There is no doubt the Hawks have some major decisions to make this off-season. They have five players set to become free agents and four of those are unrestricted. Of those unrestriced free agents, Kirk Hinrich is unlikely to return. That leaves the Hawks with four big decisions to make about their own guys before they decide how to approach free agency.
To say I was impressed with what the Hawks got out of Kris Humphries would be an understatement. The Hawks signed the former Kardashian star off waivers after the Suns released him. I have always liked Kris Humphris because he plays with a lot of heart, can stretch the floor and get the job done on the glass. Humphries started to receive good minutes down the stretch of the season, but for some reason Coach Budenholzer opted to not give him playoff minutes initially. That all changed when the Hawks fell down 2-0 against Cleveland. Budenholzer turned to Humphries as the first big man off the bench in the final two games and it made a big difference. Humphries competed on the boards, played great defense and even showed some fancy moves on offense. He was probably the biggest difference in why the Hawks were able to compete so well in Games 3 and 4. Humphries is one of the best kept secrets in the NBA, and the Hawks would be fools if they did not try and re-sign him this off-season.
On the other hand there is Mike Muscala. Muscala got the playoff minutes as a backup in the first 8 games of playoffs but failed to impress. He is still young at 24 and only a restricted free agent, so the Hawks could easily keep him if they wanted to. It is clear Coach Budenholzer is fond of Muscala, so I expect the Hawks to find a way to retain him.
Kent Bazemore is probably the hardest decision to make. Bazemore stepped in for Demarre Carroll this season and the team did not miss a beat with him in the lineup. He provided solid outside shooting, great defense and energy. It was also just his first year as a starter, so there should be lots of room for improvement. However, he is set to get overpaid, much like Demarre Carroll did last off-season. The Hawks have shown that they have the ability to plug just about anybody in their starting lineup and make them look serviceable. I think this is much of the same with Bazemore. I do not really ever see him taking his game to the next level and because of that, I do not think the Hawks should or will open up their wallets enough to retain him.
While I do not think this decision is as hard as the Bazemore decision, I think it is much more heart-wrenching. Horford has been the face of the Atlanta franchise for the past nine seasons. Atlanta’s current streak of nine straight playoff appearances started when Horford arrived from Florida. He has represented the organization spectacularly and made it fun to be a Hawks fan again. But like they say, all good things must come to an end. Horford is 30 and is almost certainly going to be demanding a max contract. While the Hawks have always been a good team with Horford, they have never been a great one. If the Hawks re-sign Horford to a 5-year deal, they will almost certainly be signing up for 5 more years of good, but not great, basketball. The biggest reason the Hawks should not re-sign Horford is his rebounding. He has become a liability on the boards for a center and would probably be best served to move to the power forward spot. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they do not have that option with Paul Millsap on their roster. Atlanta needs to spend that money on a player who can rebound his position. Atlanta has enough guys who can shoot the rock, its time for them to beef up inside.