When Danny Ferry took over as general manager last year, it was clear he wanted to take the Atlanta Hawks in a different direction after trading away Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets and putting together a roster full of expiring contracts.
By allowing Josh Smith to head into free agency this offseason without an extension offer, the Hawks have just one star player in Al Horford to build a franchise around. Horford, who is undersized as a center, is coming off the best season of his six-year NBA career, averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and shooting 54 percent from the field.
To maximize Horford’s future performance, the Hawks should consider moving him to power forward, where he would be on of the quickest and athletic players position. He has developed his mid-range jumper and has shown he can effective in the pick-and-roll offense.
While head coach Mike Budenholzer has yet to reveal the plans for his new system, the Hawks did make a trade with the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA Draft, so they could move up to the 16th pick and select a center in Lucas Nogueira from Brazil.
At seven-foot, 220 pounds, Nogueira has the potential to become the Hawks future defensive anchor as a rebounder and shot blocker, but he will need more time to work on his game before he can contribute offensively. Nogueira averaged 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 12.9 minutes for Spain’s Estudiantes.
If the Hawks are willing to wait for Noguiera to polish his game overseas, the Hawks won’t have to spend a dime on him and will be able to retain his rights, once he’s ready to compete at an NBA level.
Whether the Hawks decide to keep Noguiera or use a portion of their $40 million in cap room on a free-agent center, the player that would benefit the most is Horford, who would no longer have to guard the opposing team’s biggest player.