This is not a question many Hawks fans thought they would be asking themselves at the beginning of the season. While many predicted a drop off from the 60-win mark Atlanta put up a year ago, most people thought they still were one of the few teams in the East that could actually challenge Cleveland for the Eastern Conference crown. But after 50 games, the Hawks sit at just a mediocre 28-22, way behind their franchise-record 60-win pace. The Atlanta organization has made it clear that they are listening to offers for Jeff Teague, and several teams around the league have shown interest in both Teague and Al Horford. With both of these players in the back-end of their contracts, it might just be in the Hawks’ best interest to look towards the future and get what they can for these two star players.
Teague was an all-star last season, but Dennis Schroder also shined in his backup role for Atlanta. The then 21-year old German phenom showed all the makings of being a possible superstar, and with both Teague and Schroder’s contracts due up at the end of the 2016-2017 season, it is clear Atlanta will only be able to retain one. The gap between the two’s play seems to even gotten closer this season. Teague’s play has been far from what it was last season, partly due to nagging injuries, while Schroder’s play seems to have only gotten better. However, Teague did just come off his best game of the season scoring 32 points and dropping 8 dimes in a win over the Mavericks, and looks to be as healthy and confident as ever. There is no doubt Teague is the best option to lead this Atlanta team through the rest of this season, but with Schroder looking like the guard of the future, it might be best for Hawks to give him the reigns and get some valuable assets for Teague while they can.
Several teams have show interest in Teague. The Knicks originally expressed interest, but I highly doubt they have the assets to lure Teague away from Atlanta. They do not have a tradeable first-round pick for this upcoming draft and have very few assets the Hawks should be interested outside of a guy like Aaron Afflalo, who Atlanta could have pursued in last year’s free agency if they were truly interested. A more realistic landing spot for Teague would be in Utah, where the Jazz have expressed significant interest. Their head coach, Quin Snyder, was a Hawks assistant before being named the Jazz’s head coach and is obviously very familiar with Teague. The Jazz are also in pretty desperate need for a quality point guard as they try to make it to the playoffs out West. Teague would validate their playoff chances, and the Jazz have some key assets they could give the Hawks. The trade would most likely have to revolve around shooting guard Alec Burks. Burks is in the first year of a team-friendly 4-year deal worth $42 million. He is a terrific young wing player with all-star potential, and the Hawks need to find a replacement for Kyle Korver as a starter sooner rather than later. If the Jazz would be willing to part ways with Burks, I am sure a deal will find a way to get done.
The Celtics have also expressed interest in both Teague and Horford. While their interest in Teague is probably not as strong considering they have an all-star point guard in Isaiah Thomas, their interest in Horford is very intriguing. Horford is in the last year of his contract with Atlanta and has made it no secret that he will be testing the free agent market. The Hawks might be able to keep Horford if they want, but he will cost a lot of money, and does Atlanta really want to invest that much into a center who can only grab 7 rebounds a game? If Horford will not sign at a discount rate for the Hawks, I doubt Atlanta keeps him, so Atlanta could get some value for the three-time all-star instead of letting him part ways in free agency. The Celtics are a young team looking for a star to solidify themselves in the East. Horford could do just that, and the Celtics have numerous assets the Hawks could be interested in. It will definitely be a high price-tag on Horford, but if the Celtics can put together something appealing, Atlanta should not hesitate to jump on it.
Atlanta is currently in a fantastic situation. They have valuable assets that other teams want but have the totally legitimate option of just staying pat. Atlanta has a better team than last year’s on paper. Kent Bazemore has shined in his new starting role, and the additions of Tim Hardaway Jr and Tiago Splitter should make this team better come playoff time. They will not have a better record when the playoffs start but should be better suited to battle with a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, they are not a team that can realistically win a championship now, so if they want to avoid becoming a dreaded treadmill team that they have been in the past, it might be time for Atlanta to start thinking mini-rebuild.