7 questions Hawks owner Tony Ressler should be asking

In this file photo, the Hawks’ new owner Tony Ressler is shown meeting with Atlanta Journal- Constitution editors, managers and reporters on Thursday June 25, 2015. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)
In this file photo, the Hawks’ new owner Tony Ressler is shown meeting with Atlanta Journal- Constitution editors, managers and reporters on Thursday June 25, 2015. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Questions Hawks owner Tony Ressler needs to ask as he attempts to hire a general manager who presumably will have the power to shape the course of Ressler’s team, which the most recent GM did not.

1. You said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that you have final say over basketball decisions. (Then again, you also said in that interview that you were happy with the makeup of your front office, which two weeks later was radically unmade.) Why would a difference-making strategist see your overstuffed masthead as a place he’d be allowed to make a difference?

Mike Budenholzer, recently the team president, remains the coach. Wes Wilcox, the former GM, is apparently going to stick around and do something or other. Rick Sund, another former GM, is still an adviser. Grant Hill is vice chairman, so apparently he gets to make suggestions when he’s not off playing straight man to Bill Raftery. If the next GM demands autonomy — as Danny Ferry did (and received) from the fractious Atlanta Spirit — will he get it? If not, aren’t you setting your franchise up to fail?

2. If Joe Dumars, as has been reported, is indeed a candidate, are you familiar with the second act of his executive career as Detroit’s president/GM?

To his lasting credit, Dumars built the NBA’s one non-superstar-driven champion since 1979. The 2004 Pistons — with Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace as starters and the wayfaring Larry Brown as coach — were briefly seen as a model of what was possible. Today their title stands as the exception that proved the rule. Those Pistons made the Eastern Conference finals six years running. After that, nothing. The win totals of Dumars’ club from 2009 on — 39, 27, 30, 25, 25 and 29. Once the model broke, he couldn’t fix it. Yes, Hill played alongside Dumars in Detroit, but that was a while ago. There are better candidates today.

3. David Griffin’s name has been floated, but what makes you think he’d leave LeBron James?

Griffin’s contract as Cleveland GM expires at season’s end. There’s thought that having his name floated regarding other jobs is a way to prod the Cavaliers into action. Let’s face it, though: Griffin doesn’t run that show. LeBron does. If he hadn’t reversed “The Decision” and exited South Beach, the Cavs would still be landing in the lottery. LeBron’s homecoming wasn’t due to any persuasion from the team he’d left; King James does as he pleases. If you’re seeing Griffin as the driving force behind a championship club, you’ve missed the point. Again, there are better candidates.

4. Here’s one: Troy Weaver of Oklahoma City. If he’s not on your short list, shouldn’t you make another list?

He’s the assistant GM to Sam Presti, who’s among the best. (Yeah, the Thunder lost Kevin Durant to Golden State. They also nearly beat Golden State in last year’s playoffs.) Presti came from San Antonio, incubator of basketball minds, and is steeped in analytics. Someone who has worked with him in OKC, regarded in the industry as one of the places to be, would surely be seen as bona fide by Budenholzer, who even in a non-presidential role will cut a wide swath. Oh, and there’s this: It was Weaver who recommended the Thunder draft Russell Westbrook.

5. You’ve said you want to keep Paul Millsap. What if a GM candidate disagrees? Does he become an ex-candidate?

As good as Millsap has been, the reality is that he’s 32. There’s an argument to be made that a mid-tier franchise doesn’t need to be paying a player $40-plus million when he’s 37. There’s a argument — you’ve made it yourself — that the Hawks need to get younger. How does retaining Millsap square with that? Are you willing to make him the next Joe Johnson, meaning an All-Star who’s not a superstar but whose max contract will hamstring this franchise for five years?

6. Would you even consider a deep-dish rebuild?

That’s a worst-case scenario, and you’ve probably got enough young players — assuming Tim Hardaway Jr. is retained as a restricted free agent, and he won’t come cheap — not to have to do it. That said, the most noted architect of the tank-to-rise stratagem isn’t working in basketball at the moment. Sam Hinkie is bright and creative. He left the 76ers with a slew of young big men and a ton of draft picks. His process here wouldn’t have to be the same as “The Process” in Philadelphia. It never hurts to speak with a smart person. He’s worth a call.

7. And isn’t Ferry worth one, too?

Your first act as owner was to buy out the GM-in-absentia and ride with Budenholzer and Wilcox, which got you where you are today. Ferry is working as a Pelicans consultant. He has a document from the investigating law firm absolving him “of racial, ethnic, or country of origination bias or animus” in the characterization of Luol Deng that led to his leave of absence. Given that he still lives in Atlanta, wouldn’t it be short-sighted not to contact the best GM the Hawks have ever had?

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