Will the Atlanta Hawks make a deal?
The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away and, as usual, there are questions about whether contending teams in both conferences will look to strengthen their respective rosters. Some franchises are rather transparent in their due diligence process, while others like the Atlanta Hawks run a relatively tight-lipped ship in regards to roster decisions.
The Hawks (27-19) currently sit third in the Eastern Conference standings as we close in on the All-Star break, but the team’s play has been inconsistent and choppy for most of the season. The on-floor product has been a far cry from the 60-win team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals just a year ago.
The blame can be spread in multiple directions.
Point guard Jeff Teague battled ankle problems to start the season and even though the former All-Star has been deemed healthy, he’s yet to find a consistent rhythm. Shooting guard Kyle Korver has also shown declines from his All-Star campaign a year ago. The jury is still out on whether Korver’s struggles are due to Father Time or a Matthew Dellavedova playoff dive into his ankle, but whatever the cause, his game has been sporadic. Reserve guard Dennis Schroder publicly voiced his desire to ultimately become a starter, while offseason acquisitions Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr. have both spent significant time on the sideline in suits.
When discussing the Hawks decline, it must also be mentioned that the team took a hit by losing forward DeMarre Carroll to free agency last summer, although Kent Bazemore has filled in admirably (and statistically isn’t too far off from Carroll’s last season).
So heading into trade season, will the Hawks be in the market to make a deal?
It’s normal for Hawks fans to cringe when hearing the term trade-deadline deal. The now infamous Dominique Wilkins to Los Angeles for Danny Manning trade back in 1994 (while the team was leading the East) still is a sour note to many in the area.
But if the Hawks were to make a deal in the next few weeks, it is highly unlikely that it would involve a major player from the team’s core. All-Stars Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Teague are presumably safe. Korver is undoubtedly safe as well since there is little reliable depth at shooting guard behind him in the rotation and the fact he remains the primary floor spacer/threat in the team’s offense.
Outside of those four core guys, things are less untouchable.
Bazemore and Schroder will have the most value in the trade market. However, the team would run into issues looking to move both guys and attempting to return true value. Bazemore is having a career year and is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer. But the swingman is currently on the books for just $2 million. Schroder is also on a value contract, making $1.8 million this season, which would make it hard for the franchise to deal him for a true asset.
Reserves Mike Scott ($3.3 million) and Shelvin Mack ($2.4 million) may be attractive to another franchise as both have non-guaranteed deals for next season. However, both guys are on bargain deals and wouldn’t meet the threshold to bring back a talent with a large contract.
The Hawks organization, in recent years, has done an excellent job avoiding long-term and cap-unfriendly deals. But when it comes time to aggressively work the trade market, the bargain contracts they’ve issued doesn’t grant their leadership team with the flexibility to pull off a massive move at the deadline.
Horford is headed to unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career this summer and the team could be taking a risk by not exploring the market. But it has been the team’s stance that Horford is part of their long-term vision and the organization has not been shopping their three-time All-Star. The Hawks have some leverage with Horford since they can offer more money than any other suitor and can harp on the fact that he’s never missed the playoffs since entering the league.
It’s unlikely the Hawks make a major move next month at the deadline since most of the issues currently plaguing the team aren’t about talent but revolve around trying to break guys out of slumps. Still this is a team to keep an eye on over the next few weeks working the minor market, trying to make a small tweak.
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