The Atlanta Hawks didn’t get to end a historic season the way they’d have liked, losing four painful times to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern conference finals. From every loss and failure you learn something. From this one? Bring in a real center, even if he isn’t a starter.
Al Horford is a center, but he’s not big enough to compete against certain players who surely come across his path at some time during the playoffs. While spacing the floor and filling the team with shooters is the trendy thing to do, not everyone plays with five players who can make 3’s. The Hawks struggled at defensive rebounding all season long, but the disparity and problems in the paint were too clear to ignore during their series with the Cavaliers.
In an ideal world, the Hawks re-sign both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll at about $25 million combined per season, about double what they made together last season. That means not a lot of money in free agency to work with, so maybe using a mid level exception on someone like Kostas Koufos (other center targets are unrealistic considering the Hawks re-sign both players) is the way to go. Or hope for someone like Myles Turner from Texas falling into their lap on draft night (Hawks have the 15th overall pick).
If they do lose Millsap it might leave them an opening to sign one of the more expensive centers available (maybe even Mozgov?!) and move Horford to the power forward slot, something he should be comfortable with. He might not have the range or the passing ability of Millsap, but Horford isn’t a bad shooter and could be more useful when operating a little bit further away from the basket instead of often battling for rebounds and position with players bigger than him.
Carroll, a small forward who has shown he can stretch the floor and play excellent defense, is also an excellent offensive rebounder, which is a quite rare combination to find. After making around $3 million this season, expect him to be the more difficult party to please in the offseason negotiations. He’ll probably be gathering more interest around the league as well, finally getting a chance to prove his worth after a few seasons of bouncing around.
A lot of things point to the Hawks not doing so well this season, even though it’s rare to have a team win more than 60 games and disappear completely. Kyle Korver is 34 and now has to deal with the bad ankle that took him out of the series. Thabo Sefolosha has to come back from an even more difficult injury. The Hawks have 3 of their 5 starters signed for next season and key players off the bench as well, but it’s clearly not enough to make a run for a title. Is keeping everyone and adding a rotation center the answer to taking the next step?