The NBA trade deadline is rapidly approaching and the Atlanta Hawks have already been involved in their fair share of rumors. Up until now, that has mostly centered around the point guard position and, most notably, Jeff Teague. That could change soon according to a report by Yahoo's Marc J. Spears that says the Hawks will listen to offers for free agent to be Al Horford in advance of the deadline.
The Hawks can put together a strong offer from a financial and familiarity standpoint, but are expected to listen to teams that inquire about Horford because they don’t want to risk losing him for nothing, league sources said. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 18.
Spears recently spoke to Horford about how he's expanding his game in advance of this summer's free agency. Horford has adopted the three-point shot this season and is knocking down a respectable 33 percent of his attempts. Horford indicated that he is mindful of the way the league is changing and is trying to adapt his game to suit those changes.
The subject of free agency also comes up. Horford praises the city of Atlanta and says that he is confident in the future success of the city and the Hawks.
"The city itself is a great city," Horford told Yahoo Sports. "People are great. This Hawks’ organization is moving in the right direction. With the new ownership, with the coach, I really feel good about the future of the Hawks."
However, Horford does make one statement that will likely give fans and the organization pause on his free agent possibilities.
"Atlanta has the potential for a guy like myself to maximize [the business] part of it," Horford told Yahoo Sports. "But obviously there are other cities, bigger cities that are more appealing probably [business- and marketing-wise]. The impact would be bigger if that is what you are looking for."
Horford doesn't necessarily say that business and marketing opportunities are what he is looking for but the fact that he mentions it at all in this context is a bit concerning if you are the Hawks and hopeful of bringing him back.
That the Hawks would listen to offers at the deadline is not surprising. They have put Horford's name out there in the past in a targeted fashion and most likely to gauge his value. Atlanta was extremely deliberate in their approach under former General Manager Danny Ferry and the new front office has adopted a similar approach. There is nothing wrong with doing their due diligence and gauging Horford's trade value is a part of that.
Case in point is Atlanta's 2015-2016 season that has been inconsistent and far removed from the 60-win team of 2014-2015. The Hawks must decide between now and this summer who on this current roster can be building blocks going forward. Horford will be eligible for a five-year, $146 million max contract this summer and rumors persist that he will be seeking the full max.
We have discussed in this space many times that Horford's value to the Hawks goes beyond his numbers. Despite the emergence of Paul Millsap, Horford remains the key piece for Atlanta at both ends of the floor. The question for Atlanta is whether or not the price it would take to keep Horford would allow them to put the necessary pieces around him to get to a championship level. If the answer is yes, then they will no doubt be aggressive in trying to keep him. If the answer is no, then they could decide to move him in advance of the deadline to jump start the retooling process.
This summer is shaping up to be a pivotal one for the Atlanta Hawks and it all starts, and in many ways ends, with Al Horford.