Atlanta is coming into one of the most vital offseasons in recent history. After two straight seasons of arguably being the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks will look to make a jump to the next level, but it is going to take some significant roster changes to do so. Atlanta began making those changes today, when the Hawks officially traded former all-star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers in return for the 12th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft from the Utah Jazz. The move is far from surprising, as the Hawks were heading into this season with two high caliber point guards on the last year of their deals. The only question was which point guard Atlanta would choose. The decision to go with Schröder was the right one, and it makes it a lot easier to envision the plan heading into the the draft and free agency.
The Hawks currently have the 12th, 21st, 44th and 54th picks in this year’s draft. However, according to Marc Stein of ESPN, all the picks are on the table and Atlanta is looking to make a move.
Back to Hawks: Sources say they'll now try to trade their two first-rounders (one from the Teague deal) to make re-signing Al Horford easier
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 22, 2016
The 12th and 21st picks could be packaged together to move up even further in the draft. Players like Thabo Sefolosha and Tiago Splitter could be a part of a package to move up, or the Hawks could opt to go in a different direction. The team also has a 2018 first rounder from Minnesota they could use as ammunition. Perhaps a team looking to rebuild is looking to get rid of a contract for picks. Atlanta surely has the assets now to pull off a move that could land them an all-star caliber player. The tweet also announces the intentions of the Hawks trying to re-sign Al Horford. Horford has been the face of the franchise and a perennial all-star since being drafted by Atlanta in 2007. The Hawks have full bird-rights on Horford, meaning they can go over the salary cap to re-sign him. With Teague on the way out, it frees up nearly $20 million in cap space heading into free agency. That number could be even larger if Atlanta opts to salary dump contracts like Tiago Splitter’s.
If the Hawks opt not to make another move prior to the draft, they will have two picks in the first round of what is considered to be a top heavy draft class. Outside of the top two players there are a lot of questions marks, and outside of the top ten picks the question marks get even larger. However, there are tons of prospects with sky high potential. Atlanta is looking for an impact player on the wing along with size in the paint. At the twelve spot, the Hawks could be looking at Skal Labissiere, Domantis Sabonis and Timothe Luwawu. At the 21st spot, Denzel Valentine, Thon Maker and Tareaun Prince could be available. Most of these players, with Luwawu being the most unknown, could contribute year one in Atlanta. The Hawks are looking to win now, so they will likely be targeting players that are the closest to being NBA ready.
Outside of the draft, the Hawks will now have enough cap space to go after any free agent this offseason. Yes that includes Kevin Durant, and no he is not coming to Atlanta. The Hawks will make pushes at nearly every big name on the market, but with Atlanta looking to re-sign Horford, they will likely try to spend most of that money on the wing. Bazemore was a solid player last year, but the Hawks need an upgrade if they want to compete with teams like Cleveland. They will also continue to try and improve their bench, especially since Dennis Schröder is set to become a starter.
The Hawks organization has had several opportunities to take the next step and has always failed to do so. Heading into one of the crucial offseasons in recent history, Atlanta is off to a fantastic start. Landing the 12th overall pick for a Jeff Teague rental was a steal. It gives Atlanta long-term assets and financial flexibility going forward. The Hawks can now re-sign Al Horford and get him more help. Dennis Schröder becomes the starter, and if he can ever pop, this team is going to be scary. The Jeff Teague trade is just the beginning, and Atlanta is going to have to make a whole lot more correct decisions to take the next step as a team.