NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Head coach Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks looks on during the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on April 25, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Hawking players? Atlanta should act on a relatively small scale

Peyton Manning said he was going to drink a lot of Bud Sunday night after winning Super Bowl 50.

The Atlanta Hawks don’t need to drive Bud to drink (again).


It’s been one of the hot topics in the NBA this week: Are the Atlanta Hawks going to blow up their roster? It might not amount to anything, but there’s been a fair amount of noise and chatter around the league that last year’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference could radically remake its identity by shipping both Jeff Teague and Al Horford.

What to make of this?

Let’s first focus on Horford.

Hawks management, if unsure about Horford’s value to the franchise, needs to watch this play 10, 100, or maybe even 1,000 times:

Horford is a guy any team, any player, any coach, should want in that huddle and on that floor at crunch time. He’s extremely good at what he does… and what he does is hardly limited to a single skill or to the realm of things tangible. Players with the toughness, wisdom and leadership of Al Horford should not be traded unless more luminous basketball creations exist on the other side of a deal.

There aren’t many players who fit that bill. That’s enough about Horford.

It’s Teague who is the far more interesting piece of this equation. The Hawks — somewhat like the Phoenix Suns (please note that yes, the two organizations stand in very different places overall; this is a specific, granular comparison) — fell in love with two point guards. With DeMarre Carroll now in Toronto, Atlanta lost one of its most important pieces, a central reason why this year’s team isn’t as good as last year’s group.

Having Dennis Schroder alongside Teague certainly doesn’t feel like a necessity at this point for the Hawks. However, it doesn’t feel like a luxury, either; it feels like a hindrance to this team’s future goals. Making a Teague-or-Schroder decision is the most fundamental (and important) task for the organization right now. A targeted transaction designed to solve that problem seems like a reasonable idea. There’s your basic Teague answer.

Now, however, one must pivot to the big picture: What would suggest that the Hawks are well-served by a massive trade or series of deals in which Horford, Teague, and Kyle Korver all leave at once? This is where the Hawks should not tread.

Without reasserting any previous statements about Al Horford’s value to a team, simply consider the impact of uprooting a lead point guard; a reliable post scorer with an above-average mid-range jump shot; and a floor-spacing three-point shooter who has struggled this season but could still work well under the right conditions.

Perhaps, one could argue, the Hawks need a ballhandling guard who has a better jump shot, which would thereby keep defenses honest. Okay, fair point. However, how many of those prizes exist as feasible trade targets? Second, wouldn’t the very point of getting a better shooting ballhandler be to prevent defenses from devoting more attention to Korver? Wouldn’t a better shooter at the point make Korver more effective again?

The Hawks meshed so wonderfully last season and then lost a vital piece (Carroll) simply because of market forces, not centrally their own desires or intentions. One year removed from that experience — the most successful season in Atlanta’s long and tortured pro hoops history — do the Hawks really want to start over, or if not that, start differently?

You tell me.

The odds of Atlanta finding the right mixture with a substantial roster shake-up cannot be very high. A one-player transaction — likely involving Teague or Schroder — could provide a piece in return which might gently nudge this roster into a better groove.

Anything more ambitious or sweeping risks undercutting what was — not that long ago — a rather successful, perhaps even remarkable, transformation.

Be careful when Hawking players, Atlanta. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.