Archives For Analysis

On Monday, ESPN writers Brian Windhorst and Kevin Arnovitz broke a major story with inside details on the controversy that embroiled the Hawks last summer and led to the team’s sale. Yesterday Windhorst appeared on Grantland’s Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, provided still more details and asserted that Mike Budenholzer “grabbed the power” from Danny Ferry while the latter was seeking to be reinstated as GM.

Following is a partial transcript of the podcast segment on the Hawks, which starts at the 54 minute mark:

Zach Lowe: “The Bud-Ferry thing is fascinating because, as you said, Ferry fought for him to get hired.”

Brian Windhorst: “Before last season, Ferry goes to Bud and they talk about the situation and Bud suggests that he resign because it would be best for the team to not have a distraction hanging over them during camp and during the season.”

ZL: “Is there an element to this story at all of Bud seizing a power vacuum a little bit here? And I don’t mean that in a bad, Machiavellian way, but people around the league are curious about that angle.”

BW: “That was Spurs on Spurs violence right there. That was a Spurs family, basically, a hit really. When Danny went on leave, Mike Budenholzer became the GM essentially.”

Windhorst then describes how Ferry battled for Budenholzer’s hiring after Bud had a poor initial interview with Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson. During the 2013 NBA Finals, Ferry asked Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to speak with Levenson to try to convince him to give Budenholzer a second interview. Levenson was so impressed by Popovich’s case for Bud that he granted a second interview and eventually hired him. Continue Reading…

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst have published an exquisitely-detailed, must-read account of how Danny Ferry’s hiring as Hawks general manager in 2012 pulled the organization apart. As the writers recount, the Hawks engaged in a bidding war with the Philadelphia 76ers for Ferry’s services, which allowed Ferry to secure an unprecedented contract, referred to as a “golden ticket” by other front office personnel:

Levenson addressed Ferry’s concerns with one of the most wide-ranging, demanding contracts ever scored by an NBA general manager: A six-year contract at more than $2 million per season, guarantees the ownership would invest tens of millions into both a D-League team and a new practice facility and, the big one, Ferry would report to only one man in the organization — Levenson.

Executives around the league were taken aback. A six-year contract was unheard of outside the likes of Pat Riley or Gregg Popovich. The guarantees to invest in infrastructure were never before seen. The written assurance of one boss was an ideal but never a contracted item. Other general managers started referring to Ferry’s arrangement as the “Golden Ticket.”

Once Ferry received his golden ticket, he immediately set about modernizing the Hawks, to the dismay of minority owner Michael Gearon Jr. According to Arnovitz and Windhorst, Gearon Jr. objected to Ferry’s desire to modernize the team’s medical staff and PR department, and to have Hawks’ legend and television play-by-play announcer Dominique Wilkins take steps to improve his on-air analysis of the team. Gearon Jr. also apparently objected to Ferry’s decision to trade Marvin Williams. Continue Reading…

The Hawks entered the offseason with a problem almost any team would gladly accept: too many players outperformed expectations. By virtue of signing Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll each to contracts two summers ago that were swiftly proved as club-favorable, the Hawks had a salary cap crunch in trying to re-sign them both.

The duo’s two year deals had both expired, removing the team’s use of Bird Rights that requires three years with the same team to shoot past the salary cap to re-sign free agents. Market value deals in free agency ballooned with the rising cap, as teams were suddenly flush with cap space to match their deep pockets as the result of an upcoming luxurious national TV deal for the league.

Given that DeMarre was both recovering from a knee injury and wholly justified in looking to cash in off his rapid ascent from fringe rotation player just two seasons prior, a team-friendly discount was out of the question. Carroll would quickly ink a 4 year, $60 million deal with the Toronto Raptors soon after the calendar turned to the 2015-16 NBA season on the heels of postseason averages of 14.6 points per game and 40.3 percent from three. This was all despite a sagging Hawks offense around him from March onward. Continue Reading…

On Monday, ESPN Insider Bradford Doolittle agreed with ESPN’s Summer Forecast that the Hawks will win 50 games in 2015-16. Wrote Doolittle:

The 50-win summer forecast might seem like a steep descent. After all, as good as [DeMarre] Carroll might be, he’s not worth 10 wins, and Atlanta did add Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. during the summer. Yet the forecast and my system agree that while Atlanta remains a force, last season was an outlier.

Prior to last season I took exception with low expectations from national NBA analysts, including Reggie Miller and Rick Fox, who predicted that the Hawks would miss the playoffs. In contrast to those who believed the Hawks would struggle to secure the eighth seed, I wrote that the Hawks could and should compete for the conference’s top seed:

Assuming Al Horford is able to fully recover from his most recent injury and have a healthy season, I believe the Hawks should be aiming for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

My argument was that, since the Hawks took the Pacers to seven games (and should have put them away) and the Pacers took the Heat to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks should be competitive with the top teams in the East in 2014-15:

Keep in mind that the Hawks pushed the Pacers to seven games, a team that may have been better than any team in the Eastern Conference this season.

If Paul George didn’t break his leg during a Team USA scrimmage in Las Vegas, the Pacers would have been the favorites in the East last season. Indiana would have retained continuity while LeBron James worked to build chemistry in Cleveland and the Heat dealt with his departure. If the Hawks took those Pacers to the brink of elimination, what would Atlanta be capable of with a healthy Al Horford? Last season, we got the answer: 60 wins. Continue Reading…

For a franchise that got so many things right over the last 12 months, the Atlanta Hawks simply cannot catch a break in the public relations game. After the Hawks hired the lead assistant of the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in May of 2013, Mike Budenholzer was arrested for DUI exactly three months later. In July of the next year, Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson put the team up for sale after self-reporting an email in which he made racially-insensitive remarks about fans and game operations. It was later revealed that Levenson’s email came to light during an internal investigation that was launched after GM Danny Ferry made racially-insensitive comments regarding free agent Luol Deng during a conference call with ownership.

