NBA Rumors: Atlanta Hawks Aiming to Add Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in 2013?

July 3, 2012 – 12:29 am by Ryan Phillips

In a matter of hours the Atlanta Hawks went from being a team with two of the NBA’s worst contracts on their ledger, to potentially being one of the biggest players in the 2013 free agent spending spree. New Hawks general manager Danny Ferry is on fire.

In case you haven’t heard, the Hawks sent Joe Johnson – and what I believe is the worst contract in the league – to the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets in exchange for the expiring contracts of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson’s contract is a non-guaranteed multiyear deal because it’s a sign-and-trade situation, but it is basically an expiring contract.

The Hawks then turned around and shipped Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Devin Harris and his expiring contract.

Farmar will likely be bought out for $1.5 million, and the rest of the guys will simply be spare parts as the Hawks get out from under two of the NBA’s worst contracts. With those two deals Atlanta essentially took itself out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, but in doing so could be much healthier in the long term.

Several experts including ESPN’s John Hollinger have pointed out that Ferry could be setting his team up to be major players in free agency next summer. This is where it gets complicated, so bear with me.

After the Nets picked up Joe Johnson there is very little chance they have the cap room to add Dwight Howard via trade or through free agency. That means he must open himself up to other opportunities. One of his best friends is Hawks forward Josh Smith. The two grew up in Atlanta together and played on the same AAU team. Howard was actually the best man at Smith’s wedding.

As stated, Howard is an Atlanta native and so is Smith. Meanwhile, Chris Paul is also scheduled to be a free agent next summer and while he is from North Carolina, he actually wanted to play in Atlanta after leaving college.

Thanks to Ferry’s deft moves, the Hawks now only have two players under contract for the 2013-14 season. Those two players are Al Horford and this year’s first-round pick John Jenkins. They should have more than $40 million in cap room next offseason.

Horford’s manageable contract means the Hawks could end up shipping him off somewhere to create even more room if they need.

So heading into next summer the Hawks could be staring at a chance to lock up not only Dwight Howard, but Chris Paul and Josh Smith as well. That would be a pretty incredible nucleus.

If that is what Ferry is planning he’s an absolute genius. But even if it isn’t, you have give the guy some credit for completely transforming the team’s roster and vision in just a few short hours.

The 2012-13 season could be a long one in Atlanta, but the potential payoff could be huge.

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