The Atlanta Hawks entered the 2021-22 season with high expectations after losing to the eventual NBA Champions the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Fast forward six months and the Hawks sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-22 record. Their most recent loss came against a Kawhi Leonard and Paul George-less Los Angeles Clippers 106-93 at home.
While a COVID-19 breakout and injuries have plagued the team, the Hawks’ effort has been questioned this season. Atlanta desperately needs a change and will stand to be very active at the trade deadline.
Atlanta Hawks: Three potential Deals to improve the team’s Defense
Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk Vents on Air
If fans were frustrated with the team’s performances this year, General Manager Travis Schlenk is on another level. In a recent interview with 92.9 FM The Game. The 46-year-old didn’t hold back, especially criticizing the team’s defensive effort.
We have a few weeks before the trade deadline here, and this is what I need to figure out. It’s my responsibility to put a product on the floor that can win, and right now, I’m not sure I have done that.
It’s just frustrating because we’ve seen this group have success. And, to see the group not make the necessary effort plays to win an NBA game, it’s just become frustrating.
There’s no sense of urgency to make a stop. There’s no sense of accountability that ‘I’m going to stop my guy.’ It’s just not there… it doesn’t bother them. I hope it’s a switch we can flip, but I don’t know at this point.
It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re team isn’t playing as well as you think it should. Maybe I should lower my expectations for this team
Schlenk’s tone throughout the interview clearly shows discontent and it appears moves are on the horizon. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Cam Reddish, Danilo Gallinari, and Solomon Hill are three names to watch.
Let’s take at three potential moves the Atlanta Hawks could make at the deadline to improve its defense.
PHI receive Danilo Gallinari, John Wall, Isaiah Roby
ATL receive Ben Simmons, Eric Gordon, Derrick Favors
OKC receive DJ Augustin, Delon Wright, Charles Bassey
HOU receive Cam Reddish, Tobias Harris, Bogdan Bogdanovic
— The Thunder Roundtable (@NBASkoolOfThort) January 10, 2022
There is a lot to unpack in this deal given the number of players in it. Assigning picks in a four-team trade with some of the players is difficult so for now, it’s based on personal and salary cap implications.
Ben Simmons arrives at the Atlanta Hawks
For the Hawks acquiring Ben Simmons, Eric Gordon and Derrick Favors is a major win for their defense. Simmons is an All-NBA player, three-time All-Star, and two-time All NBA Defensive team player who’s a monster guarding one through five. The Hawks struggle tremendously guarding anyone on the floor and Simmons can take any assignment. Much has been made about his lack of shooting but the 25-year-old is a terrific passer and athlete on the break. Couple this with elite playmaking as a roller and you have the perfect piece next to Trae Young.
Gordon is a great shot-maker, part-time shot creator, and sniper from three. The veteran is having a resurgent year averaging 14.4 points on 49-45-73 shooting splits and recaptured his shooting touch. Gordon is also a solid defender on and off the ball, allowing him to play big minutes next to Young. He would be great as the team’s sixth man, coming off the bench to add instant offense.
Favors is a serviceable big man who can serve as a spot minutes center. Clint Capela is an excellent big for Atlanta but the Hawks need to take care of the Centers body. Favors offers physicality and stead team defense in the middle.
*Atlanta will need to add picks to this deal. Simmons is an All-NBA caliber player so one can assume first(s) and pick swap(s) will be involved.
Philadelphia address need, acquire more flexibility
On the surface, a John Wall, Danilo Gallinari and Isaiah Roby return isn’t the flashiest package around. However, it does give the 76ers some more flexibility moving forward. Wall addresses a need at point guard for them shifting Tyrese Maxey to the bench. The former All-Star hasn’t played since last season so it remains to be seen what he looks like. He showed flashes in Houston of still having something in the tank and playing next to Joel Embiid will help. Additionally, moving Tobias Harris’s contract for Wall is an I trade my problem for your problem type of deal.
