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‘Sell, sell, sell?’ An Atlanta Hawks trade deadline preview

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The Hawks are expected to make moves but who’s more likely to be dealt?

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Change...

It’s something we all go through and/or experience in our lives. New jobs, new surroundings, incoming friends, outgoing friends... Change is constant and something no one can escape. It’s just a part of life.

In professional sports this holds true, and probably applies tenfold. Players, coaches/managers, executives, owners and even team locations... All of these things change over time, some more frequently than others.

The NBA as an organization is no different, and not only do its personnel change — such as the Commissioner, the Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations etc. — but its rules, regulations and event dates change too.

A recent example include the infamous ‘Hack-a-Shaq’ rule: before you could intentionally foul away from the play and send a poor free throw shooter to the free throw line — once the team fouling was in the penalty — and not be punished, as such, until the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. If you were to foul away from the play under the last two minutes in the final period, the opposing team receives one free throw and retains possession of the ball again, so it was in your best interest to cut it out by that two minute mark in the final quarter.

The NBA changed this rule, making it so in the last two minutes of any quarter if you foul it’s one free throw and possession of the ball for the opposing team.

It’s a change that has benefited the league as a whole.

We’re at the point of the season where we’re approaching the All-Star break: it’s very soon.

In the past, the NBA trade deadline has come after the All-Star game, and discussion throughout some previous All-Star weekends have been dogged by trade rumors of players taking part in All-Star weekend, such as Carmelo Anthony in 2012 and, more recently last year when DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans shortly after the All-Star game.

One of the more notable changes the NBA made heading into the 2017-18 season is that the trade deadline was brought forward: it now occurs before the All-Star break on Feb. 8.

So, as slow as it may have seemed getting there, the trade deadline is literally right here, and there’s no better time to talk about it and the Atlanta Hawks’ place in it all.

The trade deadline — and trade season in general — has been something the Atlantsa Hawks have been building up to, ever since June/July of last year.

At the trade deadline, you usually see two types of teams: buyers and sellers.

Buyer teams (usually playoff teams) don’t mind parting with an asset (like a first round draft pick) to acquire a player — usually an on expiring contract or expires the season after — that they believe will help them in the playoffs.

Seller teams are teams who are, pretty much, the opposite of buyer teams: they want assets for their short-term players and know teams will spend a pick to acquire them.

Last summer, the Hawks seemed to make a goal of signing/acquiring players on short-term deals that playoff teams/playoff contenders would want on their team come April. The hope is that the Hawks would net some assets in return for players who don’t figure to be part of the long-term future.

In other words, the Hawks are a seller team, and you can almost guarantee that they will make at least one move at/near the trade deadline.

So, we know what the Hawks are and what their objectives are this season, who’s for sale? Who’s likely to be dealt by/on the deadline on Thursday.

The two names that immediately spring to mind are Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

The reason why their names have seemingly come up more in trade rumors than any other Hawks is that they both have very serviceable skill-sets in today’s NBA (both are above average three-point shooters), both are on team-friendly deals, both are on expiring contracts — meaning they can leave the Hawks for another team in the summer — and are not, you’d imagine, part of the Hawks’ long-term future.

If I had to pick one, Ilyasova (signed to a one-year deal in the summer) would probably be the most sure candidate to be traded. Belinelli (whose expiring contract was acquired in the Dwight Howard trade) could possibly be more a buyout candidate than a piece someone trades for: entirely possible a team may not want to give up a draft pick (or other compensation) for Belinelli.

Either way, you should expect one of, if not, both of Belinelli and Ilyasova to either be traded or be bought out after the deadline if the Hawks can’t find a deal for them — it’s hard to imagine them remain with the Hawks by March 1, the playoff eligibility waiver deadline.

Another trade candidate is Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon, who signed a two-year deal last summer with a player option for the second year.

Dedmon’s situation is a little trickier than Belinelli’s and Ilyasova’s because of an injury he sustained back in late November: a stress reaction in his left tibia, causing him to miss 19 games.

Dedmon was on a tear before the injury, and it is possible that the ailment dinged his trade value. But Dedmon has since returned, and has been decent off of the bench. It’s obviously still possible there’s a team out there that would look to acquire him ahead of the deadline, but his value has likely taken a hit.

Though, that list of potential suitors has decreased by at least one since the Boston Celtics signed Greg Monroe with their Disabled Player Exception — Boston was one team rumoured to acquire Dedmon to sure up their center spot but it seems that ship has sailed.

The other tricky aspect with Dedmon is that he can opt out of his current deal at the end of the season, and he has played to a higher value than his current contract worth (two years, $14 million but does include bonuses, so it’s nearer to $6 million than $7 next season) which not only makes his free agency complicated (Hawks not owning his Bird Rights) but also finding a trade partner for him difficult, with the team possibly acquiring Dedmon aware that he’s more than likely opting out at the end of the season and could potentially leave.

Let me put it this way: I would be very surprised if Belinelli and Ilyasova are with the team past the deadline/March 1st. I would not be surprised if Dedmon was still with the team after the deadline. Had he not got injured however, I would’ve put him in the same conversation as Belinelli and Ilyasova...

Kent Bazemore has also found himself in among the trade rumors and has played very well over the last few weeks: arguably the best Hawk on the roster this season, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported a few weeks ago that teams were inquiring about a number of wing players, Bazemore being among them.

With his level of play, and everything else he adds such as his character, it’s no surprise that there’s a market for Bazemore’s services — even if it is a small market, it’s a market that definitely didn’t exist last season/last summer. If Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk can find the right deal for Baze, I think he might look to make that deal just for the sake of creating future flexibility, something Schlenk has talked about often.

I don’t expect Bazemore to be dealt at the deadline as I would of some of the others already mentioned, but it wouldn’t surprise me now at this stage, given the Wojnarowski reports and how well Bazemore has played this season, if Schlenk found a deal for the veteran swingman. But I would be surprised...

Mike Muscala is an interesting situation. Similar to Dedmon, he signed a two-year with a player option last summer. Muscala probably doesn’t garner as much trade value as, say, a Belinelli or an Ilyasova but he’s worth mentioning here because his deal is a short-term one. The big difference with Muscala, however is that he has the right to veto any trade (and he may just be a “lifer” with the Hawks), so it’s pretty unlikely he’ll be going anywhere come Thursday.

One player to keep an eye on as the deadline looms is Malcolm Delaney, but as an ‘under the radar’ kind of player to be dealt.

Delaney is a restricted free agent this summer and has played very solidly for at least the last several weeks. It would not surprise me at all if a team inquired about Delaney, perhaps wanting to upgrade their backup point guard position. Washington would be a decent bet, since John Wall is out for the foreseeable future. That said, the strong play of backup Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky in a starter’s role (with Tim Frazier backing him up) since Wall went down may keep the Wiz from doing anything there.

Of course, it’s possible other teams may be interested in acquiring Delaney but I wouldn’t expect him to be dealt — more of an outside bet.

But, look, at the end of the day everyone is tradable and the Hawks should be listening to calls for anyone and everyone.

That includes Kent Bazemore, that includes Taurean Prince, that includes Dennis Schröder and, yes, that includes John Collins for the right price/in the right deal that is a very important detail to distinguish.

“Untradable” is a term thrown around in NBA fan circles too much. No one is “untradable” on this Hawks team but there are certainly players the team is more/less likely to trade.

At the end of the day, you should be ready for anything and everything when it comes to Atlanta Hawks and the trade deadline. How different will this Hawks roster look by the end of Feb. 8? Stay tuned.