In just a week, Danny Ferry has rid the Hawks of it’s two ugliest contracts, all while taking back contracts that will likely all be gone in a year.
The immediate impact is significant; while Joe was often criticized for his play, he was still a very, very good player. The best player that the Hawks got back in the deal is probably guard Anthony Morrow, and he doesn’t come anywhere close to the neighborhood of Joe’s offensive and defensive abilities. Obviously, pending that no other significant moves take place, the team will drop down a few rungs in the Eastern Conference. With other teams on the rise, it’s very possible that the team could miss the playoffs all together. (Of course, getting a lottery pick has never hurt any… wait, Shelden Williams, nevermind)
For now, the team will probably go out and get a couple of cheap wing players (DON’T SIGN BEASLEY) to fill out the roster. Devin Harris might be turned into someone else, seeing how we already have a top tier point guard in Teague (who will actually get to handle the ball on most possessions now!) and probably don’t want to actually have to play Devin Harris.
However, that’s not what is important here. The Hawks are no longer responsible for Joe’s or Marvin’s contracts and all the contracts that were taken in will likely be gone at the end of the 2012-13 season. (Stevenson’s multi-year deal can be bought out after a year) The end of the next season also marks the end of the contracts for Smoove, Teague, and Zaza; the only players that will be left under contract will be Horford for around $13 million, and draftee John Jenkins, who will likely have a contract around $1.4 million. In other words, SO MUCH CAP SPACE!
Now, who is going to be on the free agent market next year and may consider Atlanta as a destination, especially after the new direction it seems the team has taken. Hmmm, maybe someone from Atlanta, or maybe a guy from the southeast who wanted to play in Atlanta, but was passed on in the draft by the team several years back.
Hey, look, it’s Dwight Howard! (or is it? I can’t quite decide if it’s him or not…) Oh, and look, he brought Chris Paul, too!
As ESPN’s John Hollinger pointed out, Atlanta would not only have the opportunity to sign both of these guys, but they would still have Horford, and may even be able to keep Josh if the money is worked right. (which would likely be extremely difficult, kinda like asking Kobe to stop shooting…)
Of course, that plan doesn’t have to work out like that. If the team manages to grab only one of the Paul/Dwight combo, or even strike out on both, it would still have the cap space to be flexible in any decisions it wants to make. What matters here is that the team is no longer handicapped by a $20+ million per year deal. “The Core Four” of Joe/Josh/Al/Marvin has officially been blown up, something that several Atlantans have been asking for a couple of years now. A new hope has emerged that maybe one day, even if it isn’t in 2013-14, the team will actually have a legit shot of bringing a title to the city at some point.
I also believe that Horford being traded (only for Dwight, obviously) is now more likely than Smoove being moved at this point. Not only will the team need Josh, Dwight’s best friend, to convince the superstar center to stay in Atlanta, but it was becoming obvious that the Hawks power forward was becoming extremely tired of Joe’s play and the unchanging direction of the team. Now that both of those are null in void, it’s more likely that Josh will play out his contract and at least attempt to convince his pal to come play in the ATL. If that rebuilding model fails, then Ferry can always start the process of “traditional” rebuilding, by using Horford and Teague as the team’s main players while enough draft picks are accumulated to turn the team in a new direction. It would likely be difficult for a while, but it would have had to happen at some point, and JJ’s contract wasn’t go to help with that.
In the mean times, let’s all raise a glass for Danny Ferry and (GASP!) the Atlanta Spirit Group for finally shaking things up and not being satisfied with early round playoff exits every single year. Forward unto the future! *clicks glass*