracts and a 1st-round pick, I would’ve said you were insane. I’m not going to cover these scenarios in-depth because it’s just too premature, but for at least one day, I’ll say this. Long live Danny Ferry.