Gallinari offers a lot of the same qualities Harris does but is much cheaper (approximately $70-million dollar). He is a smooth scoring forward who can hit at all three levels. Gallinari isn’t a great isolation defender but is steady in team situations. He was fantastic in Oklahoma City in the 2019-20 season next to defensive-minded guys and Embiid is a monster on the backline to erase mistakes.
Isiah Roby is a throw-in to make the roster spots work. His deal is non-guaranteed so waiving him opens a spot for another player in a separate deal.
More pick acquisitions for Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City is nothing more than a facilitator in this deal. The names of the players are meaningless since the franchise is in the midst of a rebuild. They will likely receive some healthy compensation for facilitating a deal of this magnitude, something the team is doing as it retools. How much compensation is the biggest question but I assume a package of first(s) and seconds will be the price.
Houston Rockets continue their rebuild
Cam Reddish is the major draw for the Houston Rockets in this deal. The 22-year-old has struggled with consistency since entering the league but finally gets a chance to play free. He has shown flashes as a scorer and his three-ball sits at 37 percent on the season. At 6’10 with a 7’2 wingspan, Reddish can slot straight into the starters and get major minutes at the three. Houston is in the middle of their own rebuild so taking a flier on him makes a ton of sense.
As I alluded to early in the piece, Houston take part in the I trade my problem for your problem by acquiring Tobias Harris. Harris is a terrific power forward but perhaps one of the most overpaid players in the NBA. He is having a nice season averaging 19-8-4 on 46-30-86 shooting and can get hot in spots. Harris is an unselfish player and would be a nice fit next to the Rockets’ young guns.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is a very scorer and secondary playmaker. The 29-year-old is averaging 12-4-3 on 41-37-74 this season and his acquisition slides Kevin Porter Jr. back to a sixth-man role. He isn’t the greatest defender but tries on that side of the ball and is very unselfish. Bogdanovic can fill a number of roles and is the perfect swiss army knife for Houston.
*Houston will need to add picks in this deal as well given the players they are acquiring.
Three team deal sees the Atlanta Hawks acquire Jerami Grant
ATL receive Jerami Grant, Malik Beasley
DET receive Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, 2022 1st
MIN receive Danilo Gallinari, Solomon Hill
— The Thunder Roundtable (@NBASkoolOfThort) January 10, 2022
A quality two-way wing arrives at the Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are looking to compete for the playoffs and one of their weaknesses has been consistency on the wings. Jerami Grant is a strong defender who can guard three to five while also capable of scoring at all three levels. In Detroit, he is the primary option on offense but he’s better in a secondary or tertiary role. He is still athletic, excellent at sliding his feet, and can clamp down on the opposing team’s best perimeter players.
The 27-year-old is averaging 20.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 41-33-85 splits this season. However, he would receive more open looks next to an elite playmaker like Young and his numbers should rise.
Malik Beasley gives the Hawks more three-point shooting. He’s struggled shooting the rock this season (33.9 percent on 8.8 attempts) but is a career 37.9 percent shooter on 4.9 attempts. One criticism of Beasley is there isn’t a shot he doesn’t like and tends to pull the trigger as soon as the ball touches his hands. However, next to Young, that’s what he needs to do and he looks like a nice fit in Atlanta.
Detroit adds an intriguing young player to its ranks
When Reddish entered the NBA, there were concerns surrounding his work ethic, consistency, and motor. Fast forward two and a half seasons and these concerns have yet to be put to rest. There’s no denying Reddish’s talent but he’s yet to put it together over a stretch of games. This season, he’s averaging 12.7 points, 2.8 rebounds,1.2 assists, and hitting on 38.2 percent of his threes (3.8 attempts).
One of his struggles comes on defense. Blessed at 6’7 with an impressive 7’1 wingspan, Reddish struggles with positioning and ball watching off the ball. He is a solid POA defender due to his size and can lock down opposing players but the effort comes and goes. Going to Detroit gives him a chance to play free, make mistakes and learn. Additionally, the Pistons need a wing badly and Reddish fits the bill.
