2014 NBA Trade Deadline: Are the Atlanta Hawks buyers or sellers?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline just two weeks away we take a closer look at the Atlanta Hawks and try to determine whether they will be buyers or sellers.

The NBA Trade Deadline is always an exciting time for teams that are buying or selling. The Atlanta Hawks were at the forefront last season as they shopped Josh Smith all the way to the deadline before electing to hang onto him.

USATODAY's Sam Amick recently laid out the landscape of the trade deadline and listed various teams that figure to be active (or desperate) to make a deal by the deadline on February 20.

The Hawks aren't among any of the teams listed by Amick save for a mention as a potential suitor for Greg Monroe this offseason. General Manager Danny Ferry plays things rather close to the vest and is very deliberate but thorough. From time to time, things will emerge linking the Hawks to a certain player, but often there is more smoke than anything.

Which brings us to the question, are the Hawks buyers or sellers at the trade deadline? The reality is they could be both. None of Ferry or head coach Mike Budenholzer have ever given any indication that tanking was ever an option that would be considered. As I write this, Atlanta is 25-24 and in fourth place in a watered down Eastern Conference. They have lost three straight and have two key road games remaining before the All-Star break.

Atlanta still appears to be a lock for the playoffs but without Al Horford for the remainder of the season, the Hawks might be hard pressed to maintain home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. So in a sense they could use an upgrade to try to keep them competitive or they could turn an eye towards the future. The reality is they will likely do both.

Last season Ferry was unwilling to take back any future salary in a deal for Smith and elected to allow him to walk away during the offseason. I expect a similar approach that any deal made will have an eye on the big picture. It's possible for a deal to be made that improves the club currently and doesn't negatively affect the future but it severely limits things in many regards.

One advantage Atlanta and Ferry have is that the entire roster is made up of movable contracts. The problem is the players with the most value aren't likely to be the ones that Ferry is lining up to move.

When Ferry or Budenholzer talk about their team they often mention Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver as being the team's core. I don't truly think that anyone on Atlanta's roster currently is untouchable but I do think they would have to be blown away with an offer to move one of those four.

Guys like Elton Brand would certainly have some value to a playoff team but it would be limited at best. DeMarre Carroll is another interesting name that has outplayed his current contract in terms of his production. The Hawks may very well be reluctant to part with a value like Carroll but, on the other hand, that is exactly the kind of maximizing of an asset that Ferry is likely looking for.

Dennis Schröder is another name that likely has some value but it would seem unlikely that the Hawks would be willing to part with him this quickly. Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott have enjoyed breakout seasons but both are restricted free agents this summer and interested clubs could elect to just wait and bid for their services then.

Atlanta may very well shop guys like Lou Williams who is set to make $5.4 million next season as an expiring but his up-and-down play this season in his return from ACL surgery probably limits the interest.

For the Hawks to do anything substantial by the deadline, it would most likely cost them one of their key players or a young prospect like Schröder. It seems unlikely but anything is possible.

Will Ferry and company change their outlook in wake of Horford's injury should the Hawks current losing streak eventually drop them below .500? That is a question that we are going to get to see played out as the deadline draws near.

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