Ever since taking over as an owner of the Hawks, Tony Ressler has made it clear that he wants to win, and will pay the price to do so. However, his plan to do so is unrealistic, and will not work.
As of now the Hawks are in a really tight spot financially, and have little wiggle room to bring in any talent this offseason. These problems will not be solved anytime soon, as Kent Bazemore and Dwight Howard may have two of the the least tradeable deals in the NBA. The icing on top of the cake is that Ressler says he will make “every effort imaginable” to retain Paul Millsap. Millsap has been terrific for the Hawks, and will be a favorite of Hawks fans forever. However, paying him what it will take financially to get the deal done will put the Hawks in even more of a financial stalemate. Tim Hardaway Jr also has to be paid, Kent Bazemore has been underwhelming, and Dwight Howard and Millsap will both be in declining years of their career. The Hawks were not good enough last year, and even with the expected progression from Dennis Schroder, Hardaway, and Taurean Prince, they are fooling themselves if they think this core can beat Lebron James. Because they do not have any space to add on any type of difference maker.
This has been the problem with the Hawks for years. They are in basketball purgatory because they are always good enough to be a playoff team, but not bad enough to draft a top player. On top of that, Atlanta has not exactly been a sexy free agency destination. Changes will only come to the Hawks when ownership has the guts to build around their young trio of players and get good draft picks.
Ressler will directly negotiate with Paul Millsap, and chances are they will get a deal done. Millsap has shown a willingness to come back despite opting out of his player option. He is the anchor man of this team, but signing him to anything longer than a three year deal would be foolish. Hawks fans saw how hard it was to win without Millsap, but this can actually become a positive if they do not bring him back. The Hawks have multiple extra first round picks in the coming years and now is the window to try to draft and develop young talent while Lebron James is still invincible. Chances are even if the Hawks had traded for Paul George, they still would not be good enough to beat Lebron. That is simply reality in the NBA right now.
Ressler has tunnel vision. It is obvious that the right move for the Hawks is to build around Dennis Schroder, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tauean Prince. These guys will be fun to watch and make huge strides, but are young enough to the point where the Hawks should certainly get a lottery pick or two in coming years. The priority should be on trying to dump Bazemore and Dwight’s contracts, letting Paul walk, and continuing to accumulate picks. The team already has enough young talent to not have to undergo a true rebuild, but more of a retooling.
Ressler’s willingness to win should still be appreciated by Hawks fans. The Atlanta Spirit group was terrible ownership. Though Ressler has shown more willingness to spend, unfortunately his outlook for the Hawks is very similar to in year’s past. Perhaps with Travis Schlenk likely taking over as general manager, the team will go in a younger direction and focus on developing their own talent before spending, much like the Golden State Warriors, where he served as the assistant GM. He will have some big decisions to make and some tough ones, too. Much like the process many Atlanta fans have undergone with the Braves, there may have to be some painful times before the good times. But hey, they say the hard times make the good times better.