What moves should the Atlanta Hawks make this summer?

Feb 8, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer talks with forward Paul Millsap (4) and forward Kent Bazemore (24) and guard Dennis Schroder (17) and guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) and center Dwight Howard (8) during a time out in the fourth quarter of their game game against the Denver Nuggets at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 117-106. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer talks with forward Paul Millsap (4) and forward Kent Bazemore (24) and guard Dennis Schroder (17) and guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) and center Dwight Howard (8) during a time out in the fourth quarter of their game game against the Denver Nuggets at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 117-106. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks have been frantically searching for a new General Manager to get the team and roster moving in the right direction. What moves should they make this summer? 

Earlier yesterday, during a moment when I was soaking in some commentary from NBA TV, I asked myself the following question. Why have the Atlanta Hawks not asked, or at least mentioned, the possibility of former All-Star guard Steve Smith as a prospective General Manager?

He is charismatic and knows the league inside and out. He also has won at the highest level, earning a championship ring as a player for, you guessed it, the San Antonio Spurs back in 2003. As head coach, Mike Budenholzer was one of legendary five-time champion head coach Gregg Popovich’s assistants during “Smitty’s” time as a player for the Spurs, it seems like a option the Hawks would consider.

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He enjoyed many of his greatest individual seasons as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. He also would appear to have the necessary intelligence to construct a competitive NBA team. Of course, it’s likely that he is content with his role as an analyst.

Earning large sums of money for watching and talking about basketball isn’t exactly an occupation that he could be expected to be eager to walk away from. Especially when a General Manager position would consist of immense pressure to make the Hawks a success.

Atlanta’s search has been wide ranging and has left no stone uncovered. They were turned down by the Portland Trail Blazers brass in an attempt to interview their current General Manager Neil Olshey,  as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical.

Before that, it was Troy Weaver of the Oklahoma City Thunder they expressed interest in. Brent Barry and Tommy Sheppard were also named as candidates at one point in time.

Prior to those reports, it was David Griffin of the Cavaliers and Joe Dumars the Hawks were apparently intrigued by. David Griffin is held in high regard by LeBron James, so good luck convincing him to leave Cleveland. Joe Dumars meanwhile, has said he would like the job during an ESPN telecast, but he could be more destructive to the Hawks cause than he’d be helpful.

Beyond the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs, none of these executives have proven they can take the Hawks to where they want to go. I mean, you’re desperate to persuade the Portland Trail Blazers’ General Manager to oversee the roster? For what?

They haven’t gotten near the top of the Western Conference, even by any stretch of the imagination. He couldn’t even keep his best player, LaMarcus Aldridge, who left for the San Antonio Spurs two years ago.

The vast majority of the NBA is all in the same boat. Nobody can figure out how to dethrone the Cavaliers and Warriors in their respective conferences. This is why it may not be a bad idea to bring in a candidate with no experience, who is excited for the opportunity and will strive to make a lasting impression.

If it were me, there are a number of moves I would aggressively seek out. The Hawks could go in any type of direction, but I’d rebuild the roster through trades and free agency. There is an argument to be made for tanking and building through the draft, however, that’s a long, drawn out process I’d prefer to avoid.

As much as I have grown to love the young, blossoming game of Dennis Schroder, I’d use him in a trade as he is the most valuable asset the team has. The Philadelphia 76ers are desperate to acquire a young point guard to lineup with the rest of their lottery picks brimming with potential.

I’d trade Schroder, and his very team friendly contract, to Philadelphia in exchange for Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor. Either one would be sufficient to the remaining moves needed to overhaul the roster.

In what would mostly be considered  a salary dump, I’d look to trade Dwight Howard as well. There are a few teams who would offer their second round pick, in addition to a player with an expiring contract that would match the salaries. At $23 million per year, Dwight could still present a challenge to move, but he offers enough value to make it possible.

If he could ever be used properly on offense, this wouldn’t actually be necessary. With his limited skill set on that side of the ball, it’s likely that having him isn’t in the best interest of coach Bud.  Embiid or Okafor would fit much better in Budenholzer’s offense than Howard.

I’d also let Paul Millsap go, as signing him to a max deal is totally ludicrous in the grand scheme of future prosperity for the Hawks. By any means necessary, I’d look to parlay an approximate $50 million in cap space, created by Howard and Millsap’s departures, to sign a pair of prominent free agents.

I would make it my top priority  to sign either Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry to fill the void at point guard. Both of which provide value that’s going to benefit the team in contention. Paul is a little older, but makes all of his teammates better on a grander scale than Lowry. Whatever deal I’d offer Lowry, would make more sense long-term, but he likely is able to be the floor general for a contender too.

The next step obviously has to be getting a dominant shooting guard, and or acquiring production to replace Millsap’s in the front court. It’s for that reason I’d set my sights on free agents Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Gordon Hayward, J.J. Redick, and Tim Hardaway Jr.

It would be important to sign one of those, preferably Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward. Between adding one of the point guards mentioned before, and acquiring max level players such as Griffin or Hayward, the remaining cap space available has likely been exhausted.

So, my particular strategy would hinge on ownership’s willingness to pay the luxury tax. After securing a core to compete with the Cavs, I’d round out the rest of the roster with players on veteran minimum deals and draft picks.

Of course, I make this seem a lot easier than it would be. Big name free agents don’t have a history of wanting to join the Hawks. Gaining those players would be an impressive feat no other Hawks General Manager has been able to achieve.

If obtaining the desired free agents proves to be too daunting of a task, this is when opting for tanking and building through the draft becomes the necessary strategy. The Dwight Howard trade would still be needed in either one of the scenarios.

In the event the top flight free agent targets have shunned me and my ball club, then the development of Embiid/Okafor, Prince, Bembry and other draft picks become paramount. Settle for rarely earning regular season wins, and descend into the group of teams bound for the lottery. Start battling for the league’s worst record to stockpile some high draft picks.

In case you missed it, the Hawks finally appear to have settled on their next decision-maker. Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that the Hawks will hire Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk for the position.

Now, I don’t know if impending Hawks GM Travis Schlenk will take the same approach as General Manager I would, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Next: Hawks reportedly to hire Travis Schlenk as GM

This is what the recent dealings of the Atlanta Hawks have reduced my in depth articles to, franchise mode of NBA 2K. Hopefully in the near future, they will make some moves worthy to report on.