Since taking over on Monday as the Hawks new general manager, Danny Ferry has kept a low profile, opting not to do any interviews over the last two days.
He owns the 23rd and 43rd picks in Thursday's NBA Draft and six players under contract point guard Jeff Teague, shooting guard Joe Johnson, forwards Josh Smith and Marvin Williams, forward-center Al Horford and reserve center Zaza Pachulia -- and free agency is set to begin on Sunday.
As a result, Ferry has before him a canvas that is not entirely blank but one that gives him plenty of room to work with. Nonetheless, he offers up something of a blank slate himself in terms of trying to interpret what he might do. On his menu of choices is what to do about Smith, who had an All-Star caliber season (he was snubbed) and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2012-13. Previously, reports have surfaced that Smith has asked to be traded (the same is true of Williams), which could present a risk for Ferry to lose such a valuable asset without receiving anything in return if Smith decides to walk.
Ferry did not want to touch a question about whether any of his players were "untouchable" when he was introduced on Monday.
"Again, I'm here a day," he said. "I want to download with (outgoing general manager Rick Sund) and (head coach Larry Drew)," he said. "At the end of the day, we want to win a championship, so at some point we'll uncover every stone and uncover everything. This group has had a lot of success and it's a question of Can you go to next level or are there opportunities?' You have to know what your opportunities are, as well. "We'll dig into those, but I think it's a good group of players that has done well."
In reference to picks, Ferry could elect to go in a variety of directions since the team has so few players under contract. A true center has been a focus for years, as the team has yearned to free up Horford to play power forward even while he has made the All-Star team at center. To that extent, the Hawks invited the following big men to pre-draft workouts: Wichita State's Garrett Stutz, Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli, Syracuse's Fab Melo, Georgetown's Henry Sims and Duke's Miles Plumlee.
If Ferry ends up moving Smith, forwards such as Virginia's Mike Scott, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Iowa State's Royce White, West Virginia's Kevin Jones and Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor could be enticing picks.
Looking for potential clues, the Hawks invited a pair of shooting guards back for a second workout on Wednesday, Vanderbilt's John Jenkins and Kentucky's Doron Lamb. Perhaps not surprisingly as a result of the team's seeming multitude of needs, mock drafts have been all over the map in terms of attempting to forecast which player the Hawks might pick.
Ferry said on Monday that since he was relatively unfamiliar with the Hawks' personnel that he would lean on the team's existing front office staff for guidance, but ultimately the picks will be his.
"I have been working, just not for the Hawks," Ferry said. "I've seen games all year. I am somewhat prepared for the draft as it relates to where the San Antonio Spurs were and things, players we were looking at throughout the year. My focus changes now with the first-round pick the Hawks have (San Antonio did not have one).
"Rick and his group have, coming in and seeing the preparation they've done, they've done a good job. I'll sit in on the process, I'll be a part of the process and I'll ultimately be a big part in making the decision."
On Wednesday, Dave Pendergraft, the Hawks' assistant general managerdirector of player personnel, described Ferry's management style as "very involved."
"He's a good listener, opinionated, but it's been smooth so far," Pendergraft said. "He's more of an observer and a listener and then when he has an opinion, he articulates it, so there hasn't been any kind of -- for example, there's hasn't been a player on the board where he comes in and says, No erase him.' There hasn't been any of that. It's gone very, very smoothly. We haven't erased anyone we haven't agreed upon. There's more agreement than disagreement."
Outgoing Hawks general manager Rick Sund was the general manager in Seattle when Ferry was the general manager in Cleveland. Sund said Ferry was easy to deal with because he's a "first-class guy." He said Ferry and the Hawks' staff would work hand in hand and didn't anticipate any problems. Sund said that Ferry, coming from his personnel role with San Antonio, might have scouted more players in person this year than he had.
"It's not like it's his first GM's job, so I don't anticipate any issues at all," Sund said of the drafting process.
Head coach Larry Drew has been very involved in the pre-draft workouts the last two weeks. He said he plays catch-up after the season, attending camps, breaking down film and scrutinizing the players invited to work out.
"We give our opinions," he said. "Sometimes we agree on guys, sometimes we don't, but that's just how this process is."
Now, the opinion that will matter most will be Ferry's.