At one point this season, it appeared that the Atlanta Hawks were ready to bail on this season and get a head start on a retooling process. They dealt Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers and were shopping a number of veterans on the roster and most notably Paul Millsap.
They later reversed course pulling Millsap off the market and seemingly indicated to him that he wouldn’t be dealt at the trade deadline. Nothing appears to have changed since that took place although several people around the league remain skeptical that Atlanta won’t revisit the situation again.
With the deadline just over a couple of weeks away, ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton plays matchmaker and lists a Millsap deal among five deadline trades that he’d like to see.
Toronto Raptors get: Forward Paul Millsap
Atlanta Hawks get: Forwards Terrence Ross and Jared Sullinger, center Jakob Poeltl, LA Clippers' protected 2017 first-round pick and Toronto's first-round pick
While I wouldn’t be enamored with the inclusion of Sullinger in the deal his $5.6 million deal is expiring. Ross is under contract for two more seasons at $10.5 million annually while Poeltl is on his rookie scale deal. Atlanta would also get a pair of late first round picks.
Pelton’s reasoning for the Hawks is simple. Atlanta has overachieved to this point given their point differential on the season which was something that we pointed out just this morning.
Although the Raptors are just a game and a half ahead of the Hawks in the East standings, I think they're much better positioned to aggressively try to win now. Toronto's plus-4.6 point differential is second in the East, just behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (plus-5.1), while Atlanta has somehow gone 30-22 while getting outscored on the season after a 25-point home shellacking by the Utah Jazz on Monday.
Based on their differential, the Hawks aren't legitimate contenders, and will have a hard time contending for home-court advantage in the first round. While it's never a good look for a team so competitive to sell off parts midseason, an honest assessment shows Atlanta isn't likely going anywhere and would be wiser to get value for Millsap before he hits the market.
That would be a pretty significant return for a player that will be a highly sought after free agent this summer. There are a lot of reasons that Toronto might not be willing to do this deal as Pelton points out. This would be an all-in moment for the Raptors who will also have to deal with Kyle Lowry’s free agency next summer.
It would be a difficult decision to pull the plug on this season given the Hawks current standing. However, the middle is not where you want to be and Atlanta’s recent run of success was done so with a roster built on flexibility. As good as Millsap is, locking him up even at a below max level will limit Atlanta’s options going forward. It is an unenviable decision but they must revisit once again between now and the trade deadline.