Taurean Prince is a throw-in just to make the deal work while the first-round pick is reparation for eating his deal.
Minnesota acquires spacing, make a push for the playoffs
The Minnesota Timberwolves are vying for the playoffs and need a piece to push them over the top. Gallinari is a reliable scorer who can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. He is a monster on the block, can punish small players from the mid-range, light it up from deep, and is one of the best in the NBA from the free-throw line (93 percent) this season.
Gallinari is averaging his fewest amount points (9.7) and minutes (22.4) since his rookie year. One reason for this is Atlanta’s heliocentric offense and he seldomly gets the rock in his sweet spots. Playing next to Karl Anthony-Towns is perfect since both players can play inside out. Towns is the greatest three-point shooting big man ever (42.2 percent this year) and these two on-court opens the floor for everyone else.
He is weak as a perimeter defender in isolation but is a smart defender. Gallinari understands how to filter to help defense and can stay on the floor next to other great defenders. Minnesota is extremely active on the defensive end and can cover for his weakness in isolation.
Solomon Hill is a throw-in to match roster spots.
Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and Portland Trailblazers do business
ATL receive Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber
DAL receive Danilo Gallinari, Robert Covington
POR receive Dwight Powell, Cam Reddish
— The Thunder Roundtable (@NBASkoolOfThort) January 10, 2022
Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber bring two-way prowess
In this transaction, the Hawks receive two solid defenders in Maxi Kleber and Reggie Bullock. Kleber is a career 36.6 percent three-point shooter and has great defensive instincts. Injuries have slowed him down a bit this season but he’s a physical big man capable of blocking shots. Kleber’s numbers don’t jump off the page at 7.2 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist per game on 40-34-76 but he would be great as a supplementary big who will nail open jumpers.
Bullock is another player who’s having a down year shooting from three (30.3 percent on 4.5 attempts) and is struggling to adapt to inconsistent playing time. He was a standout as the Knicks’ premier perimeter defender last year, captaining a top 10 defense. Despite his struggles this year, Bullock is still is a career 38.3 percent three-point shooter and would be an excellent addition to the team.
Dallas further opens the floor for Luka Doncic
The Dallas Mavericks are in a weird spot with the Luka Doncic – Kristaps Porzingis dynamic continuing to sputter. After having one of the greatest offenses ever last season, Dallas’ offensive rating has plummeted to 17th (109.0) and could use an injection. Gallinari can provide spacing for the team’s stars while also being capable of playing Kidd’s mid-range heavy offensive scheme. He can get his own shot, draw fouls on the block, and pound teams from three-point land. Gallinari can help propel the team’s offense back to where it’s been the past couple of seasons.
Robert Covington is having a terrible season in Portland, largely due to a lack of effort. He is averaging high lowest points output since his rookie season (6.7) and he’s landing just 32.7 percent of his threes (he shot 37.9 percent last year). It’s clear Covington needs a change of scenery and Dallas could really use his assistance on the perimeter. He isn’t the greatest isolation defender but Covington is a great help and team defender. He is averaging 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals, helping from the weak side and playing the passing lanes. Dallas could do with his skills on the perimeter.
Portland initiates a rebuild
The Portland Trailblazers are an absolute mess and acquiring Reddish begins its overdue rebuild. As I alluded to earlier, Reddish is a young prospect looking to assert himself in the NBA. Doing this on a rebuilding team like Portland is a perfect place to start. They are a disappointing 14-23 on the season and sit just three games ahead of the last-placed Houston Rockets in the standings. The Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic days are over. It’s time to tear it all down and start a rebuild. Acquiring Reddish initiates a process that has been avoided for a couple of seasons.
Dwight Powell is included for salary purposes. He has approximately $22-million owed to him over the next two seasons and is a solid big man off the bench.
With the way the season is trending, the Atlanta Hawks need to make a change. They are one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA after a successful 2020-21 campaign. Luckily, they have around half a season to turn it around but to do that, Schlenk will need to make some moves.
The February deadline is fast approaching thus they will need to decide what direction they will take in 2022.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images