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Summer moves leave Hawks stuck in second tier of East

Hawks GM Danny Ferry has been content to continue the process he began last summer of clearing cap room and adding supplemental pieces and second-tier stars to make the Hawks competitive.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry has been content to continue the process he began last summer of clearing cap room and adding supplemental pieces and second-tier stars to make the Hawks competitive.
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Free Agency has been in full swing, with many players switching teams. Even the biggest stars in the game have either changed addresses (LeBron James) or made a lot of noise before staying put (Carmelo Anthony).

The Atlanta Hawks, however, have been content to make small-scale moves that at least hope to get the club over .500 rather than transform into a contender overnight. Despite having a decent amount of cap room (about $11 million), the Hawks have not shot for the moon in wooing and landing marquee free agents such as those named above.

Instead, the club has been quite content to make smaller moves that help push the team ethos favored by GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer - a strategy that has helped bring five titles to the Spurs (including the title this most recent season, reasonably seen as the last run for a group together a very long time.

Here are some of the moves that Ferry has made to improve a 38-44 squad that was able to snag the eighth playoff spot in the East almost by default:

  • The Hawks continue to monitor the recovery of Al Horford from his second serious pectoral muscle injury. Getting a healthy Horford back puts a good presence in the middle capable of putting up a 17/10 game every night without adding to the payroll.
  • The Hawks made one trade that netted John Salmons and a 2015 second-round pick from the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for G Lou Williams and the rights to C Lucas Noguiera, drafted in 2013. However, the Hawks then waived Salmons on July 11 in a move which gained the team approximately $6 million in salary cap space.
  • The Hawks signed F/G Thabo Sefolosha to a three-year, $12 million contract. Sefolosha was playing for Oklahoma City last year but decided to come to Atlanta. Sefolosha averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 61 games for the Thunder last year.
  • The Hawks signed swingman Kent Bazemore away from the Los Angeles Lakers for two years and $4 million. Bazemoire was being pursued by several teams after a strong finish to last season, his second in the league. Bazemore averaged 13.1 points per game over the Lakers' last 23 games.

Though most of the marquee free agents are off the market, the Hawks have flexibility to make a couple more mid-level moves or make a run at a second-tier star to come and play alongside Horford, Paul Millsap, and Jeff Teague. While they would probably be out of the market for a Kevin Love, they could use the space for some roster-shuffling during the season if the injury bug hits hard like it did last year - for example, if Horford goes down with a third serious injury.

For now, though, the Hawks seem content to build slowly rather than make a big bet all at once. Whether the club - and its fans - find the strategy workable remains to be seen.