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Atlanta Hawks offseason review: Moving on from Joe Johnson

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The Atlanta Hawks hit the reset button by trading star Joe Johnson, but thanks to some clever moves, they may not lose too many games in the standings.


The Atlanta Hawks ushered in a new era for the franchise by trading away Joe Johnson and his massive contract, and the best part is that they probably won't lose too many games in the standings. This is the beauty of some of Danny Ferry's other moves. The Hawks found some nice pieces in free agency and dramatically improved their cap situation at the same time.

Here's an evaluation of each of their moves.


This trade was a no-brainer, and it really didn't matter what the Hawks received in return. That they essentially got back a pu-pu platter of several mediocre players and useless draft picks is secondary to the bottom line. To get where they eventually wanted to be, the Hawks had to hit the reset button and rid themselves of Johnson's gargantuan contract. As soon as Danny Ferry could, he should have made the move.

This gives us the opportunity to reflect on Johnson's many years with the Hawks. As time goes by, I suspect Hawks fans will look back on the "ISO JOE" era more fondly than they do right now. It's true that Johnson was a ball-stopper that never could quite produce on a high enough level to justify all those stalled possessions. It's also true that he had the league's worst contract for several years running, which is why he got traded. At the same time, Johnson was also a reliable crunch-time scoring option, an extremely versatile scorer that allowed the Hawks to use many different lineup combinations and, save for one incident where he called out fans, a solid citizen that represented the franchise well.

There will be many times this year where the Hawks will need someone to bail them out late in the shot clock or hit a big shot when the defense turns up the screws. In those moments, they will really miss Joe Johnson.


Along with Johnson, Williams was the other relic of the old, stodgy Hawks. They could never figure out an ideal role for him, and because of that, he got lost alongside Josh Smith and Al Horford. Given that he still had two years left on his contract, he was an obvious candidate to be moved. That the Hawks ultimately got back Devin Harris, a better player with a shorter contract, is a coup, even if it's not entirely clear how Harris gets his minutes this year.


Williams had a great year for the 76ers in 2011-12, and if you just consider one side of the floor, he's worth far more than the mid-level exception. He's an excellent three-point shooter, a crafty pick-and-roll player and can work his way in to draw fouls. He also doesn't commit very many turnovers, even though he always seems to have the ball in his hands. Many have suggested that he can replace a lot of what Johnson brought to the table at a fraction of the price next season.

But all that ignores the dreaded other side of the court. Williams has forever been a part-time player because he's very bad on defense. He gives poor effort guarding his man, doesn't really help his teammates and has poor balance trying to contain pick and roll. It got so bad in Philadelphia that teammate Andre Iguodala called him out midway through last season. While it was bad form of Iguodala to throw his teammate under the bus, he has a point. As gifted as Williams is offensively, he is that bad defensively.

That's why this is merely a good signing and not a great one. Williams' size and defensive limitations make it difficult to play him without giving something up. He can never be as versatile or complete as Johnson, and therefore, he can only replace a very small element of what Johnson used to do.


I'm still not sure why the Bulls gave Korver up for a trade exception they won't use anyway. Korver's one of the league's best shooters and he's not nearly as useless defensively as people think. He's a big upgrade on Kirk Hinrich, that's for sure.


Jenkins is very one-dimensional, but that one dimension -- shooting -- is a very valuable skill. I don't see him playing significant minutes this year, but once some contracts expire, expect him to push into the rotation as his rookie contract progresses.


Tolliver is a stretch 4 that forgot how to shoot last year, but if he can return those percentages to normal levels, he may find some court time. The Hawks have bodies up front with Smith, Horford, Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia, but they don't really have a stretch 4, unless one considers Smith that guy. (I know Smith does). That makes Tolliver a worthwhile signing for the minimum.