Football season is now over. Baseball season starts next week. We’re in that in-between time that can be brutal for many sports fans.
The NBA has never generated a lot of interest around here, but something is going on with the Atlanta Hawks that requires our attention.
They need to lose. Yes, it’s not often there’s a public declaration for a team to lose, to be bad. But as the Hawks go through their first full season of a rebuilding process, the best thing for them to do is to lose as many games as possible.
The more games they lose, the more balls they’ll get in the NBA Lottery. The league frowns on teams tanking, but the Hawks have done all they can do to show they are starting over. Teams that are starting from scratch need high draft picks.
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The Hawks traded away Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver and let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk away in free agency. A team that won 60 games three years ago is long gone, and when there was an admission that group hit its ceiling, the Hawks pushed the reset button.
This has happened before. Remember when Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Smith, the two centerpieces of the late-1990 teams, were traded near the start of the century. The Hawks then traded for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and drafted Jason Terry. That group didn’t work. Then they signed Joe Johnson and drafted Josh Smith. That worked for a while, but it wasn’t good enough and they started anew.
So, here we go again. The Hawks are looking for a star. They’re looking for a statue — someone who can be the signature player for the 2020s. They’ve had really good players for the last 25 years, but no one has come close to Dominique Wilkins. They need another Dominique.
Entering Tuesday’s game with Memphis, the Hawks had the worst record in the NBA. They are 9-12 in their last 21 games, so they’ve played better, and that’s a reflection of coach Mike Budenholzer. It’s easy for us to believe it’s better for the long-term for them to lose, but the players wouldn’t want to hear it. They still want to win.
Thursday will be a big day. It’s the NBA trade deadline. The Hawks have several players in the last year of their contracts who are available to trade. In fact, reports have the entire team, except for rookie John Collins, on the trade block. It’s a chance for general manager Travis Schlenk to get future draft picks for his existing players.
The more players the Hawks trade, the better chance they’ll have to struggle down the stretch. Yes, that sounds horrible. But if they are to get a better draft pick in June, they need to lose as many games as possible. They need to find a star in the draft, and top picks usually have higher chances to become stars.
It’s obvious Dennis Schroder is a good player, but not many believe he’ll ever be great. Schroder may be a better trade candidate this summer. Kent Bazemore is drawing some interest (Cleveland maybe?), but his high salary may turn potential trade partners off.
Dewayne Dedmon, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are veterans who can be free agents this summer. Can the Hawks get a late first-round pick for them? Well, that might be tough.
Atlanta could possibly have four first round draft picks this summer. They need more. They just need talent, and if they can trade players now for future picks, they must do it. They should get as much future talent as possible.
Maybe one day the Hawks will be relevant again. They’ve always been fun to watch when they’ve given us a reason to watch, but they’ve got to get stars for that to happen again. So, if you’re a Hawks fan, root for the other team for the next few months so Atlanta can be in position to get someone who can turn this franchise around.
In the meantime, let’s hope baseball season gets here quickly. The Braves are at least headed into season four of their rebuild, while the Hawks have just begun their process.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.