The Hawks have remained relatively quiet over the past month or so. There are not many free agents remaining and Atlanta has virtually zero cap space to add another player without moving one of their current players. If the Hawks are going to make a move it is going to have to be via trade.
There are not many significant names currently on the trade block. The Thunder most recently extended Russell Westbrook for three years. The Clippers have shown interest in moving star power forward, Blake Griffin, but Atlanta is unlikely to make a blockbuster move around Griffin. The one player Atlanta might be taking a long look at is Rudy Gay.
The trade buzz around Gay has only intensified after Yahoo Sports reported that Gay has no idea what the Kings are doing. It is easy to understand Gay’s frustration, because frankly who the hell knows what exactly the Kings are doing. Sacramento has made it known that they are actively looking to move Gay, and there are multiple teams interested.
Gay has received a ton of slack for dribbling too much, not caring enough and lackluster defense, yet he still remains an all-star caliber player. He averaged 17.2 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Kings last year, and given the current state of the cap, his $13 million salary is team friendly. Several teams such as the Spurs and Pacers have shown interest in trading for Gay, however, Atlanta could provide a nice fit and have the assets to acquire him.
The Hawks have to have questions surrounding the future of Kyle Korver. He is coming off one of the worst shooting years of his career and is only getting older. It may be time for him to move to the bench. Bazemore would also be better suited to move to the shooting guard position. At 6′ 5″, his length, athleticism and defensive prowess would be best served locking down other guards than forwards. Gay, at 6′ 8″, is the prototypical size for a small forward. He matches up on the wing well and has shot the ball well from behind the arc over his career.
Atlanta’s biggest questions regarding Gay have to be the type of player he is. He is not known as a team first guy, which is part of the reason he has already been featured in three trades over his ten year career. The Hawks already added a questionable superstar in Dwight Howard. Howard’s talent is undeniable but his reputation as a ball dominant center does not exactly fit the Hawks unselfish system. Adding another ball dominant player like Gay could just present more of a problem than a solution.
With all that being said, Mike Budenholzer has a knack for getting the most out of his players. Guys like Demarre Carroll and Kent Bazemore have thrived in the Hawks system after struggling elsewhere. Gay will not see the same type of improvement as Carroll or Bazemore did for obvious reasons, but there is no doubt Budenholzer could get Gay to commit to what the Hawks are trying to do. Gay has the makeup to be an excellent defender and provides scoring off the wing that the Hawks desperately need. This addition would easily put the Hawks near the top of the East, and make Atlanta one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
With the Kings anxiously searching to move Gay, it would not take too much to get him. Atlanta currently has a 2019 protected first-round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves that they could offer the Kings. They would have to move some money, so Tiago Splitter would likely have to be involved. Splitter’s last season was cut short due to hip surgery and he is only under contract for one more season. The Kings will find a player that can easily be released or traded before the start of the 2017 season attractive. However, those two things alone might not be enough. Atlanta would probably have to offer up the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr. or Thabo Sefolosha as well.
This may seem like a lot for a player who has a ton of question marks surrounding him and may opt out of his contract by season’s end. However, if the Hawks want to really compete now the acquisition of Gay is necessary. He is a huge upgrade on defense over Korver and provides another scoring option for a team who has struggled to score in big moments. The move would be a risky one, but the Hawks brass has shown it is willing to shake things up, and Gay could be next on their radar.