It has been an interesting day for Hawks fans. It all began when reports from ESPN claimed that the Hawks had parted way with general manager Wes Wilcox.
Atlanta Hawks have parted ways with GM Wes Wilcox, sources told ESPN. Story coming. https://t.co/4g53brOXrV
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) May 3, 2017
The Hawks rebuttled with the following team statement:
“Hawks leadership is undergoing a period of evaluation and looking at how basketball operations works best. There are no changes to report at this time and any reports indicating otherwise are inaccurate.”
What is that supposed to mean?
Adrian Wojnarowski, who is one of the most respected NBA writers in the business, later offered some clarification. His reports claim that the team may force Coach Budenholzer to relinquish his president title and that officials are in Los Angeles with Wes Wilcox discussing his future role with the team. The writing could be on the wall for Wilcox.
Wilcox’s theoretical termination was far from a highly anticipated move, but it would not come off as a surprise, if it comes to fruition. He lasted just two seasons as the team’s general manager after being promoted from assistant general manager amid the Danny Ferry controversy. Wilcox went on to slowly but surely dismantle the Hawks’ magical 60-win team that set the city on fire. Paul Millsap is the only starter left from this core, and is set to be a free agent this summer.
Wilcox had a mixed resume with some good in his time in Atlanta, but it was overshadowed by bad. He made the right move by moving on from Jeff Teague and acquiring a great future piece on the wing in Taurean Prince. He was named general manager days after the Tim Hardaway Jr. trade, which means he was likely involved in this deal as well, which has been a steal. Dennis Schroder was locked up on a very team-friendly contract extension at the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately, bad contacts have marred Wilcox’s tenure as general manager. Giving Kent Bazemore a four-year, $70 million contract is inexcusable, and has quickly become one of the worst deals in the NBA. Even with the salary cap spiking, the Hawks will be lucky to find a taker for Bazemore this offseason. Perhaps the most controversial move Wilcox has made is letting Al Horford walk in favor of signing Dwight Howard to a big contract as well. Though he was underwhelming in the postseason, Howard was seemingly misutilized. He fixed the Hawks’ rebounding problem, turning them from the worst team on the boards in basketball to respectable. However, his game is not perfect, and many question whether Dwight is worth the value of his contract. Another move that perturbed Hawks fans was the trade that moved Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though future assets were gained, Korver was a fan favorite and the Hawks were in no shape to lose any outside shooting this season.
What happens next is anyone’s best bet. The first move should be trying to get Bazemore off the books as much as possible. Then the team has to make a decision on whether to bring back Paul Millsap. The team has two options: bring back the core and hope the young trio of Schroder, Hardaway and Prince develop enough to take the team to the next level, or build around the three and bottom out to rebuild the team. With TIm Hardaway Jr. being on the restricted free agent market, he may not even be retained. Though new owner Tony Ressler has made it clear he wants to win and has every intention to retain Paul Millsap, the Hawks’ best mathematical chance of them getting a franchise player that can make them a contender is exponentially higher if they bottom out for a couple seasons. Paul Millsap’s absence at the end of the regular season shows what the Hawks would be without him.
The Hawks are going to have to go all in with their chips or have a firesale. We all know that they are likely going to put the most competitive team out there for next season, but what if they surprised and hired a guy like Sam Hinkie to build towards the future? Whatever be the case, it appears imminent changes are coming to the Hawks front office that has been in shambles since Danny Ferry’s departure.