Atlanta Hawks: The Post-Paul Millsap Era Begins Now

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19: Taurean Prince
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19: Taurean Prince /

To tank, or not to tank. That is the question for the Atlanta Hawks now.

The NBA Free Agency period has only just begun, but the Atlanta Hawks already face a monumental dilemma requiring answers soon. Paul Millsap has officially left the team, and now the new era of the Atlanta Hawks begins with nothing but speculation.

The common misconception regarding the inevitable Paul Millsap departure from the Hawks is that the team will immediately go into “tanking” status. While yes, the rationality given the full impact that Paul Millsap had on the Hawks and the struggles the team continually had without him in year’s past suggest massive struggle for the foreseeable future.

However, it doesn’t guarantee it. There’s still many questions to be answered and a mystery of what exactly general manager Travis Schlenk plans to do from here out. We know that the Hawks don’t plan to have inauspicious contracts on the books, and that the team didn’t consider offering Paul Millsap a new deal. We also know that the front office likely doesn’t want to pull a clean slate and start all over. This points to more of an attempt at re-facing the roster.

Atlanta Hawks
ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 24: Dennis Schroder /

This starts and revolves around point guard Dennis Schroder, who looks to take on the weights of the entire franchise on his narrow-framed shoulders. After a magnificent playoff run to end last season, averaging 24.7 points 7.7 assists in the 6-game series against the Washington Wizards, Schroder heads into the 2017-2018 as the new face of the Atlanta Hawks. As he blossomed towards stardom in last year’s playoffs, he looks to become the Hawks’ next true superstar for years to come.

The next biggest decision for the Atlanta Hawks front office comes in the form of Tim Hardaway Jr. The young two-guard bursted on to the scene last year and showcased the capability of being a starter for the future. In 30 starts Hardaway averaged 17.5 points per game, and his 14.5 point per game season average was third on the team.

Atlanta Hawks
ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 09: Tim Hardaway Jr. /

Hardaway stands currently as a restricted free agent. Whether he signs back with the Atlanta Hawks or signs an offer sheet with another team remains to be seen. Regardless, a decision will ultimately be up to the front office on rather the up-and-coming star continues to be an Atlanta Hawks player next season.

Perhaps most importantly of all to the Hawks current status is the young core the team has built over the previous two seasons. Taurean Prince emerged as a foundational player late last season and during the NBA playoffs of his rookie season. The maturation and progression of his game throughout his rookie season shows Prince can make a serious impact for the Atlanta Hawks sooner rather than later.

Atlanta Hawks
ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 16: Taurean Prince /

DeAndre Bembry and Malcolm Delaney also look to improve and become major factors for the team next year, even if it is in a bench role. Alongside them will likely be rookie-to-be John Collins. The ultimate replacement for Paul Millsap, Collins looks to flourish as a scorer with a team that can hopefully use him correctly in his role. Regardless of who starts or who plays, this is the future of the Atlanta Hawks. If the young players here can be groomed to their fullest potential, we’ll likely see more success than initially perceived.

You also have to factor in that the Atlanta Hawks appear to be far from done in terms of free agency. After the decision on Hardaway is made, the front office will likely wait out the rest of the league in terms of the spending frenzy that has been ensuing. From there, we should expect numerous signings and possible trades from what’s left of the crop.

There’s still numerous variations of talent that can be added to the Atlanta Hawks this year. It could be talent that fits more schematically than what Atlanta has had in the past. It’s been continually proven in the NBA that it’s not about what you have on paper that translates to success, but how the pieces you do have are coached and utilized towards the greater goal that determines success. From that, the Hawks could still find success in the near future.

Next: Paul Millsap signs with Denver Nuggets