We are a week away from the NBA Trade deadline and the Atlanta Hawks appear to be contemplating what direction they should go in. The 2016 season has been a mixed bag for the Hawks. On one hand, they are still in the thick of things in what has become a tightly-contested Eastern Conference. On the other, they are a far cry from the 60 win team of last season that broke through and made the Eastern Conference Finals.
So given the situation, the Hawks are doing the smart thing and evaluating their many options for now and the near future. The biggest question involves center Al Horford who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is sure to draw the interest of many teams around the league. Another question centers on the point guard situation where Jeff Teague is a former All-Star but the Hawks have a younger and cheaper alternative waiting in the wings in Dennis Schroder.
This offseason is shaping up to be pivotal for the Hawks but they could get a headstart if they choose to be active at the deadline. From where I sit, here are three paths that Atlanta could choose.
This has become the norm for Atlanta at the deadline over the last few seasons and it is again an option. The Hawks currently have 15 players on their roster and could swing a minor deal if they want to open up a roster spot or add some depth to the frontcourt given Tiago Splitter's injury situation.
Atlanta is currently 31-24 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Despite their up and down play, they are still in line to host a first-round playoff series. While I think it is dangerous to simply wait around for the proverbial switch to flip, they could decide to stay put in the hopes that they can put together a good stretch to gain some separation in the standings.
I don't think that decision would be unreasonable even if their play over the first 50+ games this season suggests that it is unlikely to happen. Under this scenario, the Hawks realize that they are not a championship contender and are a long shot at best to get back to the conference finals. Still there is value in being a playoff team and they would still have the offseason to either tweak or significantly rebuild the roster.
This would involve the Hawks trading one (or more) of their core players in hopes of improving themselves for a playoff run. Moving Jeff Teague makes the most sense in this scenario given that the Hawks have Dennis Schroder already on the roster. While I'm unsure of what Teague's value really is, several teams have reportedly shown interest and that is likely to increase as the deadline draws closer. Teague is under contract through next season for a modest $8 million.
In my opinion, a Teague deal would have to return either help on the wing or in the frontcourt where Tiago Splitter's situation is murky at best heading into the second half. Moving Teague would also provide the opportunity for Schroder to play as the starter and would give the Hawks the second half of the season to further evaluate him as their point guard of the future.
For a team like Atlanta who values their continuity, this would be a risky move. Still, the team's play during the first half of the season hasn't been reassuring and a move may need to be made in an effort to jump start things.
Blow it up
This is by far the most unlikeliest of the three paths that have been discussed here. This would involve a major trade and likely would include Al Horford. While Horford is likely to have substantial value at the deadline, it is highly unlikely that the Hawks would get a return that would make them better this season. That would essentially mean punting on their current fourth place standing and jumpstarting a rebuilding or retooling effort.
If the Hawks decided to go down this path, then a major roster shakeup would likely be in order and the team would be smart to gauge the value of their other veteran players.
This is the nuclear option and likely wouldn't sit well with an ownership group that is in the midst of its first season in charge. Mike Budenholzer has said publicly that keeping Horford is a priority for the team this summer. However, if they are now unsure that he is interested in staying or they are unwilling to pay what it may take to keep him, then it might be smart to take a look at what they could get at the deadline and get a head start on retooling the roster.
Given that the Hawks have seemed to have been searching for answers to their inconsistent play all season long, it certainly feels like something significant could happen at the trade deadline next week. But I also wouldn't be terribly surprised if they decide to double down on this group and worry about retooling this summer.