Adam\’s Stream of Consciousness

If you blog it, they will come

The Case for AI to the ATL

Posted by Adam on July 16, 2006

All signs point to the Atlanta Hawks pulling off a sign-and-trade deal with Al Harrington and sending him to either Indiana or Golden State. Meanwhile, farther up the east coast, trade talk continues to swirl around Philadelphia, where the Sixers are expected to trade franchise guard Allen Iverson before the start of the NBA season. The most prominent rumor has Iverson heading to Boston for a package of young players. One scenario that does not seem to be discussed much, however, is Philadelphia sending Iverson to Atlanta for a package including Harrington. To many NBA insiders this deal doesn’t make sense, but allow me to make the case for AI to the ATL.

Fact #1: Philadelphia is severely over the salary cap and needs to dump contracts in order to have flexibility for the future.

Fact #2: Al Harrington is a free agent, but he cannot make more than $5 million per season unless he signs with Atlanta or Charlotte.

Fact #3: Atlanta doesn’t get anything in return for Harrington if he signs with Charlotte (or any other team).

Fact #4: Allen Iverson lives with his family in Atlanta during the off-season.

Fact #5: Atlanta had the second lowest attendance in the league last season averaging 15,068 fans per game, only 15 per game more than Portland.

The quickest way for Philadelphia to cut costs is by shipping out Iverson, who is set to average more than $20 million over the course of the next three seasons. The NBA rules regarding trades with teams over the salary cap states that the total salaries dealt must be within 125% of each other for the trade to be valid. Even with this restriction, Philadelphia could cut its cap by $5 million by trading AI, plus the team would have much more manageable contracts to deal with for the future. Atlanta is not allowed to go over the salary cap due to restrictions placed upon them by the Maryland court system as a result of Atlanta Spirit-gate, but the team is roughly $12 million under cap and should be able to pull off a deal without going over.

The fact that Iverson’s family already calls Atlanta home during the off-season can only be looked upon as a positive. As far as team location goes, there would be no objection on AI’s front about playing for the Hawks. If anything it helps the situation, since the family would not have to change homes once the season starts. Iverson is not only one of the most popular players in the NBA, but he is also one of the few players with cross-over mainstream recognition. AI’s celebrity would almost certainly translate into large number of ticket sales for Hawks home games in a city that is hungry for star talent. Iverson is capable of bringing buzz to the Hawks in the same manner that Michael Vick made Falcons games the place to be on Sundays.

Upon reviewing rosters and salaries, I have been able to construct a deal that would benefit both teams. The first step would be for the Hawks to sign Al Harrington to a long term contract. Speculation has this deal in the range of 6 years and $60 million. The Hawks would then turn around and trade Harrington, along with Josh Childress, Tyronne Lue, and Esteban Batista to the Sixers in exchange for Iverson and Louis Williams. Now let’s examine the impact this deal would have on each roster.

While giving up a perennial all-star like Allen Iverson is never an easy decision, the Sixers would be receiving a package of players that should be able to replace most of the numbers that Iverson contributed to the score sheets last season. Harrington and Childress are both capable offensive options who combined for nearly 30 ppg last season, just shy of the 33 ppg that AI averaged last season. In addition to their scoring ability, both are also solid defensive players who would fit in well with coach Mo Cheeks tough minded mentality. Tyronne Lue would be able to fill the point guard void left by Iverson’s departure. Lue has been a starter in both Atlanta and Los Angeles, winning an NBA title with the Lakers. He has shown the ability to distribute the ball and run an offense when surrounded by talent. In Philadelphia he would have the likes of Harrington, Andre Iguodala, and Chris Webber to take the burden off of his shoulders. The new Sixers lineup would have Samuel Dalembert at center, Webber at power forward, Harrington back at his natural position of small forward, Iguodala at shooting guard, and Lue running the point.

Despite giving up three players who all started at various times in the season for them last year, the Hawks get a proven star in Allen Iverson. AI gives the Hawks a presence that they have not had since the hey-day of Dominique Wilkens. The financial impact Iverson would provide through ticket and merchandise sales should easily validate the salary obligations that the team would be taking on for the next three seasons. AI also brings veteran leadership and credibility to the roster. Suddenly the Hawks would make the leap from cellar dwellers to legitimate playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. Additionally the Hawks would also get Williams, a local high school star who was drafted in the second round last season by Philadelphia and made very little contribution to the team. Playing close to home should make a huge difference for Williams and give him a chance to turn into another part of a young core nucleus that the Hawks are building. The Hawks new starting lineup would feature Zaza Pachulia at center, Josh Smith at power forward, Joe Johnson at small forward, Iverson at shooting guard, and free agent signee Speedy Claxton running the point. Atlanta would also have the option of starting rookie Sheldon Williams at PF, shifting Smith to SF, Johnson to SG, and Iverson to PG, and allowing Claxton to come off the bench.

Conventional wisdom says that this deal will never take place. Iverson places the Hawks salary dangerously close to the salary cap, and thanks to Atlanta Spirit-gate this imaginary line is set in stone for the team as a hard ceiling. The Sixers are most likely looking for a proven or potential-laden point guard in return for AI, and Tyronne Lue doesn’t exactly fit either of those molds. However, when you look at the facts and implications I don’t see why this dream can’t become a reality.

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One Response to “The Case for AI to the ATL”

  1. thehype said

    Awesome research man, and I see the potential in there. But how long after the trade would AI want out? Sure these guys go where the money is, but I don’t think Atlanta puts him in that much more of a playoff/winning situation anymore than in Philly.

    Anyways, good stuff though.

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