Five thoughts about Ressler, Horford and Hawks moving forward

Actor Kevin Costner and Hawks owner Tony Ressler look on before the Hawks' second-round playoff game against Cleveland Sunday at Philips Arena, which turned out to be their final game of the season. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Actor Kevin Costner (left) and Hawks owner Tony Ressler look on before the Hawks’ second-round playoff game against Cleveland Sunday at Philips Arena, which turned out to be their final game of the season. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

In case you missed it — maybe because you just stopped paying attention after Game 2 — the Hawks were bounced from the playoffs Sunday. They played with effort and at times they played very well but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-99. So that makes two straight postseasons they were swept by LeBron James and his minions. (Streaks: The Hawks have lost 11 straight to Cleveland overall and are 0-12 all-time in playoff games against James.)

For my column on the game and why I believe the Hawks need major change, click here.

Here are my thoughts about this franchise heading into the offseason:

1. TONY RESSLER, YOU’RE UP: Former general manager Danny Ferry did a wonderful job making the Hawks relevant and coach Mike Budenholzer proved his worth by implementing new offensive and defensive systems and leading the team to 60 wins and the Eastern Conference finals in only his second season. But this year was a step back, and the Hawks have the potential of rolling back down hill in a hurry if significant change isn’t made. What nobody knows is where Ressler stands in all this. He’s a businessman and he’s mandating upgrades in the arena. That’s fine. But will he have the same mandates on the court? He lives in California but he is a basketball fan, he’s a weekend player and I believe he has a passion for his Atlanta-based team. That needs to translate into money. Atlanta fans will ignore the Hawks again if they don’t do something to get people’s attention. Obviously, landing Kevin Durant is a long shot. But they need something or someone at or near that level. They need new/fresh/exciting. They need a reason to make people watch again (and buy tickets). That likely means breaking up this core. That also may mean changing the front office.

Hawks minority owner Grant Hill could be a valuable voice in the team's basketball operations if he is willing to step into that role. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Hawks minority owner Grant Hill could be a valuable voice in the team’s basketball operations if he is willing to step into that role. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

2. GRANT HILL, STEP FORWARD: In full disclosure, I’m not the biggest Wes Wilcox fan. I’m not convinced he brings much to the table. He was Ferry’s assistant general manager and a secondary role might be where he fits best. Wilcox is now the general manager. A case could be made he’s still in a secondary role because Budenholzer is the president of basketball operations, but before Ferry’s departure there were two people ahead of Wilcox. The Hawks need help in the personnel department. They need powerful voices in the room, even if Budenholzer ultimately will have control of the roster. I would love to see part owner Grant Hill get out of the TV business and step into a major role in basketball operations. To this point, he has not shown a desire to do so. The Hawks need an outside-the-box thinker and a stronger people in personnel because as terrific a coach as Budenholzer is, there’s too much on his plate. It’s difficult for one person in any sport to be both defacto general manager and coach and do both jobs objectively because the two often have different agendas. (An old saying: Coaches want to win today, general managers want to win tomorrow.)

Hawks center Al Horford walks off the court for possibly the last time as an Atlanta player following Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Horford is an unrestricted free agent. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Hawks center Al Horford walks off the court for possibly the last time as an Atlanta player following Sunday’s loss. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

