By Adding Joe Smith, Hawks Gain on Contenders in Eastern Conference
According to reports Friday, the Hawks added veteran power forward Joe Smith to an already-promising mix that has improved steadily over the last five years, turning Atlanta into a legitimate contender in the East.
After re-signing free agents Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia – their own free agents -- earlier this summer, the Hawks improved their depth considerably by adding Jamal Crawford to the backcourt and now Smith to the frontcourt.
Smith, the No. 1 pick of the Golden State Warriors in 1995, was being courted by several teams, including Cleveland, where he played last season. He reached an agreement with the Hawks that will pay him the veteran's minimum of $1.3 million. Smith helped the Cavs crush the Hawks in the conference semifinal round this spring.
The signing of Smith doesn't rank with the Celtics adding Rasheed Wallace or the Cavs getting Shaquille O'Neal, but he fills a glaring hole on the Hawks front line without altering team chemistry like the other additions do.
The Hawks won 47 games last season and beat the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. They have gradually improved their win total the last five years, from 13 to 26 to 30 to 37 to 47. They expect to crack the 50-win mark this season for the first time in 12 years.
Crawford, 29, came in a trade earlier this summer from Golden State when the Hawks gave up only Acie Law and Speedy Claxton. He has averaged 18 points over the last six seasons. He gives them a very potent three-guard rotation with Bibby and Joe Johnson.
Smith, a 14-year-veteran, has averaged 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds in his career spanning eight other teams. He should provide both leadership and serve as a backup to Josh Smith at power forward and Al Horford and Pachulia at center.
The Hawks assembled their still-budding front court slowly and through the draft the last several years. Horford is going into his third season. Williams is in his fifth season. Pachulia, the backup center who also allows Horford to play at power forward, is the veteran workhorse who provides depth like Smith is expected to do.