Atlanta Hawks

Go ahead, laugh it up. The Hawks might be the most consistently successful punch line in sports. People mock their dead crowds, their hallowed tradition of playing first-round games on NBA TV, and their uncanny ability to peak at “pretty good” during high times.

But Atlanta could clear about $17 million for LeBron if it salary-dumps Lou Williams onto one of many, many teams slated to have enough space to soak up his deal. That’s not LeBron’s max, but it’s close. If LeBron is willing to take a haircut, he’s going to do it in Miami, but this is a fun roster to contemplate.

Good freaking luck trying to guard a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, LeBron, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford. That is a ton of shooting and creativity, and if you play stretches with Pero Antic in Horford’s spot, the degree of 3-point shooting reaches scary levels. There’s enough defense among the LeBron-Millsap-Horford trio for the Hawks to survive on that end, and Mike Budenholzer would have them playing a sound system.

The Hawks under Budenholzer and Danny Ferry are trying to build the Spurs East, only with more 3-point shooting. (Budenholzer is a shooting zealot, and was known as Matt Bonner’s strongest backer on the Spurs’ coaching staff.) They want high-IQ players who keep the machine moving, share the ball, and shoot from range. Ball-stoppers need not apply. You think LeBron fits that vision? Duh.

Atlanta’s cap sheet is lean enough that it could ink LeBron to a big long-term deal and still have plenty of flexibility to continue building the roster around him.