Atlanta Hawks Failed To Make Necessary Moves To Become Contenders

By A.J. Speier
Jeff Teague
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In an offseason where the Atlanta Hawks needed to make significant changes to keep up with the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Hawks chose to take a safer and cheaper route that will likely result in another first round exit from the playoffs.

Even though the Hawks never really had a chance to land the top free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, there were several other free agents that could have made the Hawks instant championship contenders. Instead, second-tier stars like Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Andrew Bynum signed elsewhere.

Once the Hawks learned they were out of the running for Howard, there were few options left in the market that could help the team solidify their front court and complement their superstar Al Horford. The Hawks chose Paul Millsap because they grew tired of Josh Smith’s bad shot selection and inconsistent play.

The next big decision for the Hawks was to determine who their starting point guard would be for the long-term future. Once Paul re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hawks’ next best option was to either re-sign Jeff Teague, pursue Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mo Williams or Darren Collison, and they chose to re-sign Teague.

At 25 years old, Teague is coming off of the best season of his four-year career, averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists, but he will need to become more of a scoring threat now that Smith is gone. As of right now, Horford is the Hawks’ only go-to guy on the roster, since the Hawks only other moves were signing 3-point specialist Kyle Korver and defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll. The team will also get back Lou Williams, who is coming off ACL surgery and might not be ready for the season opener.

The Hawks had three first round picks in the last two years, but John Jenkins, Dennis Schroeder and Lucas Noguiera are still raw and need to show improvement in the Summer League games. With Williams still rehabbing from his surgery, Jenkins could be forced to start at shooting guard to begin the season.

While the Hawks will be integrating a proven winning system under former long-time San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, it may not be enough to get past the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

Aside from the reigning two-time champion Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have each upgraded their talent from the past year. The Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, the Pacers signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland and will get back a healthy Danny Granger. The Bulls signed Mike Dunleavy and Derrick Rose will be ready to play.

The Hawks still have the ability to create more cap room and go after other free agents, but they would need to allow Nogueira to stay overseas to polish his game and eliminate the non-guaranteed contracts of DeShawn Stevenson, Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott.

Follow A.J. Speier on Twitter @Ajbisons for articles, news, and all things NBA

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