Here’s the list of the Eastern Conference teams that Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider credits as having had a better offseason than the Atlanta Hawks: Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington.
If you’re counting, that’s 12 teams Pelton grades higher than the Hawks’ “C.” There are 15 teams in the NBA East. Only one — Charlotte — had an offseason Pelton adjudges as worse than the team that finished first in the conference last season. Lest we forget, these latest Hawks’ moves were the work of the new managerial team of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox.
This isn’t to say that the Hawks are apt to finish 14th in the East next season. They’re still a very good team. I’m just not sure they’ll be as good as they were when winning 60 games. (I’ve mentioned as much.)
Pelton stipulates that the Hawks couldn’t afford to keep both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll and gives them a pass on losing Carroll. Here’s his assessment of what else they’ve done:
Atlanta tried to find the next Carroll by signing (Justin) Holiday, whose skill set is a 3-and-D starter kit. The Hawks used the money they saved to add (Tiago) Splitter, who gives their frontcourt an entirely different look. But trading a first-round pick for (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.), a poor defender whose shooting hasn’t been as good as advertised in the NBA, looks like a bad gamble.
I don’t fault the Hawks for not moving money around to pay Carroll the $60 million over four seasons he got from Toronto. (He’s a good player, but he’s not that good.) Trouble is, new ownership has said it’s banking on continuity, and without even the one non-All-Star from the famous starting five, I’m not sure that continuity can be reproduced.
It’s weird. The system that made the Hawks as individuals look better than they’d ever looked now must compensate for the loss of a guy who was one of five ideal fits in that system. Maybe there’s another such fit on this roster, and maybe it’s Justin Holiday. But I have my doubts.