The Hawks won 60 games during the regular season, and ended their most successful season in franchise history with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals.
But all of that wasn’t enough to bring the team back as is for next season.
Paul Millsap is an unrestricted free agent, and is flirting with the Orlando Magic. That may be part of the reason Atlanta traded for Tiago Splitter, but it’s likely unrelated to the team allowing DeMarre Carroll to end up somewhere else.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
Hawks lose DeMarre Carroll to the Toronto Raptors, I’m told, on a four-year, $60-Million deal. DeMarre himself announced via Twitter.
Carroll was the best player for Atlanta on both ends of the floor during the playoffs, and will be a welcome upgrade to a Raptors defense that ranked 23rd in the league in efficiency.
The success of the Hawks last season was seen by a segment of observers as fool’s gold. They won 40 of their first 48 games before cruising to a 20-14 regular season finish, and didn’t look great in the postseason, especially when dropping two games to a sub-.500 Nets team in the first round.
Injuries played a part in their demise, but there was also a sense that teams caught up with them after the hot start, and that the lack of a true superstar could only take them so far. By going in a very different direction in terms of the roster decisions this summer, it’s clear those inside the Hawks organization were feeling the same way.
You know it’s a wild start to free agency when the San Antonio Spurs — a franchise normally lurking in the background — are major players.
San Antonio has reached the framework of a deal that will send center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
The Spurs are sending out his $8.5 million will not be taking back any salary in this deal — which, along with their other moves (such as signing Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and eventually re-signing Tim Duncan at a steep discount) will give them to cap space to offer LaMarcus Aldridge a max contract (they may or may not be able to keep Patty Mills). The Spurs were always considered the front-runner to land Aldridge (with the Lakers close, although their meeting with him may not have gone as well as they thought) and now San Antonio can offer the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right into a serious title contender.
And when Tim Duncan retires in a year, Aldridge will step into Duncan’s role in the offense.
As for the Hawks, there are moving parts here but this much becomes clear: They need to re-sign Paul Millsap. The Hawks have prioritized bringing Millsap back — he and Al Horford would make a great front court rotation — but Millsap is considering Orlando. With DeMarre Carroll choosing to play in Toronto, the Hawks need to land Millsap or they will have taken a healthy step back this summer.
Danny Green was expected to receive significant interest around the league as an unrestricted free agent. He’s a prototypical three-and-D guy who started in 80 regular season games for a very good Spurs team last year, and averaged career highs in scoring and rebounding while shooting 41.8 percent from three-point distance.
San Antonio knows just how valuable Green is, so they wasted little time in getting him to re-sign.
Chris Broussard of ESPN.com:
Sources: Danny Green has agreed to a 4 year, $45 million deal with the Spurs
This is a reasonable deal for what Green provides, and honestly it’s very possible he could’ve earned even more had a change of scenery been a real option.
Locking up Green was necessary, but it puts further strain on the Spurs from a salary cap standpoint, especially as they look to convince a max-level player like LaMarcus Aldridge to join the team’s roster.
San Antonio almost certainly would need to move the $8.25 million contract of Tiago Splitter, and may also now need to part ways with the $3.57 million deal that’s guaranteed to Patty Mills in order to create the necessary space to offer Aldridge the max.
There are ways to do that, but it won’t necessarily be easy. If we do see one or both of those players moved in a deal, it’ll be a strong sign that the Spurs are getting closer to securing a commitment from a max-level player, which would immediately place them in the top tier of teams that would be favorites to contend for a title next season.