One year ago, the Atlanta Hawks were 43-10, holding the top seed in the Eastern Conference and all five starters were the reigning Players of the Month.
A year later, the Hawks are 30-24 and floundering. They lost one of those five starters in the offseason, and they may be close to losing three more.
As the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches, rumors are swirling that the Hawks have been speaking to interested parties about possible trades for Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Kyle Korver. According to ESPN.com, the Hawks are seriously considering a sell-off of most of the roster’s remaining core players, for monetary reasons or otherwise.
Teague has been with the Hawks since he was drafted in 2009, but Atlanta’s front office has long believed the future of the franchise is with 22-year-old point guard Dennis Schröder, so they can use Teague to possibly acquire a big man in a swap. ESPN.com’s report said the Indiana Pacers may be tempting the Hawks with point guard George Hill, but that wouldn’t help Atlanta with its rebounding problems.
To add another layer to the drama, Teague deleted all of his Hawks-related Instagram photos from his account on Tuesday. You can probably draw your own conclusions there.
Horford is a tougher case. He has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted by Atlanta in 2007. A three-time NBA All-Star, Horford could be extremely dominant at the power forward position if the Hawks could pair him with a big man who can rebound.
But Horford is in the final year of his contract, and he’ll likely command a huge deal wherever he signs next year. If that’s with Atlanta, it’ll probably cost them $144.5 million over five years, according to ESPN.com. That’s a lot of money, and Horford would be 35 years old in the final year of that contract. Instead, they could trade him now and hope to get a valuable piece in return, instead of getting nothing and losing him anyway at the end of this season.
It’s a lot like the strategy the Braves employed last offseason, only the Hawks better not get a pitcher in return for Horford.
Korver could also be moved, but there’s less urgency with him. ESPN.com said he’s not getting as much interest from other teams, but if the Hawks can get a valuable piece at the deadline, and Horford and Teague have already been shipped off, there’s a chance Korver could leave Atlanta as well.
This is a big risk for the Hawks, if they go through with it. The Eastern Conference is yet again pretty thin at the top, and if this team caught fire, they could possibly contend for one of the top two seeds. Also, as ESPN.com mentions, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer really likes Horford and Korver because they’re strong leaders on and off the court.
That’s not to mention the message it would send to the fan base. Of course, the hope is that they’ll get a lot of value in return for the guys they trade off, but these are beloved players that gave the city its first Eastern Conference Finals appearance. These decisions are as important as they are difficult, and the franchise will hang in the balance until final decisions are made in the next nine days.
Photo: AP/Darron CummingsFollow @Sean_Breslin