The Hawks have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. From choosing a new coach to attempting to lure Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, GM Danny Ferry has a lot of stuff on his desk to tackle.
However, what’s to become of the lesser free agents that are currently still on Atlanta’s roster? While many are focusing on the big names, the Hawks will still need a group of solid bench players to fill out next season’s roster.
So who should they keep?
It’s already well known that the team wants Kyle Korver, so I will skip over him. It’s also likely that the Hawks will let go of DeShawn Stevenson, as he showed severe signs of decline this year and has a non-guaranteed contract. Ivan Johnson can still be tendered with a qualifying offer. Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack will be on Atlanta’s Summer League squad, and figure to be in the mix as cheap sign-ees over the summer.
The players I am most interested in are Devin Harris, Anthony Tolliver, and Zaza Pachulia. Not only are these guys still productive, but they are also likely to attract attention from other teams.
Starting with Harris, I think he’s still got a lot left in him if he can stay relatively healthy. (i.e. 60+ games a season) Despite battling injuries this year, he was still able to put up 10 points and three assists a game on good enough shooting percentages. He’s also a plus-defender and was one of the most important players on the Hawks in terms of on/off efficiency. With this class of free agents and the importance of having a serviceable back up point guard, Devin is likely in the market for a decent chuck of cash, around $5 million per season.
Devin is a good fit for almost any team. He can play both guard positions well and is still an expert in dribble penetration. His only huge issue is whether or not he can stay on the floor.
For the Hawks, he doesn’t fit in as well, though. Devin isn’t really starting point material any more, so it figures that the Hawks will likely get another guard in free agency. After that, you will still have Lou Williams and John Jenkins taking up time at the two-guard position. Considering that Korver will probably get time at shooting guard as well, you’re running out of room for Devin to play.
Devin averaged over 24 minutes per game last season, a good amount of minutes for a combo-guard. Next season, though? He’s probably not getting that much playing time with the Hawks and I think that could be a deciding factor in where Devin goes. If the money’s not an issue, one could easily see Devin going to a team like Golden State, a team on the rise and likely in need (if GS doesn’t re-sign Jarrett Jack) of a backup combo guard.
Tolliver is a different story, in so far that he’s probably only going to command a minimum salary. There’s also the fact that he didn’t have that good of a season; he only shot 38% from the floor (but still wound up with an almost-average TS%) and had a PER of 8.4. Outside of his sporadic scoring and defense, he didn’t do that much.
He’ll only be 28 next season, and at a minimum salary, he’s not a bad guy to have at the end of your bench. He seems to be a good team guy and is probably fine with whatever playing time he is given. If he can go back to the rebounding rates that he had before this season, he’ll fit in perfectly as the Hawks’ 10th or 11th man.
For multiple reasons, I think Zaza is the most important player out of these three for the Hawks to bring back. He’s still recovering from Achilles surgery, but he could be ready by the start of next season. Even if he’s out an additional month or two, the Hawks should still bring him back. Even though Achilles injuries have a bad reputation among basketball players, Zaza didn’t fully tear or rupture the tendon, nor does he rely on his athleticism that much, meaning a sharp decline should NOT be expected from this injury.
Good back up centers are a commodity in this league, and when Zaza was healthy, he was certainly the best one. Per-36 minutes, he’s averaged almost a double-double over his career and is a solid defender. While he’s not an offensive dynamo, he hit his free throws, is perfectly capable of hitting a jumper out to 17 feet, and is extremely active on the offensive boards. Oklahoma City and Miami would kill to have a guy like Zaza on their bench.
Of course, Zaza shouldn’t end up in OKC or Miami. Why? Because he loves Atlanta and Atlanta loves him. He gets a large ovation whenever he checks into a game and has sometimes been the recipient of the largest cheers when he’s in the starting lineup. Considering that he’ll only command a few million dollars per season, not bringing him back would kill some of the credibility that Danny Ferry built up by trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. I would be extremely surprised to not see Pachulia in the ATL at the start of next season.