Hawks draft Taurean Prince
The NBA draft is always a fun way to kick off the offseason, and the Hawks had two selections in the first round. DeAndre Bembry will not be talked about in this article because it is far too early to even gauge what he might turn out to be. Picks outside the lottery are generally a crap shoot, but the Hawks were able to hit with their first pick last season. Several people turned their heads when the Hawks used the 12th pick to select Taurean Prince out of Baylor. Prince was a projected late first-round draft pick and may have been available when the Hawks were supposed to select later in the first-round, but the Hawks were not taking any chances.
Prince was thought to be a little bit of a project coming out of Baylor. With the right coaching and in the right situation, he could pan out to be a terrific defender with a nice three-point shot. Prince is already proving those critics wrong after his first season. Not only is he already a very nice defender, his shot has transitioned nicely into the NBA. A review on Sports Illustrated said prior to the season, “You cannot ask Prince to create any offense with his ballhandling.” Prince may not be the best shot creator of the dribble, but anybody who watched him perform in the playoffs knows this is far from the case. Most of his baskets came off the dribble-drive and he is a terrific finisher in traffic. With more development and playing time next season, I expect Prince to continue to develop into a nice NBA player.
Hawks sign Dwight Howard to three-year, $70.5 million deal
This is the toughest move of last offseason to put a grade on. Mike Budenholzer has gone after Dwight Howard not once, but twice in free agency. This time he lands his prized big-man, but the relationship was a topsy-turvy one in the first year. Howard put up great numbers for the Hawks, averaging 13.5 points and 12.7 rebounds while recording a career-high in field-goal percentage. His PER was the highest among all Hawks players during the regular season.
The problem came in the postseason where Dwight Howard did not show up. Mike Budenholzer winded up benching Howard for most of the fourth quarters in the series versus the Wizards. Obviously, Dwight Howard was not happy with the decision and expressed his frustrations to the media in his exit interview. Those frustrations have been made out much more than they are. It is normal for a player, especially of Howard’s stature, to be emotional and upset after losing a playoff series. But there is still an issue here.
There is a contradiction in philosophies between what Mike Budenholzer wants to do and what Dwight Howard can do. Mike Budenholzer loves to have 5 shooters on the floor to space the floor and clear the lane. He also loves to run. Dwight is not an asset in either of these two game plans. Howard’s game is best suited in the half-court, where he can crash offensive boards on one side and be the defensive anchor on the other. He will never be able to shoot and his big body will clog up the lane making it harder for Schroder to attack the rim. Budenholzer had an idea when signing Dwight, but he clearly has lost faith in that idea. He would rather play more spread out, and because of that a move might have to be made.
I will not completely fail the Howard signing because he was a productive player for his contract. He also was never a hinderance to the locker room. However, the move has not worked, and the Hawks might have to cut their losses for no more than a second-round pick in return.
Hawks sign Kent Bazemore to a four-year, $70 million deal
There is no sugar-coating it at this point: Kent Bazemore was the worst signing of the offseason. He also might turn out to be one of the worst signings in Hawks history if things do not change. Bazemore was this year what he has been his whole career. An enigmatic scorer who is a good defender, but not good enough to really stop a true scorer in this league. He is a nice bench piece, but his first year as a starter did not warrant this monstrous contract. He barely broke 40% shooting from the field last season and finished with a PER of 11.60 in the first year of his new deal, making him one of the most overpaid players in the league.
There are really only two hopes for the Hawks in the Bazemore situation. The first is another NBA team desperate for help on the wing will save the Hawks by trading for Bazemore’s contract. That seems highly unlikely given Bazemore’s production last year. The second hope is the combination between Bazemore’s improvement and the increasing cap will eventually make Bazemore’s contract manageable. There is hope Bazemore can improve his numbers in year two. He got off to a terrible start to the season and improved over the course of the season, including a couple game-changing playoff performances. Those performances have not been sustainable for an entire season though, so Atlanta will likely have to rely on the increasing cap to make this deal look respectable.
Hawks sign Malcolm Delaney to a two-year deal
Delaney has become an afterthought over the duration of the season. Mike Budenholzer tried his hardest to make Delaney an NBA point guard, but he is just not good enough, plain and simple. Delaney had a 7.56 PER, shot 37.4% from the field and an abysmal 23.6% from behind the arc. He was supposed to be a sharpshooter that could create space off the dribble. His game resembles Damian Lillard, but his shot is way too inconsistent. The Hawks need to make finding a backup point guard priority number 1 this offseason.