Take yourself back to July 3rd of last year.
Kyle Korver had just re-signed with the Atlanta Hawks on a four year deal worth $24 million. After having an impressive season for Atlanta, general manager Danny Ferry decided that Korver would be a crucial part to the new regime.
The best shooter on the planet was returning to the team for only $6 million per year, but the contract was not met with praise. Many Hawks fans and pundits criticized the move, and it’s safe to say a year later those same people are eating their words.
Korver had a career year under Mike Budenholzer last season, averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, and just under 3 assists per game. He also led the league in three-point percentage, shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc. He was an intricate part of the Hawks on both ends of the floor, and he was easily one of the main reasons they squeaked into the playoffs.
Korver was invited to Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas to have a chance to be on the official roster that will be partaking in the FIBA World Cup in August. After a career year, this was not only a great honor, but a deserving one.
Take yourself back to July 5th of last year — just two days after the Hawks re-signed Korver.
The news broke that Paul Millsap would be signing with Atlanta on a two year deal worth $19 million.
The news came as a shock around the league, as most teams didn’t realize that the borderline all-star was available at that price.
Millsap — like most of the roster — had a career year, and even made his first all-star game appearance. Not only did he step up and shoulder the load while Al Horford was injured, but he showed that his game was much more versatile than he presented in Utah.
Millsap made 76 three-pointers last season, and in his previous seven seasons, he made a combined 31. He also averaged a career-high 3.1 assists per game, and was able to bring the ball up the floor off of a defensive rebound on multiple occasions.
After Kevin Love and Blake Griffin pulled out of Team USA contention, Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski added Millsap to the training camp roster, joining teammate Kyle Korver for a chance to represent the country next month.
This summer, the Hawks cleared cap space hoping to have a big fish bite on one of the lines they cast out in the market. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, and Pau Gasol ultimately decided to go elsewhere, and it appeared that they had struck out.
What a waste, right?
Atlanta was able to sign Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha for team-friendly deals, and re-signed Shelvin Mack for a nice price as well. They were able to attract nice pieces that will help add depth and defense while remaining flexible financially. The off-season ended up being a win — even without one of those big fish.
There were many fans wishing that the Hawks would have signed or drafted a shooting guard, stating that Korver was simply a bench player, and just a spot-up shooter.
Those rumblings were suddenly silent on Tuesday when one of the most prominent NBA writers out there, Zach Lowe of Grantland, wrote a piece about Kyle Korver.
Korver’s development into a borderline star has surprised everyone, even the 33-year-old swingman, and the journey will reach its latest peak this week when he competes for one of 12 precious roster spots on the U.S. team heading to the FIBA World Cup.
Korver is an antique perfectly suited to thrive at the forefront of the league’s evolution. He is among a dying breed who sprint around screens away from the ball, Reggie Miller–style, hoist quick catch-and-shoot jumpers, and sink enough of them to make the advanced math work. “Nobody plays that way anymore,” says Steve Clifford, the Hornets’ coach. “Game-planning for him is such a handful.”
But Korver’s shooting and ability to read the floor make him an ideal fit within a league that jacks more 3s and requires more movement on both ends — changes the league helped generate through rule changes. “The game over the last four or five years has become so much more suited to the way he plays today,” says Jerry Sloan, who coached Korver in Utah.
He’s developed into a smart passer with some off-the-bounce juice, and he moves around so much on offense, often outside the game plan, that he sometimes annoys the Atlanta coaching staff. He’s a plus off-ball defender, his head always on a swivel, watching every player on the floor without losing track of his guy. In Atlanta, Korver has found the perfect coach and system to leverage his unmatched shooting in new and adventurous ways.
Go read the entire piece, as it outlines the true value and talent of Korver.
There have also fans begging for the signing of Greg Monroe, a trade for Kevin Love, or the addition of a “true center” that will allow Al Horford to move to power forward. There have been very few backers or supporters of Paul Millsap. Up until he was added to Team USA, that is.
What Korver and Millsap’s invites show is that the Hawks didn’t need some big superstar to get them on the right track.
They are on the right track.
Sure, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, and that LeBron James guy would have helped revolutionize the franchise and raise attendance, but they aren’t lost after missing out. The fact that Team USA would choose two players from the Hawks to be one of just 20 roster hopefuls shows how good of a job Danny Ferry has done.
With a healthy Al Horford, another year in a system that requires constant moving and smart playing, and new depth on the wing, the Hawks could be in for a special season.
For whatever reason, Hawks fans and some national media aren’t catching on. Sure, the Hawks were the only team in last season’s playoffs with a sub .500 record, but they are actually healthy and deeper now, meaning improvement is inevitable.
What Millsap and Korver joining Team USA’s training camp shows is that sometimes the grass is greener in your own yard, not on the other side. What is shows is that the talent fans have been longing for is already here. What it shows is that the Hawks are on the right track, and it’s time everyone else hops on with them.
It’s going to be a fun ride.