Report Card Grades for Atlanta Hawks' 2014 Offseason so Far
The Atlanta Hawks have been relatively quiet this offseason.
While many teams in the Eastern Conference changed the entire complexion of their roster (the Cleveland Cavaliers, anybody?) the Hawks' core remains unchanged. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford still form the team's Big Three. DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver still figure to round out the starting lineup thanks to their defense and three-point shooting, respectively.
But the team hasn't been completely silent.
From a 15th overall draft pick to the signing of a veteran defensive stopper, the Hawks have made some small modifications to their roster.
Let's see how the four biggest moves and non-moves the Hawks have made so far this offseason test out on an A-to-F grading scale. And at the end, we'll see what overall grade the team's offseason deserves so far.
Drafting Adreian Payne
Adreian Payne is a fine player at the power forward position. He scores well, he's athletic (check out this nasty 360 dunk, courtesy of YouTube) and his solid character will be a good fit in Atlanta's locker room. It's safe to say the No. 15 pick in a deep draft was a good spot for him.
But there were better options available, given the Hawks' needs.
Wing scoring and interior muscle were the two biggest needs for the Hawks heading into the draft, and Payne doesn't satisfactorily address either.
The Michigan State graduate grabbed 7.3 rebounds and blocked 0.9 shots per game as a senior for the Spartans, both of which are uninspiring totals for a Hawks team starved for both. Atlanta ranked No. 28 and No. 25 in those categories last year, respectively.
Payne's outside shooting will help stretch the defense like many of the other Hawks' big men. In fact, he could be a good replacement for Mike Scott, who may not be a Hawk next season, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
But he's not the inside banger the team seems to be missing. We'll give the Hawks a B+ for the value they got with this pick and a D+ for how the pick fits with the roster.
Signing Thabo Sefolosha
The above picture is very indicative of what Thabo Sefolosha will give the Hawks next season: tight defense.
Atlanta plucked the veteran swingman from free agency on July 3, but the transaction was recently switched to a sign-and-trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sefolosha's former team, according to James Herbert of CBSSports.com. The deal is worth $12 million over three years.
Sefolosha will bolster the Hawks' wing depth, as Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll are the only quality wings remaining from last year's team. The 30-year-old is also the only player on the Atlanta roster for next year that has NBA Finals experience.
The problem is, Sefolosha's main on-court strengths (perimeter defense and hustle) are also possessed by Carroll. Sefolosha has been a prolific three-point sniper in the past, but his success rate from behind the arc fell to just 31.6 percent last season. And, like Korver and Carroll, he cannot consistently create his own scoring opportunities off the dribble.
The Hawks got much-needed wing depth at an affordable price with the acquisition of Sefolosha, but they didn't get the scoring punch they needed.
Signing Kent Bazemore
The Hawks' signing of Kent Bazemore last weekend flew under the radar, and understandably so. The southpaw shooting guard will make only $4 million over the next two seasons, and he might still be known more for his bench celebrations (link courtesy of YouTube) than his play on the court.
But Bazemore has shown flashes of potential.
I'm always leery of overreacting to what happens in the NBA Summer League, but the 25-year-old Bazemore did put on quite a performance last year for the Vegas Summer League champion Golden State Warriors. In seven games, Bazemore's per-game averages were 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals in just 30.1 minutes of action. His summer season earned him a spot on Sports Illustrated's All-Las Vegas Summer League Team, along with the likes of Jonas Valanciunas, John Henson and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff.
Bazemore also played quite well in 2013-14 following a midseason trade to the Lakers before tearing a tendon in his right foot in early April. He pumped in 13.1 points per game with the purple and gold, higher than both Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll's outputs last season.
The Hawks will enjoy the pleasant surprise of Bazemore emerging as a huge spark off the bench in 2014-15.
Missing out on Big-Name Free-Agent Wings
There were a plethora of excellent free-agent shooting guards and small forwards on the market this summer. Among them were LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and Trevor Ariza.
The Hawks whiffed on all of them. Each one of the above players has already signed a new contract.
It wasn't like the Hawks didn't have the finances to sign one of them. Before the Bazemore signing, the Hawks had approximately $11.5 million in cap room, per NBA.com. Deng, Stephenson and Ariza all signed deals worth less than that in terms of average yearly salaries.
On the positive side, the Hawks are not a terrible scoring team. They ranked No. 14 in scoring last season, and that was without All-star center Al Horford for the majority of the campaign. However, it would add a whole new dimension to the Atlanta offense if there were a versatile scoring threat playing at one of the wing positions, which is currently not the case.
Barring any surprises, it will be another year of Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll at the starting wing positions for the Hawks.
Hawks fans will likely remember this summer as the summer of missed opportunities.
Barring a major trade, there won't be much of a chance for the Hawks to make a splash this offseason, since most of the big-name free agents and cap space are gone already.
And not to beat a dead horse, but wing scoring was easily the biggest weakness for the Hawks last year. Their best scorer at the shooting guard and small forward positions was Kyle Korver, at 12.0 points per game. Korver averaged just 1.3 free-throw attempts per contest.
Quite simply, Atlanta had to address their lack of wing scorers, and they did not adequately do so.
Payne was a mediocre draft pick, and neither of their free-agent acquisitions will be the difference-makers on the wing the Hawks need to barge their way into the Eastern Conference elite.
Note: All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise indicated.
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