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Top 10 Atlanta Hawks stories of 2016

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Change was in the air for the Atlanta Hawks in 2016

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

As we begin 2017, we thought it was important to take a look back at what was an eventful and franchise changing year for the Atlanta Hawks.

10. Atlanta Hawks, City of Atlanta agree to renovate Philips Arena

The Atlanta Hawks stopped just short of being the latest professional sports franchise to seek a new stadium. The Hawks and the City of Atlanta instead worked out a deal to refurbish and renovate Philips Arena. The proposed plan will cost an estimated $192 million. The Hawks have agreed to kick in $50 million with the city picking up the rest of the price tag.

The renovation will include the elimination of the stacked suites that make up one side of the arena. They will instead circle the arena in a more traditional manner. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin also said the redesign would place an emphasis on connectivity throughout the arena.

Construction is slated to begin this summer and is expected to be completed in time for the 2018-19 season which will coincide with the 50 year anniversary of the Hawks move to Atlanta.

9. Hawks win first playoff series against Celtics

The Atlanta Hawks won their first ever playoff series against the Boston Celtics defeating them in six games in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Atlanta took Game 1 by the slimmest of margins and were aided by an injury to Avery Bradley that would keep him out for the remainder of the series.

Atlanta took Game 2 in comfortable fashion before the Celtics came back and tied things up with wins in Game 3 and 4 in Boston. The Hawks returned to Philips Arena and earned a big win in Game 5 and then traveled back to Boston where they closed out the Celtics on the road to advance to the second round.

8. Hawks team up with Emory Healthcare to build new world class practice facility

In terms of importance, this probably should be much higher up this list. Atlanta currently trains and practices in a tiny space deep in the bowels of Philips Arena. Soon, they will be moving their practice site and all of their basketball operations to a new facility located in Brookhaven. The facility is expected to be ready by the start of the 2017-18 season.

7. Hawks draft Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft

The Atlanta Hawks pulled off a big trade prior to the 2016 NBA Draft and used a pair of first-round picks to select two wing prospects in Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.

Prior to the draft, Atlanta traded long time point guard Jeff Teague to Indiana as part of a three-team trade that netted the Hawks the No. 12 pick from the Utah Jazz. Atlanta used that selection to draft Prince and later grabbed Bembry with the 21st pick of the first round.

Both players looked the part with strong performances at the Las Vegas Summer League and while neither has played a big role so far this season, both could be rotation staples sometime in the near future for Atlanta.

6. Hawks announce plans to own and operate D-League team in College Park

When Tony Ressler’s group bought the Atlanta Hawks, they had three big goals to complete to set the franchise up for future success. One was a new practice facility, two was to refurbish Philips Arena and the third was to secure their own D-League expansion team.

On November 10, the Hawks announced that beginning in the 2019 season, the team will own and operate its own D-League franchise located in College Park. The Hawks have been one of the more active teams in terms of their use of the D-League even without a single team affiliation. That will expand in 2019 as Mike Budenholzer talked about how the location of the franchise in College Park will open up a lot of opportunities for young players in terms of their development.

5. Cavaliers sweep Hawks out of playoffs for the second straight year

The 2016 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Atlanta Hawks and set off a chain of events that would change the look of the franchise going forward. Atlanta was swept out of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight year leaving Atlanta’s front office to reflect and examine the future of its current group of players.

4. Hawks give Kent Bazemore 4-year, $70 million deal

The Atlanta Hawks entered July’s free agent period with a number of questions and moving parts. One thing they made clear early on was that keeping Kent Bazemore in the fold was a priority. Bazemore found himself in demand thanks to a breakout season as a first-year starter and a lack of quality wing players on the free agent market. He reportedly turned down more money to stick with the Hawks on a four-year deal worth a reported $70 million.

3. Hawks trade Jeff Teague to Indiana in three team deal

Changes seemed to be on the horizon for the Atlanta Hawks following their loss to the Cavaliers in the playoffs and Jeff Teague was the first domino to fall when Atlanta packaged him in a three-team trade to Indiana that netted them the 12th pick in the 2016 Draft from Utah.

Teague and Dennis Schröder formed a solid one-two punch for the Hawks in 2016 but it was quickly becoming apparent that a decision was looming. Teague was slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2017 season while Schröder would enter restricted free agency at the same time.

The writing was on the wall for Teague who more and more often was saddled to the bench late in games while Schröder closed things out. Sensing what was on the horizon, Teague asked the Hawks to facilitate a trade and they did just that sending him to his home state of Indiana. With Teague nearing 30 and in line for a large pay day, it looks like Atlanta made the correct choice.

Schröder has taken another step forward this season as the team’s starter and the Hawks rewarded him with a four-year contract extension.

The Hawks drafted Teague in the first round of the 2009 draft. He spent the first seven seasons of his career in a Hawks uniform averaging 12.1 points and 5.2 assists per game.

2. Al Horford signs with the Boston Celtics

Atlanta’s makeover continued later that summer as long time center and perennial All-Star Al Horford elected to leave and sign a four-year deal with the Boston Celtics.

By the time the free agency period began, Atlanta was one of the most active teams in the league. They wasted no time sitting down with free agent center Dwight Howard as free agency opened while still trying to keep Horford in the fold. At the same time, the team was reportedly shopping Paul Millsap in an effort to clear space to keep Horford while having enough room to bring in Howard.

Reports surfaced that Horford wasn’t keen on the idea of playing next to Howard which was something that he later denied. Horford ended up buying what Celtics GM Danny Ainge was selling and moved on to be the anchor of Boston’s developing young core.

Atlanta drafted Horford with the third pick of the 2007 Draft and spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Hawks averaging 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds in over 570 career games.

1. Hawks bring Dwight Howard home

The Atlanta Hawks were the first team to meet with Dwight Howard at the start of free agency and swayed him enough that he reportedly canceled all of his remaining meetings. Howard and the Hawks reached a three-year agreement on July 1 giving many Hawks fans the traditional center and subsequent big name player that they had desired for many years.

Howard entered free agency last summer with his career at a bit of a crossroads. His tenure in Houston had ended on a sour note as did similar instances in Los Angeles and Orlando. There were plenty of questions surrounding him about his health, his motivation and most of all his commitment to winning. Howard embarked on somewhat of an all out media tour to rebuild his reputation that culminated with a 14-minute interview on TNT’s Inside the NBA that was compared to an impromptu intervention.

The Hawks bought in to the things Howard was saying and to his credit, he has done and said all of the right things since returning to Atlanta. Howard was looking for a fresh start and there was no better place than coming home.

On the court, Howard has improved the team’s rebounding by a significant margin but the overall prospects of the team are in question. Time will tell if this was the right move for the Hawks and for Howard.

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A list like this isn’t a exact science so let me know in the comments below where you think I messed up. 2016 was a very good year for us at Peachtree Hoops and we want to make this place even better so let us know what you want to see from us in the new year.