While the Atlanta Hawks have had a relatively very quiet off-season heading into the new season, they have still made several interesting moves that are deserving of a more in-depth look into. Here are some of our biggest takeaways and grades for the biggest moves of the Hawks’ offseason.
Hawks Hire Travis Schlenk as New GM
After stripping Coach Mike Budenholzer of his President of Basketball Operations duties and Wes Wilcox “resigning” as GM, Tony Ressler began searching for a new GM and came out with Travis Schlenk. Schlenk was an assistant GM for the Warriors and one of the masterminds behind their incredible 3 year run that has yielded two titles. Schlenk is well known around the league as a master of maintaining cap space and signing talented players to team friendly deals, such as Steph Curry’s old deal. He will look and need to bring this skill to Atlanta and reverse the trend of bad contracts such as the Dwight Howard or Kent Bazemore deals. This move will also let Coach Bud go back to focusing on just coaching and not having the worry about anything else. With this being the first huge decision of Ressler’s tenure, he did an excellent job in setting the Hawks up for the future.
Letting Paul Millsap Walk
One of the first decisions Schlenk had to make as the new GM was whether or not to sign Paul Millsap to a max, four-year contract, which would tie up the Hawks cap space on an aging tweener player with no defined position. With Millsap being 32 to start the next season and the inevitable end to his all-star days, Schlenk decided it would be better to let Millsap walk and have more financial flexibility for possible moves in the future. This was seemingly the right move as Millsap moved on to sign a 3yr., $90 million contract with the Nuggets, which would’ve increasingly limited financial flexibility for years to come. Ersan Illyasova, Mike Muscala and John Collins will battle it out during training camp and pre-season to replace him as the starting PF.
Letting Tim Hardaway Jr. Walk
Another tough decision facing Schlenk was how to deal with restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway came into his own this year setting career highs in just about everything including 14.5ppg, 2.8rpg and 2.3apg. He also became a leader in the locker room and was consistently starting down the stretch and throughout the brief playoff run. All of this suggested a large payday was coming for Hardaway but nobody could have predicted the Knicks offer of a whopping $71 million over 4 years, an insane increase over his $2.3 million contract the year before. Trying to maintain financial flexibility, Schlenk renounced the rights and let Hardaway walk. While it sure it is a large blow to the fan base, as he was a major fan favorite, this was ultimately the right move to ensure that the Hawks can continue to compete without financial burdens of bad contracts.
Dwight Howard traded to Hornets
This was somewhat of a shocking move as Howard had just signed with the Hawks one year prior for $70.5 million over 3 years to come back home to where he played high school ball. He proceeded to have a very weak year and set career lows in minutes and blocks and nearly career lows in points(other than rookie season) and rebounds. This was not the homecoming anybody could’ve expected and Howard was not in the game during clutch minutes down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. While it was a great move to get his contract off the books, Schlenk also sacrificed a the 31st pick where the Hornets proceeded to take Frank Jackson who has loads of potential, assuming he can recover from his recent foot surgery. Draft picks are always needed for any club but even more so for a rebuilding team, such as the Hawks, and I believe we should’ve offered a role player instead of a near first round pick. In return for the pick and Howard, the Hawks received Miles Plumlee, Marco Belineli and the 41st pick (Tyler Dorsey). First off, Miles Plumlee is a respectable back-up center who can provide valuable minutes and clean up the boards and chip in a few points here and there. But it no means whatsoever is he a starter day in and day out for a top team, but with which the way the Hawks roster is shaking up, he might have to step into that role. The Hawks hope he can and will step up, but he has not proven that he has that in him yet. Belineli is a very respectable 3-point shooter off the bench but has shaky defense and cannot be trust down the stretch of a game. But he will still be a solid pick-up and will try to take over some of Kyle Korver’s old role. Finally, Tyler Dorsey might end up being a huge steal as he can really compliment Dennis Schroeder with his impressive ball handling and outside shooting. He shot an impressive .416 from 3-point territory and averaged an NCAA tourney best 23.8 ppg as he led Oregon to a Final Four Appearance. While it was very beneficial to get Howard’s contract off the books, I still believe we could’ve gotten a little more or at the very least not sacrificed a pick. In the end though, this trade will really be decided by how well Tyler Dorsey comes into his own in the NBA.
Drafting John Collins
The fan base has really rallied around John Collins, 19th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and his crazy 37.5” vertical and wooing dunks during the summer league. Collins starred for Wake Forest where he averaged 19.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg as a sophomore this past year. Considered a steal by many experts at 19, scouts lauded his athleticism and playmaking as something he can really build off of as he starts his NBA career. The biggest questions with Collins is his defense and he can be a major defensive liability, which you can’t have on the court in the NBA. If he can work on his defense and utilize his God-given athleticism, Collins could turn into the face of the Hawks and wind up being one of the biggest steals of the draft.