Getting rid of Howard doesn’t mean the Hawks made a great deal

That homecoming didn’t last long, did it? (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

It’s a sign of how utterly the Dwight Experiment had failed that the kneejerk reaction to any outbound trade was to say, “Finally!” Fact is, Dwight Howard – once known as Superman – was a Hawk for barely 11 months. New fact: He’s now on his fifth organization in five calendar years. At 31, the Man of Steel is indispensable to no team.

The Hawks needed him gone in the worst way, and that’s essentially what Tuesday’s trade seems – a deal made to get rid of someone. The Hawks shed a starting (but not always finishing) big man due to make $47.3 million over the next two seasons for a non-starting big man who’ll earn $37.5 million over the three seasons and a sub guard who’ll make $6.3 million next year. And they traded down 10 spots in Round 2 of Thursday’s draft. Whoa, Nellie.

From Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider: “This trade is far worse than cap-neutral for Atlanta. (Miles) Plumlee’s contract is among the league’s worst deals … (S)ince the Hawks are taking on the worse contract and the worse players, why are they also trading down in the second round?” For the record, Pelton grades the Hawks’ part of the deal a D. He assigns Charlotte an A-minus.

About here, you’re probably saying: If you’re plunging into a rebuild, isn’t the idea to dump players, as opposed to winning games/trades? Well, yes. In the grand scheme, it’s enough to know that the Hawks under new general-management are no longer under the impression that true contention is just a shooter away. Still, you hate to see Travis Schlenk’s first move, even if made for a reason, not bring either cap relief – isn’t “flexibility” among his watchwords? – or a slightly better draft pick.

It’s possible the Hawks still could re-up Paul Millsap for maximum money – possible in the sense that the San Diego Padres could, mathematically speaking, win the 2017 World Series. A new GM doesn’t make the splash move of trading Howard if he’s in Win Now mode. Such short-sighted thinking was what brought Superman home to Atlanta – remember when that was a marketing campaign? – and thrust the previous front office’s liabilities into sharp relief. Mike Budenholzer is a coach but not a personnel guy; Wes Wilcox was the GM but not really. Enter Schlenk from Golden State.

About whom we can say this: He apparently sees what’s what. He sees it so clearly – some of us saw it long ago – that his Job 1 was to undo the biggest move made by Budenholzer as franchise czar. It will be fascinating to see if the coach-and-coach-only is fully vested in Howard’s departure. (Granted, this same coach didn’t play his starting center one minute in the final quarter of an elimination game.)

If Howard’s gone, Millsap surely is, too. (Maybe with a sign-and-trade coming, but gone all the same.) Without either, the Hawks are lottery-bound. Not many coaches would be eager to watch a team that played in the Eastern Conference finals 25 months ago dive into deep-sea rebuilding. I say again: I’d be surprised if Budenholzer sticks around long.

Don’t misunderstand: The Hawks need to get into the lottery. The downside of making the playoffs 10 years running was never getting a prime pick. (The Hawks’ last top 10 draftee – Al Horford at No. 3 in 2007.) They’d run low on talent, young talent especially. The only way to mine young talent is to take your chances with the ping-pong balls. As the 76ers and Celtics have shown, the more lottery picks you have, the better your odds.

The biggest disappointment in this deal is that it brought the Hawks no closer to this year’s lottery. Heck, it cost them the first pick of Round 2, and Schlenk knows better than anyone that Round 2 guys sometimes hit big – Draymond Green, No. 35 overall in 2012. We concede that this was surely the first of many Schlenk trades. Still, Howard was the biggest name the Hawks had under contract. If they couldn’t use him to move upward even a bit, there’s little chance that Kent Bazemore or Taurean Prince or even Dennis Schroder will do the trick.

I’m all for rebuilding. (Or tanking, if you like.) But I’m unclear as to how this trade makes the Hawks any more flexible, which if you’re tanking is the name of the game. I’m not sure Schlenk needed to make this move his first move. Was the market for Miles Plumlee in danger of closing?

I like that the new GM seems to grasp the reality of his new circumstances. I wonder about the execution. This was a great deal only in the sense that the Hawks no longer have to worry about dealing Dwight Howard. Then again, if Schlenk ships Bazemore and Plumlee to New Orleans for Anthony Davis within the next hour, forget I said anything.

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

It would have made sense had they not taken Plumlee and his bad contract -- that is what makes it a dumb deal

no_id
no_id

Dumb trade period

Jack7
Jack7

The Hawks should draft Tyler Lydon from Syracuse with the 19th pick tonight. He will be the next Kevin Love in that he is a big that can rebound and shoot the deep 3. He will open the lane for Prince and Baze. His pick and pop will be the best among NBA rookies and will be among the top rookie rebounders. He will make the All-Rookie team and surprise all those that passed over him. If they don't get him he will end up with San Antonio or Golden State or Cleveland. And whomever the Hawks get will not be as good.

JimmyFalcon
JimmyFalcon

I don't see what's hard to understand.  Plumlee at $37.5/3 = 12.5 Mil Per Year.  $47.3 / 2 is $23.65.
$23.65 - 12.5 = $11.15 per year less, Yes Belineli will make 6.3 million this year too but his expires after this year and it doesn't sound like that's a bad deal anyways.  In fact there is already talks about the Hawks trading him as well since it's an expiring deal

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@JimmyFalcon  Its not much salary relief for two useless players -- at least Howard is a 13/13 guy.  He did not fin in but they gave him away and had to take back bad money in Plumlee at least Belineli deal expires after this yr

Jerry916
Jerry916

@JimmyFalcon  The overall money for Howard vs Plumlee & Belineli is only $3.5 mil different.  In addition, the Hawks moved down 10 places in the draft (round 2) and they received players that are expected to have less of an impact than Howard did last season.


Unless there are some injuries, or the new GM is only able to sign D-League players to fill out the roster, don't expect to see either Plumlee or Belineli closing out the 4th quarter of games either.



Jack7
Jack7

The Hawks should draft Tyler Lydon from Syracuse with the 19th pick tonight.

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Dan_B
Dan_B

I blame the snowflakes that forced Danny Ferry out.

I am no fan of Dwight and knew he would wreck any chemistry that this team had and not surprised he was shipped off. But the trading down in draft picks makes no sense.

Sad!

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Sundi
Sundi

Straight bs. This was a great deal. A team was willing to take Dwight so get rid of him ASAP. He wasn't any help to the team at all- this new person looks like he'll be taking up a crap load of $$$ so try to get of him as well quickly. You can rebuild with Millsap and $$$. The Hawks need another name on this team

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Sundi  Would have been a great deal had they not had to take the useless Plumlee for 3 yrs at 12 plus m a yr

DawgNole
DawgNole

"For the record, Pelton grades the Hawks’ part of the deal a D. He assigns Charlotte an A-minus."

____________

Hardly surprising for a woeful franchise that has failed to even appear in the finals--much less win a championship--during its entire 49-year history in ATL.

TheUltimateMale
TheUltimateMale

@DawgNole  And what about the chronically underachieving college football program that hasn't won a national title in 37 years?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TheUltimateMale

What about it?

And what does it have to do with a basketball team that's never won a third-round playoff series since arriving in ATL nearly half a century ago?

DUH!