The Atlanta Hawks have been rumored to be shopping Paul Millsap–you know, the dude who helped them squeak by the San Antonio Spurs in overtime last week by dropping 32 as part of a double-double, and has been helping them stay somewhat relevant. Yesterday, they traded Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers (!). To add fuel to the fire, Thabo Sefolosha is also rumored to be on the trading block.
And folks wonder why the Hawks are not progressing as they should. Bless their red-and-acid-yellow hearts.
Head coach and President of Basketball Operations Mike Budenholzer joins Los Angeles Clipper coach Doc Rivers in the “Maybe This Dual-Role Gig Isn’t Working Out” club. You have to wonder what was going through his mind to even think of putting Millsap on the wire now, of all times, and then to trade Korver.
Yes, I know that Millsap is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and, given the projected salary cap of $102 million (!) next season, is certainly eyeing money-greener pastures. And since the Hawks let Al Horford Riverdance his way to the Boston Celtics without receiving anything in return, they are understandably not trying to make the same mistake twice.
But the Hawks aren’t out of playoff contention–yet. They currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and are 7.5 games behind Cleveland for the #1 spot. We still have over half a season to play, so don’t get too comfortable with this positioning.
[Not that they’re going to get the #1 spot unless LeBron James suddenly retires tomorrow, but still. Fourth seed is nothing to sneeze at, especially given the Hawks’ performance thus far this season.]
Is this really the time to blow things up (which, of course, Budenholzer kinda sorta denies is happening)? Make no mistake, trading away Korver, Millsap, and Sefolosha–three pillars of the Hawks for the past three seasons–smacks of that.
Yes, Tim Hardaway, Jr. is feeling himself and producing in the clutch, especially from 3-point range. Yes, Dennis Schroeder is handling his point guard duties well since Jeff Teague went to the Indiana Pacers. But how sustainable is that?
Ditto for Dwight Howard, who has gotten a new leash on defensive life after leaving the Houston Rockets, but has to miss games due to his chronic back issues (which was one of the nails in his purple-and-gold Los Angeles Lakers coffin).
Are you going to make up for Korver’s sharpshooting and Millsap’s everyman role with…some 10-day contracts? A rental player who’s also going to the highest bidder next season?
Mike Dunleavy, Jr. is coming to the Hawks–after much angst–as part of the Korver trade. I liked Dunleavy, Jr. when he was with the Chicago Bulls (even though he went to Duke), and still thinks he has something to offer, especially from three-point range. Still, he’s no Korver, and the Hawks are going to figure that out pretty soon.
Come on, Coach Bud. Spurs head coach and PBO Gregg Popovich raised you better than that.
What the Hawks are lacking is that player who is a nexus for the team on all levels. Someone who is what Tim Duncan was to the Spurs, from a psychological standpoint. Clearly, Howard, Millsap, and the other veterans aren’t getting the mind meld done properly.
Unless Budenholzer strikes gold and gets a stealth value player before April, I’m not feeling these changes and am concerned about the remainder of the Hawks’ season. However, Coach Bud did learn at the feet of the two-headed, silver-and-black Hydra that is Popovich and Spurs GM R.C. Buford for twenty years, so who knows what he has up his sleeve?
Stay tuned. And say a prayer for the Atlanta Hawks.