In his first week on the job, Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry accomplished what many cynical Hawks fans deemed virtually impossible: He traded Joe Johnson with his astronomical contract and found a taker for underachieving Marvin Williams.
The deals will not become official until July 11, but Ferry has agreements in place to trade Johnson, who has $90 million remaining on a contract that was the richest in NBA history at the time, to the Brooklyn Nets for four player with expiring contracts and a conditional first-round draft pick. In a separate deal, Ferry sent Williams, the 2005 No. 2 pick overall pick in the NBA Draft, to the Utah Jazz for talented point guard Devin Harris whose contract expires after the upcoming season, too.
It’s one thing to move either of those players, but for Ferry to trade both — and in his first week on the job — well, NBA fans in Atlanta might be ready to give a parade in his honor.
In the Johnson deal, the Hawks get back reserve point guard Jordan Farmar, former Georgia Tech three-point specialist Anthony Morrow, someone named Johan Petro, the limited DeShawn Stevenson and young prospect Jordan Williams. Atlanta also would receive a 2013 first-round draft pick that is lottery-protected through 2016.
Williams was exchanged straight up for Devin Harris, who can push Jeff Teague for the starting point guard job.
Clearly, Ferry’s ambition is to create considerable space under the salary cap for next summer, when they can make a push for then-free agents like center Dwight Howard and lead guard Chris Paul.
Once the trades become official — at the end of NBA’s moratorium on trades the Hawks will have dismissed as much as y $100 million in future salary commitments while taking back about $25 million.
Johnson, 31, is owed nearly $90 million over the next four seasons. The six-time All-Star is considered among the best shooting guards in the Eastern Conference but has been unable to escape the shadow of his contract, especially after he had disappointing performances in the past two playoffs.
Next likely to go is forward Josh Smith, who asked to be traded to a team with a stronger commitment to winning. Smith’s contract expires after next season and if he isn’t open to an extension, Ferry could be motivated to trade him instead of risk losing Smith for nothing. Ferry said recently that he plans to meet with Smith soon.