Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com released an article on Tuesday grading the offseasons of all 30 NBA teams. Pelton issued the Atlanta Hawks a grade of "C" citing the loss of DeMarre Carroll and their inability to further address the small forward position as the determining factors.
The Hawks had a problem this summer: They were too good last season, making starters DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap two of the top free agents on the market. To afford to re-sign both players at their 2015-16 salaries, Atlanta would have had to trade backup wing Thabo Sefolosha.
Its been well discussed this summer, but the two-year deals that initially brought Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll to Atlanta came back to bite the Hawks this summer. While we applauded the short affordable nature of those deals, Millsap and Carroll both out performed the numbers to the degree that not having full bird rights left the Atlanta in the position of having to choose between the two this summer.
Pelton told me on Twitter that the "C" grade didn't have to do as much with Carroll leaving, but rather how the Hawks failed to address the small forward position after his departure. He was not a fan of the move to trade this year's first round pick for Tim Hardaway Jr.
Instead, Atlanta tried to find the next Carroll by signing Holiday, whose skill set is a 3-and-D starter kit. The Hawks used the money they saved to add Splitter, who gives their frontcourt an entirely different look. But trading a first-round pick for Hardaway, a poor defender whose shooting hasn't been as good as advertised in the NBA, looks like a bad gamble.
Atlanta figured to take a step back no matter what, and the offseason hasn't helped.
The move to acquire Hardaway Jr. is going to be one that is debated throughout the season. Atlanta is confident in its player development model and Hardway may prove to be the ultimate test. In my opinion it is a wait and see situation. I think given the success Atlanta has had developing guys like Carroll, Kent Bazemore and even Paul Millsap has earned them the right to be given the benefit of the doubt.
In regards to addressing the small forward position. I'm not sure what other avenue Atlanta could have pursued. The Hawks used the space gained by Carroll's departure to acquire Tiago Splitter from the San Antonio Spurs to bolster there frontcourt. That came at the expense of the small forward position where they will attempt to use a committee approach at replacing Carroll. I'm not sure what small forward options the Hawks could have realistically gone after as most of the recognizable names either stayed put or were out of Atlanta's price range completely.
I have no issues with Pelton's grade however, and I think it is fair given the uncertainty and the reshuffling done by the team. I'm not sure I agree with his reasoning though. Losing Carroll hurts because of the many ways he impacted the 2015 Atlanta Hawks. However, the addition of Splitter theoretically goes a long way in addressing one of the big weaknesses of that 2015 team. Its a question that is difficult to answer at this point. A healthy return of Thabo Sefolosha looks like a necessity as does the emergence of either Justin Holiday or Hardaway Jr. Given their past success, I think Mike Budenholzer and his staff are worth the benefit of the doubt at this point.