After being bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the Indiana Pacers this past season, the Atlanta Hawks knew they needed to address their frontcourt in order to compete with the NBA’s most physical teams.
Despite their willingness to move on from Josh Smith in an attempt to land a center in free agency, the Hawks failed in their pursuit of Dwight Howard and missed out a chance to sign Al Jefferson. The Hawks almost gambled on Andrew Bynum at roughly $12 million per year, but decided his injury concerns weren’t worth the risk.
With the remaining free agent centers available looking less appealing, the Hawks chose to replace Smith with Paul Millsap, who came cheaper in a two-year, $19 million deal. Smith joined the Detroit Pistons for a four-year, $56 million contract.
While Millsap isn’t as established as a scoring threat or shot blocker as Smith, he’s been more efficient in his shot selection and is capable of racking up rebounds. Millsap has also shown durability, only missing 18 games in his seven-year career.
Once the Hawks solidified their starters in the frontcourt with Millsap and Al Horford, the Hawks still had a need at center following the departure of backup center Zaza Pachulia, who agreed to a three-year, $15 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Sticking with their plan of signing players on short-term contracts, the Hawks agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract with Elton Brand, who at age 34, still has the strength to battle the league’s top big men. Brand saw his average playing time reduced to 21.3 minutes with the Dallas Mavericks last year, but he was still productive with 7.2 points and six rebounds per game.
If Brand can stay healthy, the Hawks will be able to use Horford more at the power forward position, where he wont have to guard players like Howard, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah.
The Hawks also drafted Lucas Noguiera in the first round and with Brand now on the roster, the Hawks can allow Noguiera more time to develop his game.