Since Danny Ferry took over as the general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, there has been a different feel about the franchise.
They’re just not the same old Hawks anymore.
Ferry rid the team of bad contracts for Joe Johnson and Josh Smith that were holding back the Hawks. He also rid the team of bad coaching and made a terrific hire with Mike Budenholzer, who led the Hawks to the playoffs in his first season and a first-round seven-game loss to top-seeded Indiana in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Hawks were just 38-44, which wouldn’t have been close to getting in the playoffs in the Western Conference, but it still felt like a step forward from what had previously taken place with the team.
Ferry and the Hawks took another step in the right direction Thursday night in the NBA draft. At No. 15, Ferry landed Adreian Payne, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Michigan State. Payne is ready for the NBA right now and should have an impact on the Hawks this coming season. He won’t need to grow into his body -- he’s a man -- as he makes the transition from college basketball to the NBA.
Payne is a four-year college player and at 23 is mature enough to make the jump to the NBA (he averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds and returned for his senior season to graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary studies). In short, he should fit the strong character unit the Hawks and Ferry are building.
With their second-round pick, the Hawks went for more of a project (that’s a good strategy for the second round when a team is pretty solid with its rotation) when it drafted 7-3, 265-pound center Walter Tavares from Spain. Who knows what Tavares will offer the team or when that will happen, but at this point, Hawks fans just have to trust Ferry and any move he makes (he has been that good as the team’s GM).
Moving forward, the Hawks have plenty of versatility with their roster and their contracts. All five starters -- Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll -- under contract, although it won’t be surprising if Payne bumps Carroll from the starting five. Five reserves -- Lou Williams, Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala, John Jenkins and Pero Antic -- are signed through 2014-15, although none of those contracts are bad deals, and the team could move any of them if it wanted to.
So the Hawks are in good shape coming out of the draft, and they improved Thursday night, something not every team can say. They have some flexibility to go after some solid free agents (stop with the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony talk) to fill holes and improve the team even more before next season.
And they can thank Ferry for all of that.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or email@example.com