In what has become the rule, rather than the exception, yesterday’s NBA trade deadline was yet another snooze fest. The only GM who made a significant move was Larry Bird, who traded the expiring Danny Granger, whom the Pacers were unlikely to retain, for Evan Turner, who is averaging over 17 points, six rebounds and almost four assists per game.
One team that did NOT make a significant move was the Atlanta Hawks. Danny Ferry traded the rights to Cenk Akyol, a former 2nd round pick who will never play in the NBA, for Antawn Jamison, who may never play for the Hawks. With Real GM reporting that Cartier Martin has been signed for the balance of the season and Micah Hart reporting that Jared Cunningham has been recalled from the D-League, it’s possible the Hawks have already waived Jamison.
There was a lot of confusion on Twitter and message boards last night about the purpose of the trade, since Adrian Wojnarowski with Yahoo! Sports tweeted immediately after that a buyout was possible. The purpose, from the Hawks’ perspective, was explained by Brad Turner, the L.A. Times beat writer for the Clippers:
Clip deal: Mullens a future 2nd to PHI for a conditional 2nd….antawn and cash to ATL for draft rights to Cenk Akoyl. (2005 draft pick).
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) February 20, 2014
The Hawks essentially sold part of the team’s cap space to the Clippers for cash. The Clippers also executed a similar trade, sending Byron Mullens to the 76ers for a conditional future 2nd round draft pick. These two trades took the Clippers’ front line from thin to perilously thin, but help could be on the way. ESPN’s Marc Stein tweeted after the trades that former Hawk Ivan Johnson could join the Clippers on a 10-day contract:
Clippers, I’m told, recently worked out Ivan Johnson after his China stint and are looking at a 10-day deal for former Hawk @kevinarnovitz
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2014
This brings us to some questions regarding Ferry’s inactivity. It has been speculated that the Hawks did not sign Johnson in the offseason because he was seeking a deal in the range of the mini-midlevel exception (around $2 million). If Johnson and the Clippers are now discussing a 10-day contract, the price has apparently come down. The Hawks still had about $1 million in cap space after absorbing a pro-rated amount of Jamison’s $884,293 salary for this season, prior to signing Martin. Why wouldn’t Ferry use that cap space to sign a front-court bruiser like Johnson to supplement a front line decimated by injuries?
After Al Horford and Pero Antic were lost to injuries, Gustavo Ayon appeared to be coming on strong, recently posting a double-double against the Raptors while holding highly-regarded center Jonas Valanciunas to a single basket. But now Ayon’s durability issues, which I noted in the pre-season, have cropped up again. Elton Brand, whom coach Mike Budenholzer has preferred in a reserve role, has been pressed into starting duty. Paul Millsap and Mike Scott, neither of whom is large for a power forward, are now forced into spot duty at center. How long until more Hawks front court players break down due to a lack of depth Ferry has done nothing to address?
Some consider Johnson a bad culture fit for the Hawks. The fact is, he’s gone toe-to-toe with every elite center in the NBA, from Dwight Howard to Roy Hibbert to Marc Gasol, and has not been found lacking. Should Ferry fail to bolster the Hawks’ front line, regardless of any ancillary considerations such as culture, it can only mean one thing. It would mean that something other than winning, i.e. draft position, has become of greater importance to the Hawks’ front office.