You’ve heard of a free-throw line dunk.
How about a free-throw line crossover?
NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
It seems as if the Hawks have been rebuilding for ages.
Really, they’re only one season removed from a decade-long playoff streak, the NBA’s second-longest at the time.
General manager Travis Schlenk has swiftly done what his predecessors didn’t – dismantle a team that won 60 games and commit to rebuilding. In fact, Schlenk has advanced far enough that he’s already well into building Atlanta back up.
Only Kent Bazemore remains the playoff-series-winning team in 2016, let alone the 60-win squad in 2015. Heck, only Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry and Bazemore remain from the team Schlenk inherited just last year.
The Hawks aren’t done dismantling. They’re poised to tank another season. But their rebuild has already seen a defining move.
On draft night, Atlanta traded the rights to No. 3 pick Luka Doncic to the Mavericks for the rights to No. 5 pick Trae Young and a future first-round pick. That decision will take year to evaluate and will linger over both franchises far longer.
For now, it seems about fair. I rated Doncic ahead of Young and both above their draft slots. The Dallas pick – top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected the following two years and unprotected in 2023 – roughly bridges the gap between the players.
If the Hawks preferred Young anyway, they did a great job leveraging an extra first-rounder and still getting their man.
Atlanta’s other first-round picks – Kevin Huerter (No. 19) and Omari Spellman (No. 30) – were also sound. Squint hard enough, and Young and Huerter comprise a backcourt that somewhat resembles Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. That’s the easy comparison considering Schlenk came from the Warriors’ front office, though that’d probably make Spellman the next Marreese Speights.
And that’s make Dennis Schroder the next Monta Ellis, a talented player it was time to move. Though Schroder is just 24, he’s too combustible with and away from the team. Young is the Hawks’ future at point guard.
Rather than pay Schroder $46.5 million over the next three years, Atlanta is better off sinking $25,534,253 into a waived Carmelo Anthony this season. And the Hawks got a potential first-rounder in the deal!
The Thunder pick is lottery-protected in 2022. Otherwise, it converts into two second-rounders. So, there’s a decent chance Atlanta never receives a first-rounder. But unloading Schroder, who had negative value to many teams around the league, was enough. Getting a pick or two – who knows how good Oklahoma City will be in four years? – is gravy.
The Hawks also swapped Mike Muscala for Justin Anderson in the three-way trade with the Thunder and 76ers. For this team in this league, going from the 27-year-old center to a 24-year-old small forward is an upgrade. Anderson must gain traction in his career, but it’s worth the bet he does so in Atlanta.
Alex Len makes sense as another flier. The former No. 5 pick had moments in five years with the Suns, and he took major strides forward last season. Perhaps, the 25-year-old is on the verge of emerging as capable of being in a good team’s rotation. I’m surprised the price (guaranteed $8.51 million over two years) was so high, but the Hawks had cap space to burn. Better to get their preferred project center.
To that end, Atlanta splurged a lot of its cap room on Jeremy Lin, getting the point guard with just a smattering of second-round considerations going between Atlanta and Brooklyn. Could that cap space have been put to better use, like a salary dump or even just saving ownership money? Did the Hawks acquire Lin as a fan draw? Will Lin generate more revenue than his $13,768,421 salary? He could work well as a veteran mentor, but that’s a lot to pay a veteran mentor.
With Young, John Collins and Taurean Prince at the forefront and Spellman, Anderson and Len diversifying the portfolio, the Hawks have a nice core to build around. They’ll add to it with their own first-rounder, the extra first-rounder from Dallas and a potential first-rounder from Cleveland (top-10 protected the next two years or else it becomes two second-rounders).
Atlanta lost a good coach in Mike Budenholzer, but he didn’t seem eager to oversee a rebuild. Lloyd Pierce, known for player development and teaching defense, takes over. Like practically every first-time NBA head coach, Pierce is a roll of a dice. Maybe the Hawks could have leveraged Budenholzer into securing compensation from another team for letting him leave or even just paying off less of contract. Instead, they just sent him packing.
Sometimes, it’s best to make a clean break and move on.
Offseason grade: B-
Trae Young is the future of the Atlanta Hawks. General manager Travis Schlenk bet big on draft night, trading away the rights to No. 3 pick Luka Doncic — the EuroLeague MVP a lot of scouts were very high on — to get Young as the point guard of the future and the face of the Hawks.
That’s part of why Schlenk went and got Jeremy Lin, to mentor Young.
However, they also will be playing together some, Lin told the media at a his charity game press conference in China (translation and interview with Young via Michael Scotto of The Athletic).
