LeBron James, who opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat yesterday, will be targeted by numerous teams in the upcoming NBA free agency period. This means that James will have many possible options, and the Atlanta Hawks are a team that should be near the top of his list. Atlanta has the cap space to give James an intriguing deal, and they also have the players and coach that can appeal to James.
Before fans disregard Atlanta’s situation as an impossibility, take a look at the potential starting lineup the Hawks could boast. At point guard, Jeff Teague would be the best player James has ever played alongside at that position. He can score and create for others, giving James the ability to play off the ball more than he ever has. At shooting guard, Kyle Korver is one of the best shooting threats in the entire league, and he is coming off of a 47.2 shooting percentage from behind the arc. Korver has been a model of consistency, and after tallying a career high in minutes per game this past season, Korver may have had his best season ever.
The frontcourt would also be the best big-man duo James has ever played alongside, featuring both Paul Millsap and Al Horford. This past year Millsap was named an All-Star, and his numbers certainly prove that this accolade was well deserved. He averaged 17.9 points per game and more than eight rebounds, while providing Atlanta with constant effort on both ends. He shot a career high from deep,and surprisingly made nearly 36 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. With an increase in perimeter shots, Millsap still managed 46 percent from the field, a solid number for a jump-shooting big man. Horford, on the other hand, has to be considered one of the league’s most underrated players. Before he was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Horford was averaging nearly 19 points and nine rebounds per game. His career field goal percentage rests at over 54 percent, and his talent could go a long way in luring James to Atlanta.
This Atlanta team has a lot of potential, winning 38 games despite arguably their best player playing only 29 games. With Horford, the Hawks ran out to a 16-13 start, and Atlanta still managed to make the playoffs after his injury. The Hawks took the Indiana Pacers to seven games in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, cementing the team as a possible destination for a formidable free agent in the 2014 offseason.
The job that head coach Mike Budenholzer did in his first season at the helm was extremely impressive. Despite losing arguably his best player, his team was resilient and maintained a strong belief in his system, sneaking their way into the playoffs. The Hawks revealed similarities to the San Antonio Spurs‘ offense, where Budenholzer recently coached as an assistant under Gregg Popovich. Atlanta finished second in the league in assists just behind Budenholzer’s recent team. James, one of the best passers in the game, would fit perfectly in Atlanta’s pass-heavy offense.
Clearly Atlanta is an appealing destination for the league’s best player. If James signed with the Hawks, Atlanta would dominate the Eastern Conference much like the Heat have done in recent years. James would have help around him at every position, and opposing teams who try to key in on James defensively would constantly be punished. The Hawks’ offense allows James the ability to attack with shooters placed all over the court, giving him more space to operate than ever before. Considering all of the pieces the Hawks already possess, a ring as soon as 2015 is not a farfetched idea if Atlanta can land James.