The substantial cap space that Danny Ferry created before his first season as Hawks general manager didn’t materialize into a marquee player in the past offseason.
But Ferry said a team with “highly professional guys that want to compete every night” should appeal to fans.
“I think we have a group of guys that you want to cheer for: Al Horford and Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap and hopefully some of our younger guys,” Ferry said Thursday at Philips Arena during an event for media and select season-ticket holders. “Their approach and the expectations of them every night will be to set high standards every single time they walk on the court to try to get better every day. That certainly excites me.”
When the Hawks open camp for a new season Tuesday in Athens, there will be few players left from the era that once produced three consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Coach Larry Drew left for Milwaukee after last season, and Ferry replaced him with Mike Budenholzer. Star forward Josh Smith signed with the Pistons as a free agent, and fan-favorite Zaza Pachulia joined Drew in Milwaukee. Joe Johnson was traded to the Nets in 2012.
Horford and Jeff Teague are the lone holdovers from that era. Millsap, Korver, Lou Williams and Elton Brand will join those two to form the veteran core of the team.
The Hawks finished 44-38 last season in spite of season-ending injuries to Williams and Pachulia and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Ferry said it will take time before the Hawks know what kind of team they have this season.
“I think we will be competitive,” Ferry said. “What that means in regards to wins and losses, I don’t know.”
While the Hawks’ veterans give the team a chance to be playoff-caliber, the development of its young players also could play a role in the team’s fortunes.
Ferry said guard John Jenkins and forward Mike Scott, both drafted in 2012, have a chance to be “integral parts of our team” now while also developing for the future. Point guard Dennis Schroder, one of two first-round picks in 2012, will make the transition to the NBA after playing professionally in Germany.
“Given an opportunity I think they have a chance to be successful NBA players,” Ferry said. “We have to be careful not to judge any of them too soon.”
The Hawks’ two other draft-night acquisitions in 2012, center Lucas Nogueira and forward Mike Muscala, will play in the Spanish league this season.
Ferry said Williams, who suffered a torn ACL in January, is playing one-on-one without restrictions. He wouldn’t put a timeline on when Williams could return, though Williams said in a recent video posted at NBA.com that he hoped to return by the All-Star break in February.
Budenholzer will begin his first camp as coach still under the cloud of an arrest and DUI charge last month in Atlanta. Ferry said Budenholzer’s legal issues shouldn’t affect his duties as Hawks coach.
“I certainly respect the seriousness of the situation,” Ferry said. “During the process I am going to support Bud.”