The NBA trade deadline is approaching quickly and many are speculating about the status of the virtually .500 Atlanta Hawks. Due to what I believe is extraordinarily good talent evaluation, the Hawks have a handful of tradeable assets on team friendly deals if they choose to be sellers at the trade deadline.
Zach Lowe of Grantland has some specific thoughts about Coach Budenholzer’s feisty but ailing team.
Danny Ferry, true to Spurs form, is radio silent, and Lou Williams’s decline has robbed him of a once intriguing piece. This is a solid roster filled with talented players on movable contracts, but that can cut both ways. The Hawks might be happy landing the no. 3 spot in a turd conference, staying lean, and keeping the war chest intact for whatever comes down the line. But they could also act if a talent they like becomes available, and sources around the NBA continue to insist Ferry is not in love with Jeff Teague’s four-year, $32 million deal. Don’t sleep on the Hawks.
Jeff Teague has been an interesting topic ever since the Hawks seemingly showed little interest in his impending restricted free agency last spring. The Hawks allowed him to test the market and he drew a peculiar four-year, $32 million offer from Milwaukee. Of course, the Hawks matched, but it leads many to wonder about Teague’s future with Atlanta.
Jeff entered this year as a 25-year-old point guard with mere hints of becoming a top shelf point guard but no real sustained consistent performance. This year has been more of the same, with Teague disappearing completely for long stretches of important games. His outside shooting has cratered to a 26% mark from beyond the arc and still displays poor fundamentals in defending the pick and roll. As a result, questions have emerged about his long term ability to be the point guard to direct the Hawks to an extended playoff run. His line of 15.8 points and 7.3 assists per game is basically in line with what he put up last year so we are left wondering if he has even improved since last year as he enters his physical prime.
What has made this matter doubly interesting has been what is behind him on the depth chart. The Hawks selected 20-year-old German phenom Dennis Schröder with the 17th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and though he has gotten off to a slow start most teams don’t select a project point guard prospect in the middle of the first round without at least attempting to hand over the reigns to the offense to him at some point.
On the flip side is the unassuming Shelvin Mack. He began his stint with the Hawks last year as a waiver wire pickup who most recently played with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers, but all he’s done in limited minutes is become a premier backup point guard with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio and score 7.4 points in 19 minutes per game on a respectable .527 TS%.
I don’t anticipate the Hawks entertaining trades for Teague in advance of the trade deadline, despite he revelations behind him on the depth chart, as the team is looking to make their seventh straight playoff appearance.
Atlanta currently sits at 4th place in the East, but in the wide open conference only 1.5 games separates the 3rd place team from the 6th place team. Tanking for draft positioning has clearly not been a priority for General Manager Danny Ferry and crew, despite losing their best player in Al Horford for the season on December 26th.
Another name Zach Lowe brings up is Lou Williams.
Lowe correctly mentioned Williams’ declining trade value due to his less than stellar performance this season. Lou makes his name as an effective isolation gunner, but may have lost a step to his ACL surgery he had last January. He is only averaging 9.4 points on an effective field-goal percentage of 47.6, well less than the NBA average of 49.7%.
Since it might take some time for Lou to regain his effectiveness from the field, even on his favorable mid-level exception contract (roughly $5.25 million a year), he probably will not be moved in the coming days.
As for the rest of the roster, a trade of Paul Millsap for presumably younger players and draft picks doesn’t seem too likely, as teams are less willing to hamper their long term outlook under a new and less forgiving Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Millsap is due just $9.5 million next season, and his game can instantly mesh with almost any offense around the league. Again, the Hawks are looking to compete, even while keeping their cap sheet flexible for future shuffling, so trading away a central figure in Millsap seems extremely unlikely, especially in conjunction with the ridiculous rumor of Jeff Green to Atlanta.
As a warning, it is rumor season. Don’t be alarmed if you see a tweet suggesting a Hawks player’s connection to another team. The front office recognizes the long term task ahead of them. This is a multi-year process of returning the Hawks to contention. Despite this, there will be many eyes on the rummagings from the Atlanta Hawks in the coming week.