In a somewhat surprising move, the Hawks parted ways with Dwight Howard after just a single season with his hometown team.
There were questions coming into the offseason about which direction the Hawks might go. Would they hang onto their current assets and continue to try and improve as a team? Or would they decide to finally hit the rebuild button, that they have been oh-so-close to punching the last two seasons.
With a new GM, it did not take long to figure out things are going to be a little different under Travis Schlenk’s reign. Gone are the days of mediocrity, and Dwight Howard was just the beginning.
Many people thought Dwight Howard could be moved, and the Hawks would be able to reallocate those resources on players more fit to play their style of basketball. The Howard experiment, while interesting, had failed in it’s first season, even though Howard still put up all-star caliber numbers. On paper those numbers look good enough to receive decent value in a trade, but the reality of the situation is that Howard’s value has plummeted over the past few seasons, and this trade speaks volumes about what the rest of the league thinks about the eight-time all-star.
This deal for Howard is not going to allow the Hawks the financial ability to improve the team at all this offseason. In fact, at first glance this looks like a move to reach the salary floor and bottom out as a team for a top pick. Atlanta gets rid of the remaining 2 years/$47 million left on Howard’s contract, but then bring in almost $19 million on the books for this season between Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli. Belinelli will be a free agent following the 2017-2018 season. Plumlee will remain on the books for three seasons and owed $37.5 million. His inclusion is what gives the Hawks very little hope for success in the next few seasons. Basically Atlanta will have the same amount of money tied up heading into next season, but they are going to be a lot worse, which seems to be the plan for future success in today’s NBA.
Yes, it is happening Hawks fans. Atlanta is joining the increasingly popular bandwagon of NBA teams tanking in hopes for future success. For the first time in eleven seasons, the Hawks will not be playoff contendors. Schlenk’s attention now turns to Paul Millsap, who the team has been reportedly exploring sign-and-trade options for. Atlanta has made it clear they will not offer Millsap a max-contract, but that does not mean they are not still trying to make something out of that fifth-year that only they can offer. Normally, sign-and-trades are rare, but considering some smaller market teams are desperate for superstars right now, a sign-and-trade might be the best way for them to land one long-term.
With the Hawks looking for a high draft pick next year, expect them to be looking for future draft picks or possibly some young talent in any deal for Millsap.
It is very possible no sign-and-trade deal happens for Millsap. However, it is very clear that Millsap will be sporting a different uniform next season. That makes the biggest question mark going forward the extension of Tim Hardaway Jr.. Hardaway Jr. is still just 25 years old and would complete a young backcourt full of potential. The Hawks have hinted they want to retain Tim Hardaway Jr., but they said the same thing about Paul Millsap and he now has one foot out the door. Atlanta is not going to be competing for a championship any time soon, and the organization might not be completely sold on tying up money into Hardaway long-term.
The NBA offseason has gotten off to an outstanding start, and the Hawks have been right in the thick of it early on. Expect that to continue in the coming weeks. Atlanta has some moves to make, but none of them are going to be focused on making this team better next season. It is the end of an era. An era of some of the best Hawks basketball Atlanta has ever seen. It is a tough pill for fans to swallow, but this was the only way for the team to ever truly become championship contenders.