New beasts of the East

Are the Hawks one player away from be­ing a con­tender?

The Covington News - - SPORTS - SHA­KEEM HOL­LOWAY

I’ve hon­estly never been a fan of the Hawks. To me they’ve al­ways been one of those teams that I hope does well – if only be­cause I’m from Ge­or­gia – but in the back of my mind ( or the front – wher­ever com­mon sense is lo­cated) I knew they wouldn’t.

My be­lief in the Hawks or­ga­ni­za­tion faded in the sum­mer of 2010 when the de­ci­sion was made to sign Joe John­son to a six- year $ 119 mil­lion dol­lar deal. July 1, 2010 Ya­hoo! Sports re­ported the deal, and this was the head­line: ‘ Joe John­son to sign a ridicu­lous con­tract.’

For the life of me I couldn’t fig­ure out why they wouldn’t pay Amare Stoudemire that money, move him to cen­ter and fi­nally al­low Al Hor­ford to flour­ish at his true po­si­tion of power for­ward. But they didn’t. They signed John­son to that toxic con­tract and were stuck as a mid­dle- of- the- road team for years.

Then, in 2012 the Hawks front of­fice made its big­gest and best ac­qui­si­tion since ac­quir­ing the Hu­man High­light Reel when they brought on Danny Ferry as GM. He found a way to trade John­son’s ridicu­lous con­tract. He’s been able to draft and sign good play­ers to fill holes where needed, and he’s giv­ing the Hawks an iden­tity quite sim­i­lar to the Spurs.

This year with­out Al Hor­ford, the Hawks took the Pac­ers to seven games be­fore fall­ing in the first round of the play­offs. This sum­mer in free agency could be big for At­lanta. It could quite pos­si­bly push them into the up­per ech­e­lon of the East.

Here are some of the ac­qui­si­tions that could make a huge dif­fer­ence for At­lanta. Kevin Love

Ob­vi­ously Love would be a great ad­di­tion to any team, but At­lanta is one of the best fits avail­able. The East is ane­mic in com­pe­ti­tion and Love could vault the Hawks into be­ing top two in the con­fer­ence if ac­quired. It also makes sense be­cause the Hawks have the pieces to move that should sat­isfy Min­nesota. A deal pack­aged around Paul Mil­sap or Teague ( pos­si­bly both), a cou­ple young play­ers and a cou­ple fu­ture first rounders is a good price to pay for Love. The deal would prob­a­bly land Kevin Martin in At­lanta, both Love and Martin fit Hawks head coach Mike Bu­den­holzer’s sys­tem of of­fense built on spac­ing. Their ad­di­tions could do won­ders for the Hawks of­fen­sively, not so much on the de­fen­sive end but I’ll leave Bud to work that out. The Hawks should do their best not to in­clude Teague, but if you have to pull that trig­ger then do it. At­lanta still has promis­ing young guard Den­nis Schroeder to fill the void. All in all, a start­ing lineup of Teague, Korver, Se­folosha, Love and Hor­ford should strike fear in the strong­est teams in the league. Luol Deng

As men­tioned above, Bud’s sys­tem thrives on spac­ing and Luol Deng could help with that. In a sit­u­a­tion where he isn’t the first or sec­ond op­tion, we could see Deng con­tinue to put up all- star num­bers. Deng, 29, av­er­aged 16 a game last sea­son. Deng would, also im­prove the Hawks need for de­fense at the wing po­si­tion, a rea­son for the team sign­ing Se­folosha to a three- year deal. Pair­ing the two to­gether al­lows ATL to keep the floor spaced and be tena­cious on de­fense. It also pro­vides bal­ance when Korver plays. Pair­ing Korver with ei­ther Deng or Se­folosha will al­low the Hawks to hide Korver on de­fense. Deng could also play as a stretch- four in small- ball line­ups next to Hor­ford. He’s a good ac­qui­si­tion if the Hawks can get him to sign at $ 10 mil­lion per for about three years. Lance Stephen­son

When the Hawks traded John­son, they never were able to re­place his pro­duc­tion at the two spot. Stephen­son can do that and more ( plus you won’t have to pay him $ 20 mill a year). Stephen­son led the league in triple- dou­bles last sea­son and was ar­guably the big­gest all- star snub of the sea­son. Yes, he plays a lit­tle out of con­trol at times and he can be un­pre­dictable with his an­tics. These are his strengths and his weak­nesses. There aren't many other two­guards who can af­fect the game in as many ways as Stephen­son can. As far as his at­ti­tude is con­cerned, he wants to win, whether he pushes his team­mates’ but­tons too much or not de­pends on his en­vi­ron­ment. Bud can pro­vide the lead­er­ship that Pac­ers’ coach Frank Vo­gel couldn’t and Stephen­son could be the best value buy of this free agency – he’s still get­ting bet­ter. Stephen­son wants $ 10 mil­lion per year. He’s al­ready re­port­edly re­jected a five- year $ 44 mil­lion deal ac­cord­ing to CBS Sports. The Hawks have about $ 12 mil­lion in cap space, so giv­ing Stephen­son ex­actly what he wants could be the per­fect fit. Nick Young

Swaggy P had a good year with the Lak­ers, ben­e­fit­ting from Mike D’an­toni’s seven sec­onds or less of­fen­sive sys­tem. Keep­ing with our theme of need­ing a two- guard, Young pro­vides At­lanta with yet an­other ca­pa­ble three- point shooter and a guy who is ca­pa­ble of play­ing solid de­fense ( e. g. his de­fense against Lebron in the third quar­ter of the Lak­ers/ Heat game on Christ­mas last year). Yes, at times he can take shots that make you won­der if he thinks he’s play­ing an ac­tual NBA game or just goofin’ around on 2K. His shot se­lec­tion, how­ever, shouldn’t prove to be a huge prob­lem as long as the Hawks are will­ing to take the good with the bad. And with Young, usu­ally there’s more good than bad.

If it weren’t for Hor­ford’s in­jury this sea­son, who knows what the Hawks could have done in the East.

It’s 2014, the Hawks have a bril­liant GM in Ferry and fi­nally – af­ter years of mak­ing the wrong moves – they’re a player or two away from be­ing in the East­ern Con­fer­ence Fi­nals. Sha­keem Hol­loway is the sports edi­tor at The News. You can reach him at 770-728-1413 or shol­loway@cov­news. com.

Dwayne Mask: I think this week has been flaw­less. I think it’s been a very good week. We had the first day of rain last Satur­day, but other than that I think the week has been good. We heard a lot of com­pli­ments, and the dis-

CN: Do you have any plans, as far as what you’re go­ing to do when you make your pitch to get that bid for the state tour­na­ment?

Mask: This is kind of

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