The Atlanta Hawks might be the weirdest team in the NBA. They set a franchise record by winning 60 games last season, and nailed down the top seed in the east. They had four All-Stars, and blew our minds when their entire starting lineup won Eastern Conference Players of the Month after going 17-0 in January.
That same Hawks team took six games to finish off a battered Nets team that scraped into the postseason on the final evening of the regular season. In the second round, ATL was swept by LeBron’s Cavs in embarrassing fashion. The 40-win Celtics had given the Cavaliers a better fight in the prior round.
Since then, Kyle Korver sustained a serious ankle injury and DeMarre Carroll bolted for Toronto, while Paul Millsap returned on a three-year/$58 million contract and Tiago Splitter was added via trade from the Spurs.
The common perception is that the Hawks are on their way back to real life. A 60-win season isn’t happening again in Atlanta, at least not this season.
Obviously, the Hawks are going to give it their best try. Despite their strong coaching, I’m not optimistic they’ll even be better than a seven or eight seed after the first couple months of the regular season fly by.
What would the Hawks do if they were in that position? They could stick it out and try to win. But maybe the best idea would be to move their best player: Al Horford. Although he’d be a hot commodity out west, not many of those teams have assets they’re willing to part with. Here are a few looks at potential in season trades that could send the Hawks into a rebuild, and help launch another powerhouse in the east.
This trade can’t be put through the trade machine at the moment since Johnson is untradeable until December 14 (since he signed as a free agent), but you get the idea. It’s no secret that the Celtics are looking for star players. They couldn’t find one this offseason, so they settled for Johnson. The C’s would be thrilled if they could swap him for the likes of Horford, of course, at the cost of sending Atlanta a couple first-round picks. As long as Horford would be willing to re-sign in Boston, it’s a win for both sides.
Similar to the trade above, but on a larger scale. Nene is a less valuable player that Johnson, so he’d have to be paired with some significant young talent/draft picks. But the Wizards might be willing to pay a steeper price since they’re right on the cusp. They could play Horford at power forward next to Marcin Gortat, while John Wall and Bradley Beal wreak havoc in the backcourt. Clearly Washington would be pleased, it’s a matter of whether or not the Hawks are happy with the assets they’d get in return.
After a tough season, the Pacers still seem to be in “win now” mode, even after giving away Roy Hibbert for free. Larry Bird has repeatedly said he wants to use a now healthy Paul George at power forward, which should make for some fun basketball when you consider Monta Ellis will be the new primary ball handler. Horford could be a perfect fit on that team at center. The Hawks get back three nice, young players, highlighted by Turner. Turner’s a very versatile inside/out big on offense with elite shot blocking potential. He could develop into a star.
And just for fun …
I’ve written about the potential of Noah being traded by the Bulls due to lack of chemistry with Pau Gasol. Maybe that log jam Chicago has in the frontcourt doesn’t work out under a new coach, while Atlanta struggles in the meantime. Would the teams consider swapping the former Florida Gator teammates for one another? Both are similar players, and in contract years, so it’d be a rare trade. Definitely fun to imagine, though.
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