3. AL HORFORD DECISION ISN’T EASY: Some fans aren’t convinced Horford, who is headed for unrestricted free agency, is worth the money and will hamstring them in the future. They might be right. Others are concerned letting Horford leave will set this team back. They might be right, too. I like Horford. He’s a solid player, a good leader and low maintenance. But he’s not a superstar. He’s a player you want on your team but to be a contender he probably needs to be your third best player. Paul Millsap gets an edge on Horford because he’s a more consistent scorer. Horford is a power forward playing center. But Millsap is a power forward. So the only way keeping both works is if the Hawks acquire a great scorer for small forward, a spot currently occupied by Kent Bazemore. Otherwise, Horford (or Millsap) have to go, because the Hawks need more size. Cleveland’s size destroyed them in the series, particularly on the offensive boards. Admittedly, I’m waffling on Horford. I’m just saying if they give him a max deal (which he probably would get on the open market), they better have a plan to fix everything else. And if they let him go or deal him in a sign-and-trade, well they better have a plan to replace him AND fix everything else. The Hawks can give Horford a five-year contract while other teams can only give four. That’s why a sign-and-trade is a more likely scenario then Horford just walking, if you go on the assumption he’s not back. But I’m guessing he is back.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) chases a loose ball as Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore (24) looks on in of Game 4 of the second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 8, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Cleveland’s J.R. Smith chases a loose ball as the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore looks on (AP photo)

4. KENT BAZEMORE COULD BE GONE: The Hawks would be better served with Kent Bazemore and Kyle Korver coming off the bench. But Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent, like Horford, and somebody is going to pay him significant money (as Toronto did to DeMarre Carroll). That can’t be the Hawks because they need more scoring from the “3” spot than Bazemore can provide, and they can’t give him a huge raise and then tell him he’s not starting. So letting him walk or a sign-and-trade is more likely. Korver is 35 and can’t get open or make shots like he used to. We saw the beginning of the fade in the playoffs last season. He can still be a valuable player in a reserve role. Taking him out of the starting lineup in Games 3 and 4 vs. Cleveland (for defensive purposes for Thabo Sefolosha) was foreshadowing by Budenholzer.

Neither Jeff Teague (left) nor Dennis Schroder may be the long-term answer at point guard. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Neither Jeff Teague (left) nor Dennis Schroder may be the long-term answer at point guard. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

5. THE POINT GUARD QUESTION: Dennis Schroder is too inconsistent to take over for Jeff Teague at point guard. Teague has a year left on his contract at $8 million so he would be easy to trade. But it might be best to keep him for one more year and focus on fixing the shooting guard and small forward (and/or center) positions — unless the Hawks believe they can find a better point guard out there. Teague also struggles from consistency problems which is why he’s probably not the long-term answer.

The Hawks have payroll flexibility. They have unlimited trade options with almost every player on the roster. I would view Millsap as the only player definitely not going anywhere. But if the Hawks come back with the same core next season, they’re going to have problems.

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29 comments
rutherfordtony5
rutherfordtony5

@JeffSchultzAJC My starting 5?? Teague, New #2 in Schroder trade, Milsap, Bazemore (makes things happen/fan favorite) and DURANT. Beg him.

Zapp
Zapp

Is it really this hard to determine the problems?  Millsap is a good but not great player, and asking him to be the lead player is a mistake.  Teague got the big head last year when his coach picked him for the allstar team, and hasn't been worth anything since then.  His downward spiral began in the second half of last year.  Schroder isn't the answer for point guard, but he is an outstanding player to insert in the game when Teague becomes selfish or stale in his decisions, keep him.  None of the other players are are necessary to be a good team, but Horford is a stabling force, and until they find a replacement he is absolutely necessary.  Kris Humphries gives them toughness in the middle, so having him along with Korver, Sefolosha, Muscala on the bench is solid.  Look for Hardaway to become a starter next year because of his intangibles.

BosnianBaller
BosnianBaller

So you want them to keep Horford and teague and then at the end of the article you say if they keep the same core then there will be problems?


Horford and Teague need to go. 14 rebounds in 4 games and horrible offense is not worth it. Humphries outplayed Horford the last month of the season and playoffs. Teague is way too inconsistent and plays next to no defense. Korver is a bench player at best. I wouldnt mind a sign and trade of Horford for Kanter if Thunder wanted to do that. They might be more inclined to if Durant leaves.

GSUTrader
GSUTrader

@JeffSchultzAJC good read Jeff, I think we can also be sure Schroder isn't going anywhere as that's the guy Bud/Ferry drafted together

slydawg
slydawg

Hate to be that guy, but what happened to my comment?

tyger
tyger

Durant ain't walking thru that door...will anybody else?...


