Josh Redetzke

Atlanta Hawks Payroll: $51.7 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million (estimate)
Roughly: $6.3 million under cap


The Hawks made the playoffs for the first time in
eight years and leading the charge was a healthy Joe Johnson. After
an injury shortened season a year ago, Johnson suited up every night
for Atlanta and played well. His scoring was down to 21.7 points
per game, but his assists were up, which meant he was getting his
teammates more involved in the offense. He also kept up a nice 38%
average at the three point line. The kind of leadership Johnson
displayed in the Boston series is exactly the sort of thing that
will make the two years and $29 million left on his contract worth
it. He’ll need to step up even more if Atlanta wants to do
better than the 8th seed.

Rookie forward Al Horford was another reason for the Hawk’s
good vibrations this season. Horford was a rebounding machine, averaging
9.7 per game (10.4 in the playoffs) and added a respectable 10.1
points on 50% shooting. The All-Rookie first teamer will only get
better the next few years. It’s hard to believe, but the Hawks
actually made a smart draft choice for once.

Marvin Williams may never become the kind of superstar scouts thought
he might be, but he is starting to show some real talent as a scorer.
The former second pick in the 2005 draft improved his shooting to
a more respectable 46% and set career highs of 14.8 points and 5.7
rebounds. Williams still has one more year under his rookie contract
for just $5.7 million. If he keeps improving like he has, Williams
will be a definite keeper and worth a raise in salary next summer.


Will Speedy Claxton ever earn any of the millions
Atlanta has and will be paying him? Claxton missed the entire season
to injury and collected a cool $6.3 million. He only played in 42
games the year before. His contract will give him $5.7 million next
season and $5.2 million after that. Lucky for the Hawks, the dollar
figures decline as the years go by instead of increase. At this
pace, Claxton will have to put up some incredible numbers to make
his addition worthwhile.


The trade for Mike Bibby was both good and bad
for the Hawks. At $15.2 million for next season, Bibby is highly
overpaid for the 14.1 points, 6.5 assists, and poor shooting that
he provides. However, that is the final year of his contract and
Atlanta didn’t give up anything of value in order to add the
veteran point guard they needed. Sheldon Williams was a huge bust
and Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, and Lorenzen Wright weren’t
contributing anything. Even if Bibby takes a turn for the worse
next season, he’ll be a heck of a trading chip with that huge
expiring contract. The Hawks turned their scraps into a player that
helped them win a playoff berth, which makes it a good trade on
their part.

Truth be told, Atlanta did achieve the 8th seed in the playoffs
with a 37-45 record. That is kind of like being the best looking
geek at a sci-fi convention. This team still needs to improve if
they expect to make the playoffs again next season, but they showed
a lot of heart and grit in their series against Boston. An experience
like that can really improve team chemistry and bring them closer
together. If the Hawks can keep this group intact, they will get
better every year.

With no picks in this year’s draft, the team’s biggest
transactions this summer will be re-signing Josh Childress and rising
star Josh Smith. Childress lost some minutes to Al Horford but he
is a very efficient player who rebounds and takes good shots. He’ll
be much easier to afford than Smith. The high-flying forward cemented
himself not only as one of the league’s best shot blockers
but also as one of its most versatile players. He was second in
the league with 2.8 blocks per game and filled up the box score
by averaging 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.5 steals.
Smith’s price might be so high that they won’t be able
to afford Childress. Is Atlanta willing to go over the cap for a
team that was eight games under .500 last year? With a glut of forwards
on the roster, it would be a smart move to use Childress (in a sign-and-trade
deal) or Marvin Williams to try and land a better center or improve
their bench. The Hawks must also think about a point guard for the
future since Bibby might not be around after next season. The organization
should be proud of their accomplishments, but there is still some
work to do if they expect to climb the playoff ladder in the East.


While Greg Oden and Kevin Durant hogged all the
hype at last year’s draft, Al Horford slid under the media’s
radar. There was a reason why teams like the Celtics and Bucks were
so devastated to fall out of the top three; they knew Horford was
a real player and could contribute right away. The Hawks didn’t
fall for the allure of Yi Jianlian or the practicality of Mike Conley.
They ignored the fact that they already had plenty of forwards and
selected the best one in the draft anyway. It turned out to be a
wise choice, which usually doesn’t happen to Atlanta on draft

Grade: B+

State of the Cap Page


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