There are numerous questions facing the Hawks organization.
No answers came Saturday.
A day after the season-ending first-round playoff loss to the Pacers in Game 6, general manager Danny Ferry, coach Larry Drew and several players spoke about the completed season of transition. A busy offseason lies ahead in the ongoing rebuilding of the franchise.
There are seven unrestricted free agents, a list that includes Josh Smith, who may have played his final game in a Hawks uniform. Drew’s contract is set to expire, and his future with the team is uncertain. The Hawks have approximately $33.1 million in salary-cap space and could be a major player in free agency. The NBA draft is in June, and the Hawks have four draft picks.
“I’m not going to address the future yet as for organizational direction, as far as player decisions, coaching decisions, Larry’s situation,” Ferry said. “We are going to take some time. Give some distance, some space from the season and the playoffs, from the emotion of that and then we will make the decisions we feel best for the short-term and long-term future of the team.”
Drew’s future figures to be the first item on Ferry’s to-do list, although he would not give a timetable for any decisions. Drew just completed the three-year deal he signed when he took over the team after serving as an assistant under Mike Woodson. The Hawks made the playoffs all three seasons under Drew, part of a streak of six consecutive postseason appearances. He had a 128-102 regular-season record, including a 44-38 mark this season, when the Hawks brought in 11 new players.
“Everybody is going to be evaluated,” Drew said. “I understand that process. Danny and I actually spoke a little bit (Saturday) night. We are going to step away for a few days and then come back and talk about it. Whether I’m back here or not, I don’t know. The one thing that I will say, I’ve had a great run here.”
Drew did say he would like his situation resolved sooner rather than later and does not want the process to linger. He also expressed his desire to continue as a head coach with another team, should he not be retained.
Smith said following Saturday’s loss that he intends to test the free-agent market. With the current league salary cap at $58.5 million, Smith could sign a four-year deal with another team for a maximum of $70 million. The Hawks could sign him to a five-year deal for a maximum of $94.3 million. Smith also could get less from the Hawks or another team.
In addition to Smith, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia, Kyle Korver, Johan Petro, Dahntay Jones and Anthony Tolliver are unrestricted free agents. Pachulia, before a season-ending Achilles injury, Harris and Korver were major contributors.
Only Al Horford, John Jenkins and Lou Williams, who was lost for the season in January with a torn ACL, have guaranteed contracts for next season.
DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack have non-guaranteed contracts, which become guaranteed Jan. 10. The team could part ways with any of the players before that date.
Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson are restricted free agents. The Hawks must make them qualifying offers by July 1, or they become unrestricted.
“It’s intriguing just seeing what will happen with everything that is going on here,” Horford said of another offseason of major roster changes. “I’m on board with Danny and the plans that he has for us here moving forward. … It’s difficult. We were such a tight group for so many years since I’ve been here. This is what the NBA is about. In professional sports there is always change. That is something that you need to be able to deal with.”
Ferry said he considered the season a success. He wanted Saturday to be a day to thank the coaching staff, players, other members of the organization and the fans for their support.
“Certainly we would have liked to be playing on Sunday,” Ferry said. “We would have liked to advance and continue to play. That part was disappointing, obviously. I think we all have to feel good that the group worked hard and was professional throughout the year. As an organization, it was a significant year for us in taking the initial steps in building a championship program with more work to do.”