1. The DF stink still hangs over this club...

Prenumbra of SF declined ATLs overtures...

That's how we wound up with Bazemore/Thabo...


2. Superstars/Allstars/Stars prefer glamour destinations...

Belief is ATL into participation moreso than rings...

see CAVS $110 payroll vs. ATL $71M payroll...


3. This year FA is different - everybody has cap space...

And all trades doable - thus super agents empowered...

see #1...


4. ATL traditional FA approach won't fly w Horford...

Only 30, his game still growing, has leadership DNA...

Needs drop step, baby hook, better 3P% = next level...

ATL must acquire scorers/shooters to max value...

Ride w #2 overall, 2x NCAA Champ, 4xAllstar, All-NBA ...

ATL has a piece, best hold on to it..."I luv ATL" w emphasis...

Everybody don't luv ATL, especially superstars...


5. Millsap great all-around player, but no star..

Millsap/Horford play same position...its C not PF...

That's why they don't play together as much...

Bigger issue, Millsap cannot finish...not in his DNA...

Good soldier...NBA yeoman, paid dues, now rewarded...

Now return to sender...


6. Agreed. Teague or Schroeder or both...

KKorver headed to glue factory...

Basemore its been real...


7. What to make of Scott, Hardaway, Splitter?


8. Trades trades trades ....draft not so much...

After top 5-10, 11-60 about the same...


9. Hawks relegated to B-C level players...

Top names not voluntarily coming to ATL...

Trade-able names have warts...


10. No time to be cheap...which is bad news...


MikeS777
MikeS777

I don't honestly know why Durant to Atlanta is not on anyone's radar.  Drop Durant in the middle of this team, and they are up 3-1 on Cleveland (with or without Horford).   They played Cleveland close as it is in 3 of the 4 losses, despite Cleveland's historic 3 pt shooting.   Durant just single handed outscored the entire Spurs team last night in the 4th quarter on his way to 41pts in a victory.   Put him around a Hawks team in the East that is already a guaranteed top 4 seed, and they will be the team to beat.

No other team in the East is going to trash the Hawks in a series like Cleveland has.   In fact, Cleveland has not lost a single playoff game the past two seasons.  So it's not panic time here in Atlanta.   No one in the East can beat Cleveland right now.  You look at how both Miami and Toronto have played so far this postseason, and there's no way I can be convinced the Hawks wouldn't win a series vs either of them.

khd713
khd713

@MikeS777 Uh, Mike, the problem isn't that Durant isn't on anyone's radar. He most definitely is. The problem is that Atlanta really isn't close to being on Durant's radar. That's the reality. No FA superstar is coming to Atlanta. Sorry.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@MikeS777: "In fact, Cleveland has not lost a single playoff game the past two seasons."  

______________________

Uh, Mike, if that were the case, Cleveland--not Golden State--would be the defending NBA champs.

Better take another look.

GaLatino
GaLatino

@khd713 @MikeS777 I truly wish I could disagree with this statement, I really do. But I can't. Spot on.

MikeS777
MikeS777

As for the offseason moves, I really don't think they should sign Horford to a big contract.  Certainly not bigger than what he already has.   He just isn't the right fit at center, and the Hawks need bigger.  If they are going to pay out big money for a center, I think they should chase Hassan Whiteside.  He's 26, only really 2 years played in the league.  He led the league in blocks, he averages almost 12 rebounds a game, and still puts in 13-14 ppg...and he's young.  Add to that, Tiago Splitter will be back next season, and all the sudden you have a couple of guys to go with Millsap that should solve the Hawks interior issues.   They can sign back Humphries cheaper too.

