Coming off the best season in franchise history, the Hawks still had a lot of work to do this offseason in order to compete for an NBA Finals appearance in 2016. The Hawks showed they needed to make vast improvements on the boards and on their bench in the playoffs. While the regular season was a magic carpet ride in which everything seemed to come easy for the Hawks, the playoffs were a whole different animal. The physicality and fight on every posession seemed to bring out all the little flaws in what was a good basketball team.
The Hawks first opportunity to address these flaws was in the draft. The 2015 NBA Draft was very top heavy. There were a lot of great prospects, but most of them were gone after the top 10. The last 20 picks of the first round were full of question marks, so the Hawks opted to swap their number 15 pick to the Wizards for the 19th pick of the draft and a 2nd round pick. The Hawks then shocked everybody by trading the 19th pick to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. and 2nd round pick. A lot of Hawks fans were not fond of the move, but it does make sense when looked at a little deeper.
Coming into the draft, the Hawks needed a seasoned player who could come in and make an immediate impact. I thought Dekker or Portis could do that for the Hawks, but they were far from sure things. The Hawks opted forgo all the rookies and instead get a seasoned NBA player. Coach Budenholzer picks out certain players around the NBA he sees a lot in. He did it with Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore and Demarre Carroll. All of those guys were under performing before coming to Atlanta. He has stated that he has had his eye on Hardaway Jr. for quite a while. At 23 years old, Hardaway still has a lot of room to develop and grow as a player. He is already a career 35% three point shooter, and Hawks fans should expect those numbers to go up now that he is off a dreadful Knicks team. He will provide great depth and bench scoring, which are things the Hawks desperately needed in the playoffs last season.
Then came NBA free agency. The Hawks started off with a little bit of a surprise by trading for San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter. This move looks like a brilliant one. The Hawks needed rebounding help and a rim protector. Not too many guys in the league do that better than Splitter. He is also very familiar with the style of play Coach Budenholzer will want him to play. Splitter came at almost no cost because the Spurs needed to shed salary in order to bring in Lamarcus Aldridge. Splitter is a bargain and will immediately make the Hawks frontcourt one of the most feared in the Eastern Conference. The downside of the Hawks getting Splitter was that unless Demarre Carroll or Paul Millsap took significant pay cuts, the Hawks were not going to be able to resign both of them. Demarre Carroll ended up signing a 4-year, $60 million dollar deal with the Toronto Raptors later that day. However, Paul Millsap inked a 3-year, $58 million dollar deal. Millsap was priority number one for the Hawks it seemed since the beginning of the offseason. He was an All-Star in both seasons with the Hawks and has not shown any signs of slowing down. Millsap also turned down a larger 4-year, $80 million dollar deal from the Orlando Magic. According to the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore, Paul Millsap cited unfinished business as one of the main reasons he is returning to Atlanta.
Paul Millsap said there is unfinished business in Atlanta, a reason for re-signing.
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) July 9, 2015
Even with the loss of Demarre Carroll, it was a great start to the offseason for the Hawks. They signed back their star and filled a huge position of need.
The Hawks made a few other minor moves in the offseason, but they could prove to have a huge impact in the future. The Hawks signed Justin Holiday to a multi-year deal. Holiday was on the Golden State Warriors championship team this past season. He appeared in 59 games for the Warriors last year and averaged 4.3 point per game. He was far from stellar, but he did show potential to be a solid NBA player. Mike Budenholzer and the rest of the coaching staff have shown they can get the most out of their guys. Holiday could be a guy this season who really surprises some people. He could prove to be a valuable 3 and D asset.
The Hawks also made a multi-year deal with Center Walter Tavares. Tavares was a second round pick for the Hawks last season, and spent last season playing overseas. He is 7 feet 3 inches tall but extremely raw. The Hawks feared Tavares was near signing a multi-year contract with a team in Europe, so they acted fast in signing him this offseason even if he will not be ready for the NBA this season. Tavares should learn a lot from veterans like Horford and Splitter and could take his game to the next level. He is a physical freak, and if he can polish his game, he could be the next great rim protector in the NBA.
The last two moves were made as a result of the Hawks’ Summer League that took place in Las Vegas. Lamar Patterson, another second round pick from last year, signed a contract with the Hawks. Terran Petteway was signed as well, an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska. Patterson was expected to play well and possibly make the team. He showed he is capable of being a role player in the NBA. Petteway was a surprise coming out of Summer League. Not too many people had their eyes on him to begin with, but his play throughout Summer League changed that. The Hawks only have room for one of these guys to make the roster, so they will be battling it out throughout camp for that final spot.
The Hawks did lose a big piece in Demarre Carroll, but they did save a lot of money letting him walk. Being able to bring in a true presence in the paint like Tiago Splitter will bring more to the Hawks than Carroll did. Thabo Sefolosha is more than capable of filling in that starting role, as he started on an Oklahoma City team that went to the NBA Finals. The Hawks also will have a much improved bench with the additions of Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Justin Holiday along with the maturation of guys like Dennis Schröder and Mike Muscala. The core of the team is still together and the genius at the head of it all is still coaching the team. The Hawks look to be in for another magical ride this season and the off-season should be viewed as a successful one.