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Atlanta Hawks Draft Needs

With Al Horford set to return next season, Paul Millsap could be expendable, giving the Hawks multiple options on draft night…

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The Atlanta Hawks enter the 2014 NBA draft as an interesting team to watch. They’re are coming off of a season in which its star player Al Horford missed over 50 games, but still managed to take the Eastern Conference’s top-seeded Indiana Pacers to seven games in this year’s playoffs. First-year head coach Mike Budenholzer kept his squad focused despite the injuries and managed to turn in a solid year. That leaves the Hawks drafting from the 15th spot in this month’s draft, and trying to figure out which player will be available in the middle of the first-round is no easy feat.

Hawks general manager Danny Ferry took over the team in 2012 and got to work very quickly by shipping Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams away, clearing $90 million off of the books in the process. The Hawks will have a first and second-round pick in this year’s draft, an additional second-round pick in next year’s draft and two additional second-round picks in 2017. As a part of the Johnson trade, the Hawks have the right to swap its first-round pick with Brooklyn’s first-round pick in next year’s draft.

These extra draft picks enables Ferry and the Hawks to seek a trade to attempt to move up from the 15th spot and grab a player that could  make a more immediate impact. Reports have surfaced stating Ferry is aware that the Sacramento Kings may be willing to part ways with their eighth pick in exchange for a veteran player. While there hasn’t been much talk of Ferry’s willingness to make such a trade, if the right offer presented itself one would think Ferry and the Hawks would make the deal if it meant bringing in players for the future.

The Hawks could offer up Paul Millsap in this situation given his increased age and relatively large contract. Millsap, 29, is coming off of a career year with the Hawks in which he averaged 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. With one year left on his contract that will pay him $9.5 million, the Hawks could be in a position to cash in on his season now versus at the trade deadline where the return may not be as high as it would be over this summer. As a free agent next summer, Millsap would likely command a salary that the Hawks won’t want to pay.

Millsap could be the type of player that the Kings would seek in return for their eighth pick. If the Hawks were able to pull off that deal then they would have the No. 8 and No. 15 selections in the draft, and would be able to add depth at the two forward positions. This is also an area in which Ferry could get creative and offer up those two draft picks for a top-three pick, which would allow the Hawks to get a franchise-changing player in Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker. The Cleveland Cavaliers are always an interesting team around draft night, and have been prone to making questionable moves. The Cavaliers have been rumored into trading the top pick in the draft, but it’s unclear what it might take to get them to move it. While the odds of a situation like this occurring on June 26 are very slim, it’s still something to watch as the draft approaches.

Assuming the Hawks stand pat with the 15th overall pick, the team will need to address the forward positions, as previously mentioned. The Hawks currently have just DeMarre Carroll on the roster in the three-spot, and should look to fill this need for depth purposes. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer has been praised around the league for his ability to develop players and Carroll is a guy that has benefited greatly with Budenholzer running the show. In 73 games this season, Carroll averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc. With just one year and $2.4 million owed to Carroll, he remains a value player and could remain with the team after his deal ends for the right price. If Carroll is seeking a contract out of the Hawks’ range, the draft will become a perfect opportunity for them to seek a player to replace Carroll.

Trying to project who will remain on the board in the middle of the first-round will be a tough challenge, but there are a few players the Hawks should look to draft. Many names have been thrown out there as options with the consensus position being the three or the four spot. A popular name going around that the Hawks could take is Rodney Hood. Coming into the draft at 6’8 and 205 pounds, Hood is viewed as a knockdown shooter with great versatility and length.

Other players the Hawks could target is Kentucky guard/forward James Young, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne and Gary Harris from Michigan State. All of these players mentioned are well capable of shooting the ball with McDermott widely considered the best shooter in the draft and Harris is coming off of a season in which he shot 40 percent from three-point range. With sharp shooter Kyle Korver, 32, owed $17.2 million over the next three seasons, Ferry could look to draft the next great shooter for the team while he looks to trade the aging Korver. While 32 isn’t necessarily too old for a player like Korver and what he brings to the table, he is coming off of his best season in recent years and his value will likely not be this high again. With Korver becoming expendable, players like Young, McDermott and Harris are all viable replacements for the Hawks moving forward.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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