clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Atlanta Hawks shuffle the deck on day one of free agency

New, comments

The Hawks were extremely active on the first day of free agency, and the roster is in great shape despite the loss of DeMarre Carroll.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarre Carroll is gone.

Everything is okay.

The above statements are both true after just one day of the NBA's 2015 free agency period, as the Atlanta Hawks were one of the more active participants in the league. Unfortunately, the day "began" with the aforementioned Carroll inking a massive, $60 million contract with the Toronto Raptors, sending the fan base into a tizzy with regard to just how Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox would replace his sizable production. Still, the team's brain trust moved swiftly to secure a major asset through trade, and before the day was done, the Hawks locked up an All-Star to a big-time contract without jeopardizing the team's future.

DeMarre Carroll is gone.

You won't hear a negative word about the Junkyard Dog in this space, as Carroll was certainly a fan favorite during his two-year stint in Atlanta. In addition to his strong overall showing, Carroll became something of an Atlanta legend with his gutty Game 2 performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the improvements that he made over a two-year period were nearly unmatched across the NBA during the same time frame. Alas, Carroll improved too much for the Hawks, and with a $15 million-per-year contract calling his name, he made the correct decision to bolt for Canada.

Enter Tiago Splitter.

Quite obviously, a 6-foot-11 center from Brazil by way of San Antonio does not replicate the production lost by Carroll's defection. Still, the Hawks added a big-time piece when they accepted Splitter's contract in a salary dump by the Spurs, and given that the team gave up nothing of value (short of money), it was something of a heist for the organization.

Splitter, who turned 30 years old in January, has two years remaining on a large contract, but much like Kyle Korver's much ballyhooed deal, the big man's contract decreases in each season, meaning that he is owed less than $17 million total through the end of the 2016-2017 season. In other words, the deal will be extremely valuable and beneficial from a cost perspective if Splitter is able to simply maintain his previous performance.

To be clear, Tiago Splitter isn't a "star" in the NBA by any stretch. However, he will function as a perfect "third big" under Mike Budenholzer, and he is a sharp upgrade from the likes of Pero Antic. In his age-30 season, Splitter put together averages of 15.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes, and he is an above-average player on the defensive end of the floor. Perhaps his best asset is his ability to cover the pick-and-roll effectively, and given the valuable versatility of Al Horford, it is safe to assume that Splitter will see extended time alongside both of Atlanta's incumbent All-Star big men.

With that in mind, the most impactful "acquisition" on July 1st wasn't quite an acquisition at all. The Hawks convinced Paul Millsap to stick around, despite what was rumored to be a 4-year, $80 million contract offer from the Orlando Magic. To say that Millsap took a hometown discount would be misplaced, as he signed for nearly $60 million over three seasons with a player option at the end of the deal, but in the current climate, an All-Star level player in Millsap's vein is certainly worth nearly $20 million, and this isn't an situation where Atlanta overpaid.

Some more casual fans may dismiss Millsap as a "nice player" and that has been an alarming sentiment throughout the past two days. The now 30-year-old has been much more than that in a Hawks uniform, and regardless of his per-game averages of 17.3 points and 8.1 rebounds during two seasons in Atlanta, he would be capable of much more in the way of raw numbers if asked to do so. Instead, Paul Millsap fits flawlessly alongside Al Horford in a system that accentuates his talent.

Millsap's development as a three-point shooter has been exceedingly valuable, to the point where he is a legitimate 36% shooter from beyond the arc on nearly 3 attempts per game. That isn't his "best" trait by any means, but Paul stretches the defense while also maintaining the capability to probe the interior, pass to find open teammates and provide defensive versatility with his mobility and active hands.

Simply put, a three-year contract (that could become a two-year contract) at approximately $20 million per season is more than reasonable for Paul Millsap. Throw in Tiago Splitter on a valuable contract in the correct role for his skill set, and suddenly, concerns about the overall size, rebounding ability and versatility of the frontcourt evaporate.

There are, of course, questions to be answered between now and the start of the season. The defection of Carroll does leave something of a gap on the wing, and the Hawks are already rumored to be probing the market for low-cost options. While it won't be easy (or even possible) to add an "impact" option, Atlanta does boast a reasonable stable of wing players, led by Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha. The addition of Tim Hardaway, however controversial, adds some level of flexibility, and the team appears to put stock in Kent Bazemore as a rotation-level player. Names that can be acquired using the "room exception" at Atlanta's disposal won't be sexy, but if they can add another rotation option, there is enough talent to lean on in the short term.

At the end of the day, the Atlanta Hawks adapted in quality fashion on July 1. There is an argument to be made that the loss of Carroll isn't quite mitigated by the addition of Splitter, and there is strong rationale behind that. However, it is important to note that free agency isn't over on July 2, and with a couple of movable pieces (Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack), some shuffling could be in the cards.

Tiago Splitter isn't DeMarre Carroll, but he doesn't have to be. The Hawks added a very good player on a very good contract, and just moments later, locked up an All-Star who will continue to serve as a foundational piece.

The Atlanta Hawks have had worse days. That much is certain.