Hawks hire Danny Ferry as new GM

Danny FerryDanny Ferry, who had been in the mix for other General Manager positions, has been hired by the Atlanta Hawks

Terms weren’t disclosed by the team, but the deal is for six years, sources said.

Ferry, an executive with the San Antonio Spurs, will replace Rick Sund, Atlanta’s GM the past four seasons. Sund, whose contract expires on June 30, could remain with the organization as a consultant.

The Hawks are an interesting franchise.  They have had promising years, but have not been very serious threats to beat the East’s elite.  They have an ownership group that was a heartbeat away from selling during the lockout, but has now apparently backed off.  They have made some good decisions over the past few years, and some genuinely horrible ones. 

Now in comes Ferry, who is tasked with trying to pull the team out of NBA purgatory, which is the worst possible place to be.  Perennial 5th-8th seeds tend to stay that way until they blow it all up and start over.  Which brings us to Ferry’s job at hand.

He has six players under contract but the Hawks are still over the salary cap.  He has Al Horford, an All Star player that is “build your team around him” worthy.  He has Josh Smith, who has been angling for a trade for what seems like forever.  And he’s got Joe Johnson’s absolutely absurd contract that still calls for him to be paid $90 million over the next four years.  The remaining three players under contract for the upcoming season are Jeff Teague, Zaza Pachulia, and Marvin Williams. 

The biggest question facing Ferry is “what will he be allowed to do?”  The Hawks have been unwilling to move Smith in the past, but it’s hard to say whether ownership was just trying to keep him around to make the team attractive to a buyer.  With both the sale and Sund now out of the picture (even if the team is still technically for sale and Sund is still technically around as an “advisor”) will Ferry have the free reign to move a very good (even if he’s very frustrating) player in Smith to acquire some future pieces?  Will the owners be willing to roll the dice on the amnesty process for Joe Johnson, and hope that he’s still good enough to command a high enough salary in the waiver process to make whatever is left over for palatable for them?*

You can certainly argue that with Teague, Johnson, Smith and Horford, the Hawks have the talent to put another decent team together.  And they most certainly do.  But that’s the problem.  They have a good team, but not a great one.  They have serious flaws that will need to be addressed, and they’re not going to be addressed through a late-round draft pick, the mid-level exception and veteran minimum deals.  So if that’s the direction we see Danny Ferry taking, then I’m going to assume that Ferry is working with handcuffs on and without the freedom to make the tough decisions that the job requires. 

Ferry has a decent history as a GM.  The Cleveland Cavaliers were never more successful than when he ran that franchise, but he doesn’t have LeBron James raising everyone’s play and carrying the team to more wins than reasonably expected.  This Hawks team has to undo bad decisions and hope to turn flawed players into assets.  It’s not an easy job, and it will be made worse if he’s not allowed to do it properly.

*Quick explanation of the amnesty process:  NBA teams, except those who have already used the Amnesty Provision, will have one week starting July 11 to determine if they’ll use the Amnesty on any particular player.  Then if the player is waived via the Amnesty Provision, other NBA teams can put either full or partial claims on said player.  A full claim would be to claim the player at his full salary.  A partial claim would be to bid a certain amount the team will pay said player, leaving the remainder to be paid by the original team.  For example, if the Bobcats win a bid on Joe Johnson for $9 million, the remaining $10 million + would be paid by the Hawks next season.