Mike Dunleavy was acquired by the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Kyle Korver trade which also netted them a top-ten protected 2019 first round draft pick (along with salary filler). The move seemed to have come out of nowhere and after a few days of trying to sort out the logic of the transaction it seemed to be the first move in what was likely a series of trades that would tear down this season’s current roster and bring back assets focused on the future of the organization. As we all know, none of the other trades materialized. That has since been well documented and analyzed; so instead of providing any other attention to that aspect of the decision to move Korver, this article will take a look at what Dunleavy contributed to the Hawks stretch run.
In the first several days of the aftermath of the trade, it seemed that Dunleavy might have just been moved to make the transaction work from a salary matching perspective. But Coach Mike Budenholzer would eventually be able to convince the veteran forward that he was indeed an important part of the Hawks’ plan for the remainder of the 2016-2017 season.
It’s almost impossible to evaluate this without considering what Korver had been contributing to the Hawks, as unfair as that might be to Dunleavy; he was not the decision maker in any part of what transpired. But in terms of the primary principals of the transaction that was meaningful to this season’s results, it basically comes down to a one-to-one comparison (with some important qualifiers to take into consideration).
Korver played 36 games and Dunleavy played 30 games for the Hawks this season. They had distinctively different roles in terms of where each was positioned in the rotation. Korver started 21 games for the Hawks this season and averaged 28 minutes per game; it’s important to note however that Korver had been moved to the bench and was playing a less consistent number of minutes over his last 15 or so games with the team. Dunleavy played exclusively off of the bench for the Hawks and averaged 15.8 minutes per game. He also missed almost a full month of action (only 13 games thanks to the length all-star break) due to injury. The likelihood of him missing time should not have been a surprise, he is 34 years old, was playing in his 14th season in the league and had played 67 games or more in just two of the past eight seasons.
When Dunleavy was on the floor he had the same basic role that Korver had: provide spacing on offense. Of course, Korver was actually asked to do much more, but he was in his fifth season with the team and Dunleavy did not have the benefit of having an off-season to prepare to play in Coach Mike Budenholzer’s system. Dunleavy converted team a best 42.9% of his 3-point attempts, which is the most basic measure of how effectively a player provided offensive spacing.
Additionally, Dunleavy had a team best eFG% of 68.1% on catch and shoot opportunities (compared to Korver 61.8%); he also had a team best 46.9% on catch and shoot 3-point field goals (Korver 43.3%). Other metrics would indicate that Korver demanded more defensive attention and thus was more effective at providing offensive spacing than was Dunleavy (I can’t provide the statistical view in one place); only 53.7% of Korvers 3-point attempts were categorized as open or wide open per nba.com/stats while 74% of Dunleavy’s 3-point attempts met this criteria.
Dunleavy averaged just 8.8 minutes per game in the Hawks playoff series versus the Washington Wizards. In Korver’s tenure with the Hawks he never averaged less than 29.5 minutes per game in post-season play.
In the end, I think the fair assessment is that Dunleavy fulfilled the basic role the Hawks had in mind when they acquired him, when he was on the floor he did the basic things he needed to do to provide some semblance of the offensive spacing that Korver had historically provided for this team.
Some Hawks fans consistently expressed frustration that Dunleavy was playing ahead of rookie DeAndre’ Bembry. First of all, that was not Dunleavy’s decision to make. Additionally, I personally think that it may not have served Bembry well to play heavy minutes this season while logging what would likely have been one of the very worst shooting performances in the entire league. That could have resulted in the creation of a significant mental obstacle for Bembry to overcome next season and beyond that was otherwise avoid.
The absence of Dunleavy during the Hawks exit interviews is an early indication that it’s probably more likely than not that he will not be back with the team next season. I would think all parties would find that reality acceptable. Nearly $1.7M of Dunleavy’s contract for next season is guaranteed for next season; although if the Hawks need to clear that to make space for another transaction there are number of ways that could be moved in a minor trade.
All in all, Dunleavy largely did what was expected of him and represented the organization with all of the professionalism that his reputation would lead one to expect. For this, the Hawks should be satisfied with his contribution. Any other longer term results of the trade that got him here (good or bad) are in no way a reflection of him as a player.