1 critical mistake Hawks GM Landry Fields must avoid making this offseason

The Atlanta Hawks are entering a pivotal offseason armed with plenty of tools to change the franchise's direction and have to avoid this pitfall.
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields
Atlanta Hawks general manager Landry Fields / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Going on two full years as the lead voice in the Atlanta Hawks’ basketball operations, General Manager Landry Fields has made several trades.

The most significant was sending John Collins to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gay and a conditional future second-round pick that has yet to be conveyed. They also got a trade exception that would go a long way to swaying opinions on that deal.

His next most significant would be acquiring Saddiq Bey in a three-team trade with the Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors.

There are a slew of lesser deals mixed in.

The deals for Bey and Collins stand out as benchmarks of Fields’ tenure, though. They also fall on two ends of the spectrum and provide a guideline for what not to do next time out: settle.

In hindsight, and without the benefit of being part of the conversations that led to the decision, it’s easy to say that the return for Collins was a disappointment. The Hawks flipped Gay to the Oklahoma City Thunder two days later in a package along with more draft capital for another 2.

Collins found his way back to the trade block this season.

However, that could again be as much about fit as anything for a Jazz team still searching for its next franchise cornerstone.

Collins enjoyed a bounce-back season in his hometown, averaging 15.1 points and shooting 37.1% from beyond the arc. And the 2022-23 Hawks’ starting lineup featuring Collins boasted a plus-6.0 net efficiency differential (86th percentile), per Cleaning The Glass.

One might argue that even more should have been done to repair this relationship.

There is an even better case to suggest the Hawks took less than they could have gotten to simply rid themselves of the issue that had lingered for years. 

The deal for Bey was a mild surprise at the 2023 trade deadline. The former Detroit Piston was seemingly on his way to the Golden State Warriors when the Hawks opportunistically emerged as the third team in a four-team deal and the ultimate landing spot for the former first-round pick.

For the cost of five second-round picks, the Hawks landed a surprise starter for this season.

Bey averaged 13.7 points and a career-high 6.5 rebounds this past season, starting 51 of his 68 appearances before a torn ACL ended his campaign prematurely.

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Hawks must “win” next blockbuster trade

Fields and Co. have to “win” their next big trade, which is subjective, to be sure. The decision could include one or maybe both of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason. Murray is coming off a second season in Atlanta that proved as tumultuous as his first.

Young is the face of the franchise. He hasn’t pushed for a trade, but rather for the team to win.

Moving Murray now almost certainly means taking another haircut after they surrendered four draft picks and a key veteran to the San Antonio Spurs for him in 2022.

Trading Young means moving on from the current cornerstone without the benefit of a clear-cut successor on the roster or in the draft, even holding the No. 1 overall pick. The benefit is a potentially larger return if they go this route, though.

Winning fans over may be easier if they Hawks move one of their role players.

But that return would likely bring back substantially less significant returns and only marginally alter their outlook.

Fields also was a part of the processes that led to the acquisition of Murray, which played a key part in the exit of his predecessor, former Hawks president Travis Schlenk, who now works in the Washington Wizards front office.

Fields was also around for the trade that sent Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings.

Luxury tax concerns guided that move, though Huerter argues the trip to the Eastern Conference Finals sped up their timeline. It did yield a lottery-protected first-round pick.

Dealing away Murray or Young would supplant the Bey acquisition as one of Fields’ two largest transactions (trade-wise). With the Murray and Huerter deals as references – and the trade for Young in 2018 as the backdrop –  Fields must avoid the pitfalls that sank Schlenk.

Otherwise, he could face the same outcome.