All of the big moves for the NBA off-season have finished. We saw Kevin Durant leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. Dwayne Wade left his home for the past 13 years in the Miami Heat to go back to his original home in Chicago to play with the Bulls. Those were easily the two biggest moves from the NBA as a whole, but what about our Atlanta Hawks? They added a big name, but lost one as well. So here are the big names that were associated with the Hawks in the free agency frenzy and what to think about them:
3 years/$70.5 million w/ Hawks
Howard is easily the biggest addition for the Hawks in this year’s off-season (both literally and figuratively). Howard should be the Big Man this franchise has needed for years (honestly, I wanted this addition a few years ago, but I digress). With the addition of Howard, the Hawks finally have a rim-protector and someone who understands that he will get plenty of touches via rebounding; something the Hawks have lacked for a long time. Al Horford has been the center in Atlanta for years, but he is not a center. He is a power forward (but more on Horford in a minute).
I really like this addition. Howard has said all of the right things so far, and he seems genuine. He understands that he has a reputation of being a coach-killer and a bad locker room guy, but with the Hawks, he won’t immediately be considered the leader of the team. That is clearly Paul Millsap, and that should make things easier for Howard. Plus, the Hawks are considered to be one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, which also sets up well with Howard’s game (defensive player of the year for three seasons in a row: 2008-2011).
4 years/$113 million w/ Celtics
The loss of Al Horford is a big blow. Especially with the addition of Howard. I would have loved to have seen them play together with Horford finally getting to play his natural position of the 4, but there is no point in sulking in what-could-have been scenarios. Horford turned down an offer from the Hawks to go and join the up-start and young Boston Celtics. A move that I think will be very beneficial to both parties.
But back to the Hawks’ ramifications. Horford has been staple here in Atlanta for the past nine seasons, and arguably the most popular player from the Atlanta teams over those years. It is always tough when you see a big name player leave, but unfortunately his reasoning is understandable for wanting to leave. Horford has said one of the big reasons he chose to leave was that he did not want to play with Howard, which is unfortunate, but also kind of proves what I said earlier about Howard being known as not being a good locker room guy. The other big reason that I have heard actually came from his father, Tito. Tito said that it crushed Horford when the Hawks would be playing at home, and the arena was half-empty, even while the team has been really good over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, this is something that is painfully true. The city of Atlanta is a transplant city (people move from all over the country to take a job in the ever-growing job market that is Atlanta), which leaves the city with a lot of sports fans of teams that are not Atlanta, and therefore do not typically go out of their way to show up for games. Regardless, the lack of fan support is one of the biggest factors that keep big-name free agents from choosing the teams here.
4 years/$70 million w/ Hawks
Before Horford made his decision to go to the Celtics, the Hawks re-signed Kent Bazemore. Bazemore did a good job last season taking over the starting role as the Small Forward after the Hawks let DeMarre Carroll walk in last year’s off-season and join the Toronto Raptors. Honestly, the quick re-signing of Bazemore surprised me. The Hawks had just drafted two players in the first round of the NBA draft that play the same position. With the #12 pick in the draft, which they received in the Jeff Teague trade, they selected Taurean Prince out of Baylor and then with the #21 pick they chose DeAndre’ Bembry out of St. Joseph’s. Yes, Bembry might be more of a Shooting Guard, but regardless, the Hawks took a guy that plays the same position as Bazemore with the #12 pick, and the Hawks still have another guy on the roster that plays that same position as well in Thabo Sefolosha.
Do not get me wrong, I like Bazemore, but it seems like the Hawks could have used that money to really push for a Shooting Guard, easily their biggest position of need at this point (Kyle Korver‘s age really appeared to catch up with him this past season). Or at the very least, the Hawks could have used that extra money to offer Horford more money before it was too late.
I know that Millsap was not re-signed or signed in general this off-season, but he still had a major role in the off-season, all without doing anything. I don’t mean that Millsap was out there recruiting, trying to get big names to come here, but instead, when the Hawks finally decided that they would still like to have Horford back to play alongside Howard and Bazemore, they knew they would need to clear cap space to afford him. So they began dangling Millsap in front of other teams in hopes that they could trade him away to clear said space. These rumors really upset me. I have always liked Horford and really liked the idea of him getting to move to his natural position by playing alongside Howard, but I think Millsap is a better player than Horford. Millsap has consistently been the best player on the Hawks over the past few years and is currently the best scorer on the team (he did score 45 in Game 4 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last year). So hopefully, despite the rumors, Millsap won’t be too upset, but I can’t help but wonder what must have been going through his mind when he heard them.
I’m certainly intrigued about how things will play out next season. I’ve learned to trust in Coach Budenholzer with the way he has been able to make things work for this franchise over the time he has been here, and I am excited to see Howard finally in a Hawks uniform. Whether or not Coach Bud can make this all work, and hopefully take that next step…you know, win at least one game when the Hawks inevitably face the reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, remains to be seen.