As a team, the Hawks’ players and coaches turned to each other to block out the outside noise resulting from the controversy. The team was determined to be defined by its performance on a basketball court and not by what had taken place in offices and conference rooms over the summer. The results were more than anyone could have predicted. Budenholzer won Coach of the Year in only his second season as head coach while the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games, completed the first undefeated month in NBA history, sent a franchise-record four players to the All-Star game and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since moving to Atlanta.

But just when everything was going perfectly, Pero Antić and Thabo Sefolosha were arrested outside a New York nightclub hours after the team flew into town to face the Brooklyn Nets in one of the regular season’s final games. During the arrest, Sefolosha suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage and was lost for the season. A trial is set for Sept. 9 for the misdemeanor charges pending against Sefolosha and Antić. Continue Reading…

In the apparent culmination of what has been an underwhelming offseason, the Hawks signed former Warriors shooting guard Justin Holiday, the brother of Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans’ former All-Star point guard. That’s not to say that Holiday’s signing is underwhelming … it has sneaky-good value addition written all over it. But taken in aggregate, Mike Budenholzer’s first offseason as President of Basketball Operations and Wes Wilcox’ as GM has not been nearly as impressive as it needs to be.

The AJC’s Mark Bradley does a great job of summing up the stakes. Could the recently-concluded 60-win season and run to the Eastern Conference Finals be as close as the current iteration will come to championship contention? Prior to losing DeMarre Carroll in free agency, it was possible to imagine the Hawks salary dumping enough of its under-performing bench to keep the starting five intact and give it another run. With Carroll, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver under contract, the Hawks might have entered the summer of 2016 with max cap space and the ability to re-sign Al Horford with Bird rights after spending it.

And that’s why this offseason needed to be more impressive than it has been. In 2016, almost every NBA team will have max space as the cap jumps by an estimated $20 million. There will be more teams with max space than there will be free agents worth spending it on. When every team has the same money to spend, what differentiates one destination from another? For these Hawks, the answer needs to be sustained contention, something that became much harder when Carroll bolted for Toronto. Continue Reading…

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit of unusual size named Frodo Gasol. His birthright was a ring of great power, but King James of Angmar and other fell Ringwraiths sought to steal it from him. To secure the ring, he knew he must venture forth from Memphis-shire and seek powerful allies to defeat the Nazgûl. Herein, noble readers, lies the recounting of his epic quest.

On May 30th, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype posted a partial translation of an interview with Marc Gasol by Spanish basketball site

I’m not Frodo [from Lord of the Rings] but still I’m obsessed with it [winning the NBA ring].

Very well, he denies being Frodo. But we will speak of his quest nonetheless. On Friday we discussed another Gasol interview with a Spanish radio station in which he named San Antonio, Los Angeles and Atlanta as appealing destinations. In discussing the cap ramifications of adding Gasol, I stated that it would be extremely difficult to sign him without parting ways with both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. But could the Hawks sign Gasol and still retain one of them? Continue Reading…

Prior to the Eastern Conference Finals and in its immediate aftermath, former TrueHoop Hawks blogger Bret LaGree broke his silence at with a series preview and look ahead to a critical offseason. enlisted LaGree’s aid in compiling a postmortem for the greatest season in Atlanta Hawks history. It’s fascinating to look at the playoff on/off numbers and sort them by opponent to see how various Hawks performed in each series. The Hawks might not have made it past the Wizards if not for Dennis Schröder’s performance in the second half of that series. What the hell happened to him in the Cavaliers series?

Bret LaGree: Schröder improved a remarkable amount this season. In no way dismissing his ability to beat defenses, the next step forward for him will be demonstrating he can read defenses. The Cavs walled off the paint, so he rarely got that clear path to the basket, or an obvious pass to a roll man exploiting help defense. Plus, he was not immune to the team-wide inability to make open shots, or commit to a sound defensive gameplan. Continue Reading…

With the season barely concluded, the sharp minds of the Hawks blogosphere, probably much like the organization itself, immediately turned their attention to next steps for the franchise. HawksHoop editor Bo Churney surveyed this summer’s free agency marketplace. Additionally, veteran Hawks voice Bret LaGree of took a deep dive into the treacherous waters of the coming offseason. Here’s a sample:

Because of all the wasted resources during the Atlanta Spirit Group’s ownership — trading away first-round picks, making bad draft picks, losing good first-round picks without compensation — maintaining a 50-win team with an annual chance to win a title will require the basketball side to make consistent good decisions, and that those good decisions work out. The Hawks aren’t in as good a place as they are today without the two trades Danny Ferry made on July 11, 2012. They were massively important deals, but they weren’t a solution. They solved one problem and created opportunity, but they did not add assets.

Bret gave me my first shot at writing for TrueHoop Network before he retired his blog. I was more fortunate still when Bo found enough marginal entertainment value in my paranoid ramblings to allow me to continue when HawksHoop became the new TrueHoop Hawks blog. In blog retirement, Bret has covered the PGA for and been featured on He’s one of my favorite writers in any genre ever, and I’m glad to see him pick up the pen again.

Within moments of the conclusion of the Hawks’ Game 2 loss, Hawks PR was churning out excuses and essentially conceding the series.

The Cavaliers have suffered injuries as well, but I doubt Cavs PR would be packing it in two games into the series. HawksHoop editor Bo Churney referred to the Hawks’ effort in Game 2 as “laughable.” In the most important game of their careers, Al Horford was minus-27, Paul Millsap scored four points on eight shots and Jeff Teague was humiliated by Matthew Dellavedova. Continue Reading…