Well, Childress did it. The ASG (Arrogant Spirit Group) dared him to go find a better deal than what they were offering (roughly 5 yrs 33 million) and he went and did it. Josh just wanted to get paid - and the Hawks thought they had all the leverage. And, as usual, they blew it. With no draft picks and little cap space, there wasn't much to do this summer besides resign Chillz and J-Smoove. Leave it to the Hawks to blow such a simple task.
However, this is not at all the worst situation in the world. Atlanta keeps Josh's rights for a few years and can still deal him for something or bring him back to play for the Hawks as soon as next season. As for 2008-2009, the Hawks HAVE to win 40+ games and improve off last season. Any step back will probably lead to several more steps back. Joe is up for free agency soon and we do not (especially after what Chillz did) have a good reputation around the league dealing with players.
So, since Rick Sund has done nothing since taking over, lets look at what has to be done before camp starts. Right now Smoove wants 12 million per year and we are offering 9, so lets assume we don't go 0 for 2 right off the bat and compromise with our young star. This would be what the team would look like with 08-09 salaries...
With a Bench of
That is 10 roster spots with a total salary of $62,103,904. The cap for this year is $58,680,000, so we have no cap room for free agents. What we do have is the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) worth $5,850,000 and the Bi-Annual Exception (LLE) worth $1,910,000. We could split up the MLE to sign 2 players, but may have to overpay to get one of the remaining free agents. No one will take equal or less money to come here.
The Hawks really need another wing player and another center. If they can sign Kwame Brown to the LLE, there are several wing players still available that may come here for all or part of the MLE.
Kareem Rush - I wouldn't use the entire MLE on Rush, but he can really shoot. Probably not a good fit because he isn't a forward and would remind Woodson of Salim.
Quentin Ross - Ross is a decent defender and it may be worth the MLE to sign him and Rush.
Maurice Evans - Evans would be a great choice as he was a starter on Orlando's division winning team last season. He is 30, but shoots the 3 pretty well and is a decent rebounder. He was offered 3 years and 6.4 million by GS, so we may have a shot at this guy.
Fred Jones - Jones withered away in New York the past few years but still does some good things. Probably not a good enough shooter to fit with the Hawks.
Bonzi Wells - Bonzi is getting up there in age, but if healthy can still be a productive player.
Lets say we can entice Evans and Rush to come and split the MLE between them. That way, when Claxton gets injured, we won't have a roster spot to fill. In fact, lets sign one or two of the summer league free agents that are playing pretty well (Luke Jackson or Othello Hunter) and Mario West to the minimum just to be safe.
So, going into camp we would have the following depth chart...
I think that roster would have decent flexibility and would pose a threat in the East. Probably not a 50 win team, but they could approach that number if Bibby is healthy. This roster would have a total payroll right at the luxury tax of $71,115,000. The ASG would not have any luxury tax to pay, but they would have to dish out some cash to fill out this roster. Will they do it or will they do all they can to keep the payroll around 58-60 million? You can never trust them to do the right thing.
As for the future, Bibby's salary comes off the books after this season and Claxton will turn into a trading chip as next season will be the last of his contract. The Hawks will have cap space to be a major player next off-season while still having Johnson, Williams, Smith, and Horford under contract. Hopefully, Williams will accept a modest extension this fall and we won't have to worry about him signing with FC Barcelona next summer...