Should Atlanta Hawks Avoid the NBA Trade Market for Now?

Jared Johnson@@jaredtjohnson21Featured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2015

Strong team chemistry has been a staple for the Hawks throughout their successful 2014-15 campaign.
Strong team chemistry has been a staple for the Hawks throughout their successful 2014-15 campaign.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 29-8 Atlanta Hawks are playing as well as any team in the NBA right now. The squad has won 22 of its last 24 contests and beaten 12 of the 13 above-.500 squads it has faced in that stretch.

Even better, the team now has a sizable 3.5-game lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks are in a serious groove, but could a midseason trade improve their title chances?

Making any modifications to the Atlanta roster seems almost blasphemous to bring up with how well the team is playing, but the Hawks need to give at least a little bit of attention to their trade prospects.

Let's look at where the Hawks stand right now, their trade prospects and then give a final suggestion as to what they should or shouldn't do before the deadline on Feb. 19.

The State of The Hawks

You really have to get nitpicky to find a legitimate problem with this team.

In their aforementioned 24-game stretch of utter dominance, the Hawks’ average game has been a 102.6-93.3 win. Extrapolated over the entire season, that scoring average would rank No. 8 in the league. On defense, the Hawks would be No. 1 in points allowed, more than three points below the No. 2 team.

The team is enjoying itself and ripping through its schedule, and the success is due in no small part to its strong sense of off-court camaraderie and on-court chemistry.

Watch the video below from NBA.com for a glimpse into the Hawks' team-first mindset:

But there is one slight issue with the Hawks: rebounding.

According to ESPN.com, Atlanta is the No. 23 team in the NBA in rebound differential, getting outperformed on the glass by its opponents to the tune of 2.0 caroms per game. The Hawks are particularly poor at gathering their own misses, grabbing a league-worst 20.7 percent of available offensive rebounds.

If a trade were to come for the Hawks, it should probably do something to alleviate the problem on the boards.

What Are the Hawks' Trade Options?

Trade rumors often swirl around two types of players: an unproven youngster whose potential is going to waste on his squad, which may have a logjam at his position, and a veteran playing for a bottom-feeding team building for the future.

The Hawks own the latter sort of player, and his name is John Jenkins.

The 23-year-old shooting guard has seen his playing time decrease in each of the three years he's played for Atlanta. This season, he's gotten court time in just three contests for the Hawks and has spent most of his time in the NBA D-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Idaho Stampede.

Jenkins' potential is undeniable. He can put points on the scoreboard in a hurry, mostly from the perimeter. He notched a career-high 23 points against the San Antonio Spurs in his rookie year, as this video shows:

Before the season, however, Atlanta declined the team option on Jenkins' contract for 2015-16, which means he'll be an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. The Hawks clearly don't see him as a big part of their future, which means they may be putting him on the trade market sometime before the deadline.

So if Atlanta chose to trade Jenkins, a draft pick(s) or both, who would it want in return?

My guess is that the Hawks would try to acquire one of those veterans stuck on a non-contender, a player with experience who could contribute positively in the locker room and, ideally, on the court as well.

Despite Atlanta's wildly successful campaign, the team's playoff experience lags behind that of the Eastern Conference rival Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls. Hawks players have participated in a combined 370 playoff contests, while Washington and Chicago players have totaled 537 and 434, respectively.

One player who could help Atlanta is the Philadelphia 76ers' Andrei Kirilenko. The 33-year-old small forward has not played a game for the tanking Sixers and doesn't seem to want that to change, according to The Associated Press.

However, if that elusive first NBA title were on the line for Kirilenko, something tells me his motivation might get a little bit stronger.

Should the Hawks pull on a trade, veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko (right) might be one of their best options.
Should the Hawks pull on a trade, veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko (right) might be one of their best options.Uncredited/Associated Press/Associated Press

Kirilenko averages 1.8 offensive rebounds per game for his career, a higher number than what any of the Hawks are grabbing this season. He could provide defense, rebounding and a solid veteran presence in the locker room for the Hawks.

Other possible veterans the Hawks could pursue are the Miami Heat's Chris Andersen or the Sacramento Kings' Reggie Evans.

Whatever the Hawks decide to do, team chemistry should be priority No. 1. Atlanta shouldn't give up a key rotation guyany of the top nine players in my recent Hawks player rankingsand shouldn't acquire someone who will be stealing a significant chunk of minutes from any of the existing rotation parts.

What Should the Hawks Do?

In my humble opinion, the Hawks have two main options: Stand pat or make a low-risk move to get some more playoff experience and rebounding help on the roster.

Either one is fine, as long as team chemistry is preserved. There's no use in trying too hard to fix something that isn't even close to broken yet.

I trust the Hawks to play things safer than most teams will at the deadline and head into the playoffs with a roster that looks very similar to, if not the same as, the one that Atlanta employs now.

All statistics are from Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise indicated. Season statistics are updated through all Jan. 10 games, while statistics relating to specific groupings of games are updated through Jan. 11 games.

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