Bazemore might be a keeper since really who else are they going to get on the perimeter?   He's only 26 as well, so he's got a lot of good years left.   We may have just seen the beginning for him, and he really gave the team a lift this postseason.   Unless you think Kevin Durant is coming to Atlanta, there is not going to be a better option at SF.  So if they do get Whiteside and re-sign Bazemore, you have a core of players in Whiteside, Bazemore, Hardaway Jr., and Schroder all 26 or under.

Potential Starting 5 becomes:  Teague, Korver, Bazemore, Millsap, Whiteside

Bench: Schroder, Hardaway Jr., Sefalosha, Splitter, Muscala/Scott/Humphries

slydawg
slydawg

1. Only thing Resselar can do is issue a mandate:

Win now, anyway you can or bottom out and rebuild. Also, is he willing to pay the luxury tax? If yes, then how much?

2. They do need better personnel men, but there are different ways of doing it.

3. If you can get any of Durant, Howard, Cousins, etc. , then yes, otherwise, no way.

4. Kent Bazemore is fine. The Hawks do not necessarily need a scoring "3" as much as they need a transitional talent at any position.

5. Sniff around Mike Conley's camp and see if you get some positive feedback, otherwise bring Teague back.

Suggestions: Go hard after Durant. If a no go, then sign and trade Horford for Cousins and throw in Teague. Then go hard after Conley.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@slydawg I like the Cousins idea.   I assume you mean DeMarcus Cousins of Sacramento.   Assuming they could pull that off, he'd be a good option.   He or Whiteside should be who they chase.  

I wouldn't go after Conley though.   He's older than Teague and has been very injury prone.  Schroder may not be ready yet, but he's just 22 years old haha.   IMO he's clearly the future at PG for Atlanta and averages double figures in scoring despite only playing less than half the game.

MikeS777
MikeS777

@slydawg I also agree that Bazemore is fine.  He really impressed a lot of people this postseason.   Boston had no answer whatsoever for him.  He's only 26 too, and he was every bit as productive as Carroll was last year.  Carroll is 29, so it made no sense to give him big money.   Bazemore may get even better.

tyger
tyger

@MikeS777 @slydawg Why would Whiteside leave MIA? You think Budz wants to get cussed out by Cousins? Go fish...

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Hawks are nothing more than the Braves during their run. Great regular season team who will make the playoffs but they have no real chance to contend for a title. 


They won't contend until they get a superstar...or two.

B_D
B_D

Every team that is a contender has someone on it that is considered a future candidate for the HOF.  When I look at the Hawks roster, and I love these guys, I don't see that person.  Like you said, no one commands a double team or is a player that dictates fear when they have the ball.  Korver's best days are behind him.  They are picking 21st and 54th in the draft and it is highly unlikely they will find someone there.  They do have some draft picks stashed, but in the end, Ressler is going to have to be willing to pay for that superstar to come here.  We have made second tier in the playoffs for at least the pass two years and that should be attractive to some players of the caliber we are looking at.  I like the center for Orlando but don't think we could pry him away from that team.  There are others out there and some are international players who we will see in the Olympics.  The front office has to be on their toes for the next few months.  Opportunities will present themselves.  They have to be ready to act.

coops34
coops34

I agree as well, excellent on all points.

KBP
KBP

I like Al but he's a career 14 and 9 guy who is turning 30 years old. Still has no left hand and is too in love with the 3-ball. A max deal for him would be worse than the Koncak deal. In my opinion, a big man must command a double team to be considered a max contract player and no team in the league doubles Al. There are two possible exceptions to the double team, Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside because of their defense and rebounding.

Can'o'corn
Can'o'corn

horford decision is easy, either sign and trade, sign him and keep him if he'll take significantly less than max or let him walk.......no way i would give him max money, not worth it......he is a role player that's it. 

ErnestB
ErnestB

Before the trade deadline, there were talks with the 76ers about trading one of our point guards and getting back at least one of their big men as part of the package.  If one of their small forwards (Covington or Grant) could be a part of that package, the Hawks should consider it.  

E983
E983

I agree Jeff. No missteps this time and move forward and build this team into an all around winner.