|The future of the Hawks lies with Josh Smith and Jeff Teague, for now. (Getty Images)|
Over the next month, CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball will take a team-by-team look at the 2012 NBA offseason. Next up: the Atlanta Hawks.
I. How they finished 2012: Same old, same old. The Hawks finished with a middle seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, gave a good effort against a better Boston team, and lost in six games despite homecourt advantage (which wasn't really homecourt advantage). It was the same kind of situaion the Hawks have found themselves in for the past five seasons, give or take a round.
Little was expected of the Hawks in the playoffs, little was given. But Atlanta's push against Boston was stronger than it appeared. They were missing Zaza Pachulia for the entire series, who has created problems defensively for Boston, and Al Horford, their second best player, for four games. When he returned, he wasn't at full strength, and it was apparent. While Boston had its own injury issues, what Atlanta was missing was arguably more of a problem.
None of that changed the sense of blaise that followed the end of the season.
II. Needs entering the offseason: If they were looking to improve on the team they had, it was as simple as a better wing shooter to provide scoring.
But there was a greater need.
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The Hawks needed a shot in the arm, a reformation period. They had taken this team as far as it could go, and it was time to head in a new direction. They were facing a costly set of assets on long-term contracts with a limited ceiling. The only way to reach for higher ground is to break the whole structure and start a new build. And that's what they did.
III. The Draft: The Hawks acquired John Jenkins and the kid shined at summer league. Jenkins has an opportunity to start off the bat with Joe Johnson moved and as a complimentary scorer, he could provide a lot of help for a unit that tends to struggle. There are a lot of wing shooters on this team, suddenly, but Jenkins' athleticism is going to be a nice addition. He shot over 50 percent in summer league.
IV. Free Agency: And lo, the rebuild began.
Danny Ferry rode into town, took one look around, and blew up the whole infrastructure. For years, everyone looked at the Joe Johnson contract and shook their heads. No way the Hawks would survive it. No way the Hawks could trade it.
And then Ferry did. Taking advantage of a Nets franchise desperate to find stars to fill the marquee on the new Barclays center, the Hawks unloaded Johnson, took on a group of marginal contracts and landed a first-round pick and crack shooter Anthony Morrow. It was a masterful move that got far more than you'd expect. The Hawks lost a major talent at both ends (honestly, Johnson is underrated because of his contract considering his ability at both ends), but gained future assets.
Ferry wasn't done. He shipped Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris which not only solved their backup point guard problem with Kirk Hinrich departing, but got rid of the biggest blemish in their draft record, taking Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams. There's value in getting rid of those ghosts so that people aren't reminded every time Williams drifts on offense or misses a three that they could have had an elite player.
And to fill in the spots, they didn't go to an isolation, usage-heavy guard, they went with complimentary wing scorers. They added Kyle Korver in a dump-off trade, Lou Williams on a cheap contract, plus Morrow. This is a better-balanced team, even if it's not a better team, if that makes sense. And their future is bright to acquire a star through trade or free agency.
V. Overall Grade and accomplishments: I'm giving them a B, and I need to explain why it's not an A.
It's worthy of an A. If we take it only in the context of the decisions that were made, independent of future consequences, without the benefit of hindsight, this is an A. But that's not how the league works. Rebuilding projects are a two-part process. It's not just about how you tear it down, it's about what you do with it once you get there. But I won't give them an incomplete, I'll only factor that they took the step backwards without the step forward yet.
But just know that Danny Ferry deserves every ounce of credit he can get for what he's accomplished here. Not for the moves themselves, but for the courage to come into a new job, with a playoff team and say "This isn't good enough and we have to start over." So many GM's would have tried to improve on this team just enough to make the playoffs, maybe throw in a Conference Finals run. That will get your contract renewed. Ferry knew the big picture meant they had to go forward. And they have.
Now we'll see where forward takes them.