“I think I can help (Young) a lot and share my experience playing in the NBA with him. I know the Hawks plan to use us on the court together. I had played for the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets that put two point guards on the court simultaneously, so I know Trae and I could play very fast. Coach Lloyd Pierce, one of the (former) coaches for the Warriors, was also my coach, so I have talked to him already. I’m really excited, about the upcoming season, it’s going to be fun.”
Said Young: “I think we’ll work really well together. This is a rebuilding team, and we’re going to try some things. Some are going to work, some aren’t, so we’re just going to work together and do whatever we can to turn this franchise around.”
I want to see this. It may be a disaster defensively, but it could be fun to watch.
Coach Lloyd Pierce and the Hawks should be experimental this season, he told NBC Sports at Summer League this was going to be a season of learning for everyone. With an athletic big like John Collins on the court, the Hawks could play Lin and Young in the backcourt, slide Kent Bazemore to the three and Taurean Prince to the four, and just get up and down the court, using athleticism and shooting. Try everything. The Hawks are not going to win a lot, so make this a learning experience for everyone.
At 5 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony will clear waivers and soon after his signing with the Houston Rockets will be official.
Anthony, alone, does not solve the Rockets’ questions on the wing, however. They also have solid rotation players in James Ennis and Gerald Green on the roster, but the Rockets are looking to add one more player to the rotation. They have talked with the Atlanta Hawks about a Kent Bazemore trade (allegedly for Ryan Anderson and a first-round pick, although if I were Atlanta I would hold out for more, that pick would be one of the last in the first round next year).
That’s not the only place the Rockets are looking, Zach Lowe of ESPN said during his recent podcast (with Chris Herring of 538).
“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have talked to the Heat. The Heat are kicking a lot of tires. I can’t figure out what they’re trying to do, but I could see like Tyler Johnson, same package, same idea: two years of salary left at about the same number. One guy is a better fit [against] the Warriors, one guy’s not [in Ryan Anderson]. Is our first-round pick to a team that is out of future first-round pick good enough?”
“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have also kicked the tires on JR Smith. That’d be good.”
Nobody knows what direction the Rockets ultimately will go or where they will be able to find a trade that works for them. Teams are not lining up to take on two years of that Ryan Anderson contract (even though he can still play and provide value).
The point is that GM Daryl Morey is not done — he wants to add another player on the wing, one that helps them match up better with the Warriors. Golden State remains the target for Houston (and every other team in the league).
The Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding. Rookie Trae Young will be handed the keys to the point guard position (with Jeremy Lin in the interim), which meant Dennis Schroder was out (traded to Oklahoma City). Young men such as John Collins, Omari Spellman, and (at least for a year) Alex Len will populate the frontcourt.
It also means any veterans of value on the roster could be traded.
Enter Kent Bazemore. Which makes this note from Kelly Iko of the USA Today’s Rocketswire worth passing along:
Houston is still active on trade fronts, perusing the market for a wing defender, and remains interested in Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks—according to a person with knowledge of the situation….
The Pelicans are also a team interested in acquiring Bazemore, but Atlanta is not interested in taking on Solomon Hill. New Orleans also has its 2019 first-round pick.
Both teams could use Bazemore, as both want some help on the wing. Bazemore is a quality “3&D” player on the perimeter, probably the best player on a bad Hawks teams last season. He scored 12.9 points per game last season but more importantly bounced back from a down year with good three-point shooting (39.4 percent), using his drives to draw fouls, and providing leadership on a team that needed it. He will make $18 million this season with a player option for $19.3 million next season.
In Houston, Bazemore would play the two/three mixed in with James Ennis, Eric Gordon and Gerald Green (I think it’s a safe bet to say the Rockets will continue to start James Harden in there, too). The challenge is structuring the trade — Atlanta isn’t going to just take on Ryan Anderson‘s remaining two-years, $41.6 million without a lot of young players/sweeteners (and the Rockets’ own late first-round picks aren’t going to cut it). Built to win now, the Rockets aren’t flush with the kind of young talent that would interest Atlanta in a deal.
In New Orleans, Bazemore could start at the two next to Jrue Holiday and the fit would be smooth and an upgrade. Again, the challenge is how to structure a trade: E'Twaun Moore plus some young prospects and picks could work, but the Pelicans aren’t loaded in the young player/picks department, either.
Atlanta is in no rush. Bring Bazemore back, start the season with him, and wait for a good trade option to emerge either at the deadline or next summer. The Hawks don’t need to make a bad trade just to do it, they can ride this out. No pressure. If Houston or New Orleans or anyone else wants to make a trade, the pressure is on them to put together a better deal.