One of the most crucial steps in building a successful franchise in the NBA is evaluating the talent of current and prospective players. Talent acquisition through the draft and free agency is one side of this coin, but the flip side is talent retention.
When you have special players, you have to be able to recognize their skill and do what you can to keep those pieces around as long as it makes sense to do so. Building a strong core of players and knowing when to keep them and when to let them go is a key caveat of managing a roster at a championship level.
This applies to the Atlanta Hawks just as it does every other NBA franchise. For example, the Hawks are acutely aware of how much of a game-changer a player like Trae Young is. They know that their best chance of reaching the mountaintop in this league is currently with him on their roster.
However, not every roster move is as much of a no-brainer as keeping Trae Young is. Players who are young, in complex situations, or dealing with injuries can often be difficult to successfully evaluate, and it can sometimes lead to a front office making a poor choice in keeping or dealing a player away.
Such mistakes are natural and will happen to any franchise tasked with making a plethora of crucial moves year in and year out. With that in mind, let’s look at eight players the Atlanta Hawks may have given up on a bit too soon.
8. DeMarre Carroll
Every Hawks fan remembers the 2014-15 squad that secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference and made a run to the conference finals. Atlanta was so good that year that their entire starting lineup was named as the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January 2015, with the Hawks pulling off the first-ever 17-0 record in a month.
A historically good team in the regular season, Atlanta would have been in the NBA Finals if not for running into a top two player of all time in the Eastern Conference Finals. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Paul Millsap are generally remembered as the best players from that team, but one more often forgotten piece who was also key to their success was DeMarre Carroll.
The Hawks’ fourth-leading scorer that year, Carroll, played a major role in helping Atlanta to their first-ever 60-win season. As a result, he was a hot commodity in the free agent market that summer, and ended up signing a four-year, $60 million contract with the Toronto Raptors.
In hindsight, Atlanta was probably right to be skeptical of signing Carroll to a contract that large at the time. But in doing so, they lost a key piece of their Eastern Conference-leading roster, and Carroll enjoyed a solid two seasons with the Raptors.
After that, he had arguably his best pro season with the Nets in 2018-19, putting up averages of 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and two assists per game. The price tag to keep Carroll around may have seemed a bit unreasonable, but the Hawks ultimately parted ways with him while he still had some of his best years in front of him.