Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- Acquired Washington’s 2015 first round pick (No. 19 overall) and Washington’s second round picks in 2016 and 2019 from the Wizards in exchange for the Hawks’ 2015 first round pick (No. 15 overall).
- Acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks in exchange for Washington’s 2015 first round pick (No. 19 overall).
- Acquired Tiago Splitter from the Spurs in exchange for the draft rights to Georgios Printezis and Atlanta’s 2017 second round pick (top 55 protected).
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Hawks won a franchise-best 60 games in 2014/15, but the campaign ended with disappointment when the Cavaliers eliminated them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Injuries certainly played a role in Atlanta’s ouster, including the loss of swingman Thabo Sefolosha, who missed the entire 2014/15 playoffs after suffering a broken leg at the hands of police outside a New York City nightclub back in April. The franchise began its offseason with the free agent departure of a significant piece when DeMarre Carroll left for the Raptors and their four-year, $58MM offer, making a repeat of last season’s success an even more daunting task.
Atlanta was in a bit of a financial bind entering the summer, with Carroll and Paul Millsap both unrestricted free agents, and the team possessing only their Early Bird Rights, meaning the Hawks couldn’t exceed the salary cap to re-sign them. Coach/executive Mike Budenholzer had said before the 2014/15 season that the team wanted to keep Millsap, whose previous two-year, $19MM deal from 2013 turned out to be one of the most team-friendly arrangements in recent memory. Budenholzer held true to his word and Millsap re-joined the team to the tune of three years and $60.216MM.
It will certainly be difficult to replace the defense, energy and outside shooting of Carroll, but I believe Atlanta chose wisely in deciding to retain Millsap over him. The 30-year-old Millsap has been a remarkably consistent performer in the NBA for the last five seasons, and a three-year commitment to him isn’t a tremendous risk, though he has almost certainly reached his plateau as a player and is more than likely going to begin regressing toward the end of this pact. But with the salary cap set to see a significant increase next summer, his deal won’t cripple the franchise if he underperforms.
While I certainly like what Carroll brings to the hardwood as a player, he has only averaged double-figure scoring twice in his six-year NBA career, topping out with the 12.6 points per game he contributed last season. Carroll’s value does stretch beyond the box score, but a four-year deal with an average annual value of close to $15MM seems a bit risky for a late-blooming player who is on the threshold of his 30s. The Hawks’ offer to the small forward reportedly topped out at $50MM on a four-year arrangement, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com reported. That still would have been a risk, but a much more palatable one for the franchise from my perspective.
Atlanta also made a number of low-risk, low-reward signings over the summer, adding Justin Holiday, Edy Tavares, Lamar Patterson and Jason Richardson, though Richardson subsequently retired, and the team waived him. Out of the group, Tavares is the most intriguing given his height (7’3″) and youth (23 years old). He’s most definitely a project, and it could be years before he produces in the NBA, if ever.
The Hawks made three trades over the summer, acquiring Tiago Splitter from San Antonio for virtually nothing, swapping first-round picks with the Wizards, and flipping Washington’s pick to the Knicks for swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. Landing Splitter was a solid move, especially given how little Atlanta gave up to acquire him. Given the similarities between the Hawks’ and Spurs’ systems, Splitter should fit right in and become a solid rotation player for Budenholzer. The only negative is that he’s not on an expiring contract and will earn $8.55MM in 2016/17. That’s hardly a king’s ransom, but it’s a significant amount for a team that, with Splitter taken into account, has about $52.7MM in guaranteed salary committed for 2016/17. That amount doesn’t include center Al Horford, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after this season is done.
The most questionable move of the Hawks’ offseason was the acquisition of Hardaway, a one-dimensional player who regressed during his second season with the Knicks, and who doesn’t fit a clear need for the team. I firmly believe that Atlanta would have been better served to hold onto its original pick, which the Wizards used to select Kelly Oubre. Oubre has a much higher upside than Hardaway, and he also has the capability of developing into a legitimate two-way threat in the NBA. I would even go as far as to say that the team would have been better served to stand pat after its first pick swap and nab Jerian Grant at No. 19 instead of letting him go to the Knicks. Hardaway has yet to log a single regular season minute for the team as of this writing, making the trade even more of a head-scratcher from my perspective.
Drafting Grant would have also had an important secondary benefit for the club, as it would have provided the flexibility to explore potential trades for point guard Dennis Schröder. The team currently has no plans to part ways with the young German point guard, but he is stuck behind Jeff Teague on the depth chart, something that has reportedly displeased Schröder, with the player telling Sport Bild magazine in his native Germany that he would “explore other possibilities” if the Hawks don’t give him a chance to start. However, Schröder did make it clear that he likes playing in Atlanta. The 22-year-old is under contract through 2016/17, after which he is eligible to become a restricted free agent, so there is no pressure on the Hawks to deal him quite yet, though he is one of their most valuable trade assets, and he could bring back a significant return if they trade him. Atlanta exercised both his and Hardaway’s fourth-year rookie scale options prior to the deadline this month.
The franchise will have a major decision to make this coming offseason regarding Horford. He will almost assuredly command a maximum salary, or close to it. If Horford were to depart, the franchise would be hard-pressed to find a player who could replace him, though he is another player about to enter his 30s, and big men don’t tend to age well in the league.
Atlanta is unlikely to duplicate its magic from 2014/15, and the franchise was more than likely headed back toward the pack in the East prior to losing Carroll in free agency anyway. While a playoff berth is certainly attainable, it would be a surprise if the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals for a second straight campaign. The offseason was a mixed bag for the team, with retaining Millsap a success while the draft day trade for Hardaway tarnishes it somewhat. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the trade, it’s difficult to argue that Atlanta didn’t regress from last season talent-wise. With numerous other Eastern Conference teams improving themselves over the summer, the Hawks and their fans may be left wondering what might have been during the 2014/15 postseason if the team had remained healthy.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.