May 8, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith (5) and point guard Jeff Teague (0) celebrate against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter of game five in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 87-86. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

2012 NBA Offseason Preview: Atlanta Hawks


2012 Free Agents: Ivan Johnson (R), Jason Collins, Erick Dampier, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jerry Stackhouse

2013 Free Agents: Jeff Teague (R), Zaza Pachulia, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams

2011-12 Record: 40-26 (Eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs)

Positional Needs: starting small forward, starting power forward (if Josh Smith gets traded), backup center

Potential Draft Picks: Doran Lamb (Kentucky), Fab Melo (Syracuse),

3 BIG QUESTIONS

1) Can the Atlanta Hawks move Joe Johnson?

It’s not going to be the easiest task in the world, but it can certainly be done.

Joe Johnson is still working under a six-year, $119 million dollar deal that he signed just a few years ago. Since signing that monster of a contract, Joe Johnson has failed to average 19 points a game during the regular season.

J.J shouldn’t be the lead scoring option for this team. He isn’t a reliable enough scorer to handle that role. In a perfect world, Johnson would be the 2nd or 3rd option on offense for a really good team. In reality, Joe is the go-to-guy for an average at best Hawks team.

The Joe Johnson era in Atlanta needs to come to an end sooner rather than later. His deal is holding the franchise back from signing role players to bolster the depth on this team. If Johnson were to restructure his contract and Atlanta would promise to pay off some of the money owed to him, then I’m positive they could move the overpaid, perhaps overrated superstar to a team that could use his services.

2) Does Josh Smith have a future in Atlanta?

The Hawks should hope that J-Smoove wants to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future. He was clearly the best player the team had in 2011-12.

Josh averaged career-highs in points (18.8) and rebounds (9.6) while leading the Hawks to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

He has made it clear in the past that he would prefer to be traded from the Hawks, but I’m sure the team will look to convince Smith to re-sign when he becomes an unrestricted free-agent in 2013. If Smith makes it known that he has no intention of signing a new deal with the franchise, then the Hawks should do everything in their power to move him while his stock is at an all-time high.

3) Do the Hawks need to “blow it up”?

Not necessarily. Whether or not the team decides its better to rebuild and start from scratch will depend on if they can move Joe Johnson and his gigantic contract and if Josh Smith decides that he has a future with the organization.

I’ve been preaching to the choir for the last couple of years on the Atlanta Hawks. They have a roster designed to get them into the playoffs, but not a roster that can make any noise and contend for an NBA championship. The core of Johnson, Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams had potential at first, but I think the ship has sailed with those guys. It’s been proven not to work.

The best case scenario would be moving Joe Johnson for young role players and draft picks, signing Josh Smith when his contract expires and building a team around Smith and former all-star Al Horford.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone else on this team should be expendable. That includes starters Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams.

Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports

Tags: Al Horford Atlanta Hawks Jeff Teague Joe Johnson Josh Smith NBA NBA Offseason