There is a good chance that Paul Millsap’s tenure as an Atlanta Hawks has come to an end. The Hawks are very financially strapped and Millsap is 32-years old, set to make around $45 million in his age 37 season if he is given the full max. It is easy to see why this would be a mistake for the Hawks long-term.
The Warriors and the Cavaliers are on top of the basketball world, and no one seems to be close. In the East, there are two potential dynasties in the making in the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, who are building their core through top draft picks. Though the Golden State Warriors never had top picks, they did a great job of scouting and took advantage of their decent picks. Travis Schlenk saw this firsthand with the way the team was built out west, and he may take a similar approach to building the Hawks.
There is no sense in the Hawks trying to compete now. They simply do not have the ammunition. However, they do have a nice young trio in Dennis Schroder, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Taurean Prince. These players are talented enough to shift the focal point of the team to developing them. If the Hawks were to let Millsap walk and trade Dwight Howard, they would likely be a lottery team. This would give the Hawks a legitimate chance to draft a franchise changing player in the coming years and would give the team a clean slate financially.
However, this year the Hawks are just looking at the 19th pick. Not terrible, but not a great pick either. However, with it being such a deep draft class, this could be the chance for the Hawks to trade up and select a young big man to develop alongside their youthful trio.
John Collins could be that guy. He established himself as one of the best players in the best conference in the NCAA as a sophomore. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in just 26.6 minutes and had the highest PER in all of college at 36.3. He was the Most Improved Player for the ACC.
In a league that is very top heavy in talent at the power forward position and a draft that does not feature many great big men, Collins could be a steal. He is projected to go at the end of the lottery. While he was not a 3-point shooter in college, his mid range game was on point and the Hawks could look to stretch him out and make him into a seriously dangerous weapon. His 73% free throw stroke suggests that this is not an unrealistic proposition. His post game was second to none and his footwork is incredible. He completed over 69% of his attempts around the hoop. He is also perhaps the best offensive rebounder in this year’s class.
Collins could be a fun weapon for Coach Bud. Though he does not have the defensive presence Millsap does, his offensive skill set is very similar to what Millsap brought when he originally came from Utah. Collins is fresh legs and has the potential to be great in his system. The only problem is, how are the Hawks going to move up? Here’s my suggested offer:
The Atlanta Hawks trade Dwight Howard, the 19th overall pick, and Washington’s 2019 second rounder to the Denver Nuggets for the 13th overall pick and Darell Arthur
Nikola Jokic could benefit from a full time move to power forward. The Nuggets were willing to give up two first rounders AND Kenneth Faried for a year of Paul Millsap, so it is not unrealistic to think they would be interested in moving back a few spots to get another veteran big man who could arguably be a better pick. When the Mavericks allowed Dirk Nowitzki to commit to the power forward position and brought on Tyson Chandler to protect the glass, the team won a championship because Dirk was allowed to play his game. Jokic and Dwight possess very similar skillsets.
The Hawks get their guy and about $10 million in cap space to play with. Arthur is a throw in to make money work, but would also bring a veteran presence to a team that would be losing potentially both Paul Millsap and Ersan Ilyasova. Schroder, THJ, Prince and Collins would offer a lot of promise, while still allowing the team to build through the draft for years to come.
With a new GM, do not be surprised if changes are made on draft night. Schlenk may trade up, down, or could trade away players from the roster. I’d be more surprised if none of these things happened.