Everybody loves trade deadline season. Trade rumors, excitement around change and big names dot the rumor landscape and it's fun to speculate on what might be.
But, as Stephen King once wrote, it stops being funny when it starts being you.
Not even one year after this franchise finally turned a corner with a solid, Spurs-like plan, complete with competency, consistency and, of course, unprecedented winning, the fan base has taken the downs in the ups and downs of a basketball season and hit the panic button, ready to bail out on what's been built and scrap in favor of their long-standing security blanket, The Big Name(s).
Trading Al Horford, Paul Millsap or both for the likes of Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard won't make this team better in the short or long term and certainly won't maintain the steady plan and build of a franchise set in motion by Danny Ferry and cemented in bringing in Wes Wilcox and Mike Budenholzer. What it will do is generate minutes of excitement, like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. But like a sparkler, the fun is very temporary and the event largely unsatisfying.
The moves suggested would bring in two very iso heavy players in Griffin and Howard, scrapping the pace, space and motion that has defined the short-time Bud era in favor of a well, I don't know what. This would blow up a team that has been #1 in defensive rating over the last 15 games and a top ten in net differential over that same span. But, since the team is an aberrant 8-7 over those games, everybody is ready to call this team average and nowhere, man. Please.
This season is not even over yet and you've got a fanbase and other smart people looking to pull sell-low fantasy basketball trades for names that will surely win the headlines but very little guarantee of anything else. And why? Because it hasn't gone as perfect as last season? No 19-game winning streak to briefly distract people from being perpetually negative about the team? Only two all-stars versus four from last season. Merely being fourth in the conference instead of first, with no context to that assessment at all? Because the team hasn't peaked yet? Because of Tim Hardaway, Jr.?
I honestly am amazed at this, but I shouldn't be. The security of the superstar has long been the elixir that, not just Atlanta, but all fanbases have reached for. Having a solid strategy and winning the name game is utopia, but in the absence of that, fans will gladly take their chances on fame over substance.
How else can you explain the salivation over Howard, who has had his bags perpetually packed since he pulled the infamous Magic act a few years ago, forever imprinting both Stan Van Gundy with a Diet Pepsi can and Howard's duplicitous nature on my mind for sure. But even beyond that, we're talking about Howard, who has had micro surgery on his back, which is far different than the random pectoral injuries Horford has had. Howard is also older than Horford and has not been as productive even this season, with Al beating him in every advanced stats category such as win shares, value over replacement player and same in blocks with significantly fewer turnovers. It's not even close. Horford is better than Howard in everything but height and defensive rebounding. And while the latter is a major concern, you don't address that by declining in every other way but that category.
As for Griffin, the Clippers are better without him and given his superstar label, isn't it a red flag that they would be willing to move him for Millsap? Maybe it's because Doc Rivers knows that you don't win because of superstars, you win with top shelf players that makes everybody on the team better.
The whole thing smacks of desperation and the solution is far from compelling. I get that people want to believe in something special, like a superstar can sometimes provide. But there is nothing special in mashing some names together that doesn't fit what you you've built and your organization has been built for. There is nothing special in having no direction as a franchise, a feeling we Hawks fans have long had until the past two seasons. And there is certainly nothing special in getting overexcited about results when the season isn't even over yet.
Trading Jeff Teague is one thing because of the overlap in position and his pending free agency after next season. Blowing up the core of what you've defined yourself as, sending two amazing players away for two with marquee names and little more is something right out of the pages of a Hollywood movie, who after previewing their fantastic story, rewrites the perfect ending for something more palatable in the short term, and being a lesser film for it. This is a test for the new ownership. Making these moves would take the Hawks from "Spurs East" to "Knicks South".
Resist the overreaction, Atlanta. Embrace the goodness that these guys are and let's work to shore up a couple of things that need to be addressed to make an even longer run in the postseason. Don't hit the eject button when the stats show this team is still a top ten team. It's a long road back from the wandering place making these deals leads to.