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Time For Atlanta Hawks To Lure Marquee Player

Hawks GM Danny Ferry has been a master at creating cap space in Atlanta. Now, can he land a marquee player?

Lang Greene profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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The Atlanta Hawks’ current streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances becomes even more impressive when you consider that it has remained intact despite numerous coaching changes, front office regime shifts and rotating leading men at the top of the lineup.

The upcoming 2014-15 campaign will be the third for president of basketball operations and general manager Danny Ferry at the helm of the franchise. One thing about Ferry’s tenure in Atlanta is becoming increasingly clear – the man can create cap room.

When Ferry was hired before the start of the 2013 season, he immediately (and some would say surprisingly) found takers for the contracts of Joe Johnson (Brooklyn) and Marvin Williams (Utah). The moves gave Atlanta plenty of future financial flexibility, while keeping the remaining core of talent in place to continue the playoff run.

On Sunday, news broke that the Hawks decided to trade high-scoring guard Lou Williams and 2013 first-round pick Lucas Nogueira to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for veteran forward John Salmons.

The move is a salary dump, as the Hawks will likely waive Salmons, whose $7 million deal for next season is only guaranteed for $1 million. Nogueira never logged a minute with the Hawks in the regular season.

If the Hawks waive Salmons, as expected, the team can enter free agency with over $17 million in salary cap room to add additional assets.

Once again, Ferry has shown his ability to keep the Hawks financially flexible under his leadership, but now the question must shift to whether the veteran executive has what it takes to lure a marquee player to Atlanta.

During the Hawks’ ongoing playoff run, the franchise has failed to finish in the top 15 in league attendance. If you take a poll of Hawks fans, the reason is because of the franchise’s inability to attract a superstar to the club or become a hotbed free agent destination.

By no means is this Ferry’s fault alone. The franchise is haunted by past draft mistakes that missed elite talent, embarrassing playoff performances and the club routinely finds itself as a punchline by mainstream media.

Free agency is set to begin on  July 1 and the Hawks will need to address their depth at small forward. There are huge names on the market at the position such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. In the middle tier, players such as Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward, Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza are potential difference makers at the three. There are also players who may be available via trade, such as All-Star forward Kevin Love, who is rumored to be up for grabs (even though he’s a power forward).

The Hawks are arguably in their strongest position ever to make a splash in the open market. The team has cap space, multiple All-Star caliber players on the roster, a solid group of young assets and fan momentum from their first-round performance versus the Indiana Pacers.

As currently constructed, there is nothing stopping the Hawks from making an eighth straight playoff appearance in 2015. But if the Hawks are daring to be great, the stage is set, the script is ready and the fans are waiting for that marquee player to help push the team into the realm of the elite.

The question is: Can Ferry pull off the fairytale ending by making the most of the cap space he just created?

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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