Hawks Down But Not Out: Grading Atlanta’s Off-Season

The most recent era of Atlanta basketball has come to an end. Al Horford left for the Boston Celtics a year ago and Jeff Teague was traded to the Indiana Pacers. Kyle Korver was moved on to the Cleveland Cavaliers mid-season whilst Paul Millsap rounded out the departures by choosing to play with the emerging Denver Nuggets. Oh and Dwight Howard‘s brief stint came to an end when the team traded him to Charlotte for basically a packet of chips. Given all this it’s safe to say the Hawks are in full rebuild mode and the way they have approached the off-season shows they have taken the first steps.



Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks performed quite well on draft night by adding efficient Wake Forest big man John Collins, dynamic Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey & French project player, Alpha Kaba.

With starting big men in Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard leaving in the off-season the acquisition of Collins will prove valuable for the Hawks in the long term. He will be given plenty of opportunity to grow into the role with more minutes available now. At pick 19 he was seen as somewhat of a steal with his high efficiency numbers in college. There have been concerns over his length on defence and also his ability to stretch the floor as a modern day big. But what he lacks in some areas he makes up for it with his tremendous rebounding ability and craftiness close to the rim.

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Tyler Dorsey seems to be a nice choice at pick 41, someone who could come in and provide a spark on offence straight away. He brings versatility as a guard along with an ability to shoot the ball from the outside, qualities that will hold up well in today’s game. Kaba is obviously a project player and won’t be on the Hawks roster for the upcoming season. Given they gained two value picks it was feasible that they took a swing on a player like Kaba who could very well not show up in Atlanta, but on the flipside could turn into something special.



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Losing Paul Millsap to Denver was inevitable, it makes them clearly a worse team in the short term but may be able to fast-track a rebuild by giving minutes to younger big men. Obviously they would have loved to keep Millsap, giving them a big cross against their grade but they have made some smaller moves that have helped to ease pain.

Firstly they declined to match the New York Knicks offer of 4 years/$71 million to Tim Hardaway Jr. This was a no-brainer really. Hardaway is a handy player but isn’t anywhere near worth the $71 million that the Knicks are willing to give. So props to Hawks management for playing it the way they did. Losing Hardaway makes them less of a team but not by much, not by enough to justify the pay packet. Secondly they sign underrated San Antonio Spurs big man Dewayne Dedmon to a 2 year deal. Dedmon developed nicely under Gregg Popovich last season as a rim protector who shows athleticism on the offensive end when driving to the hoop. Next they re-signed role player Mike Muscala to a valuable 2 year/$10 million contract and veteran Ersan Ilyasova to a 1 year/$6 million deal. A couple of valuable signings given the price plus nature of both contracts.

Given all this they also lost Thabo Sefolosha to the Utah Jazz but given he had fallen out of the rotation by the end of the season it’s not a major loss. They also remain in the hunt to pry Nerlens Noel from Dallas which would be a great pick-up for a team that is depleted at the big man position. Overall a negative free agency period by losing Millsap but some smart moves have softened the blow for the future.



(Curtis Compton/AP)

Prior to the draft, the Hawks dealt away hometown big man Dwight Howard along with the 31st pick to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick. Howard wasn’t working in Atlanta and it’s hard to see him working in Charlotte either, but that’s another story. He is owed $23.5 million for each of the next two seasons, freeing the Hawks of the overpriced contract in return for a couple of role players. Plumlee won’t provide much but should get some more minutes off the bench given the situation. Belinelli provided some good minutes off the bench last season and should provide some relief for the Hawks young wings. Overall they lose the trade but the direction they are heading it may work out okay.

They also helped facilitate a Danilo Gallinari trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, also paving the way for Paul Millsap to land in Denver. The Hawks received veteran Jamal Crawford, young center Diamond Stone and a 2018 top three protected first round pick from the Clippers. They only gave up a 2019 second-round pick to the Nuggets get the deal done. Crawford was waived away immediately but the Hawks had a big win in the deal, taking the high ground due to the other teams motives in the three team deal. Acquiring a pick that will most likely land somewhere in the 15-25 range in next year’s draft is a major plus for the re-build as is getting Stone who has shown promising signs in the Summer League.

Final Verdict: Being unable to keep Paul Millsap, not matching Tim Hardaway’s offer and letting go of veterans Dwight Howard plus Thabo Sefolosha will make the Hawks a significantly worse team next year. But they have taken the first steps towards a much needed re-build through some savvy trading and astute draft choices. Collins has been one of the best performers at the ongoing Summer League while Dorsey will give added depth to the guard stocks on the roster. The Dwight Howard trade was a loss but continues to take them foward with a re-build. The three team trade was a real winner as was the signing of Dewayne Dedmon. A likely starting line-up of Dennis Schroder/Kent Bazemore/Taurean Prince/Collins/Muscala on opening night won’t give many if any teams a headache but it has the building blocks in place for the future.

Grade: C+ 

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