Along with the San Antonio Spurs, the Atlanta Hawks are the only team to make the NBA playoffs in each of the last seven years. And last season, they reached a peak by winning 60 games and making their first-ever Conference Finals appearance. Unfortunately, the team has regressed this season and is sitting at 30-24, which is good for fifth in the East. This has led to a myriad of trade rumors as we approach the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline.
According to ESPN, the Hawks are open to trading three of last year’s All-Stars – Al Horford, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague, the latter of whom appeared in our recent article on players most likely to be traded.
Management reportedly considers this year’s version of the Hawks a mere “fringe contender,” as opposed to least year’s squad, which captured the East’s number-one seed. However, as the following excerpt points out, Atlanta isn’t looking to merely start over:
“The Hawks won’t deny they’re tackling the difficult exercise of determining whether to forge ahead with the current core or to disassemble the roster in an effort to retool for the future. Sources close to the organization emphasize that if the Hawks become active in the next week, it will not be to “blow it up,” but rather an attempt to exchange their existing players for commensurate, if younger, talent.
Those sources also said head coach/president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer isn’t inclined to dismantle a team less than nine months removed from a conference finals appearance.”
Budenholzer views Horford and Korver as players who are very critical to what the Hawks are trying to do on the floor. But Korver’s numbers have dropped off quite a bit from last year; he now averages 9.3 PPG and shoots 38.4% from three-point range in contrast to his 2015 numbers of 12.1 PPG and 49.2% from three-point land.
As for Horford, his numbers are pretty consistent when compared to last year, however, the key issue is his upcoming free agency. Horford is in the final season of a 5-year, $60-million contract, and he’ll undoubtedly draw some major interest on the free-agent market. This interest could give him the option to take up to a 5-year, $144-million contract, which will be the new max as the salary cap explodes next offseason. So it would be preferable for Atlanta to move him now to a team that could potentially re-sign Horford, rather than risk losing him with nothing in return but more salary cap room.
The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic have already been in talks with Atlanta about picking up a “veteran difference maker.” All of these teams have younger, cheaper assets that could interest Atlanta. The only one of the Hawks’ four All-Stars who doesn’t seem to be on the trade market is Paul Millsap; he’s averaging 17.8 PPG and 8.6 RPG and in the first season of a 3-year, $58.9 million contract.
Another angle to consider here is that the current Hawks team has already improved ticket sales, sponsorships and television ratings. So this could make management second guess trading as many of their All-Stars as possible.
If you’re an Atlanta Hawks bettor, these potential trades would certainly make it hard for you to get a good read on a newly assembled squad. Part of what made Atlanta so great last year, and a respectable team this season, is their chemistry and veteran knowledge. Assuming Horford, Korver and/or Teague are moved before the deadline of Feb. 18th, 3:00pm EST, it’s hard to gauge how successful the new team would be.
We saw when Korver went down with an injury in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, this unit was far less competitive against an injury riddled Cleveland Cavaliers team. So even if Atlanta can get back comparable talent for any trade they make in the near future, who knows if the team will click.