Al Horford playing for the Atlanta Hawks against the Boston Celtics in game two of the 2016 NBA playoffs.

The Atlanta Hawks are at a make or break crossroads this summer

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The Atlanta Hawks are at a crossroads this offseason. A perennial playoff team over the last decade or so, that status now hangs in the balance based on the events that take place this summer.

Point guard Jeff Teague has already been traded to the Indiana Pacers. Subsequently, 22-year-old Dennis Schroeder will now take over as the team's chief playmaker full-time. Al Horford is a free agent and is attracting serious interest from around the league. 

Kent Bazemore, hot on the heels of a surprisingly impressive season in 2015-16, is also a free agent. Not to mention Paul Milsap is also being linked with a trade away from Philips Arena. Times are a changing in Atlanta. But, more than that, the Hawks very hopes and ambitions are hanging finely in the balance. It's all or nothing.

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But which way will the scales ultimately tip?


There is no doubt that the Hawks are making moves with the ambition of closing the gap to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. But circumstances now leave certain factors out of their hands.

Both Horford and Bazemore are said to be priorities for Hawks management as they look to take another step forward this offseason. But what if Horford and Bazemore did decide to follow Teague out of Atlanta?

At that point, you may as well trade 31-year-old Milsap for a return and just start from scratch. Milsap is set to earn $20 million in 2016-17, before then having a player option of his own to potentially leave town in 12 months time.

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game One

So much hinges on the futures of Bazemore and, in particular, Horford. Quite easily a plan aimed at taking a step forward could turn into a full blown rebuild instead. It's precarious. But it's the Hawk's reality in the coming weeks and months.


Horford has been the spine of the team for years now and would be the biggest loss imaginable. It's probably time to abort mission if Horford does move on. The Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the 2015-16 playoffs. They are already way ahead of Atlanta. Losing Horford will mean making up the ground will be near impossible.

Still, despite their need to retain the 30-year-old, reports suggest the Hawks are only willing to offer a four-year contract, as opposed to the five-year contract that Horford is seeking. A four-time all-star, Horford has been linked with teams up and down the league. 

And strong teams, too, like the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's not a cinch that Horford returns. Far from it. Low-post scorers are becoming a rarer breed in the NBA. The game has downsized and moved house to the three-point line.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Atlanta Hawks

But, given how the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers enjoyed success against the Golden State Warriors' small-ball by driving inside and pounding the paint, there could now be an increase in inside-play next season.

Any team in line with that train of thought would definitely be looking at a guy like Horford with admiring glances. The center is a versatile attacker who can score inside and shoot a jumper from further out. The league might be getting smaller, but every team can use a player like Horford.

The same, too, goes for Bazemore.


The 26-year-old is the type of player every team wants and needs. That player who is selfless, hard-working, team-oriented and plays a positive role in the dressing room. Not to mention a player who is athletic, an excellent defender and scores double digit points when he averages 20 minutes-plus in a season.

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks - Game Five

Not a player to take a team to the next level by any means. But an underdog that constantly fights and always holds up his side of the bargain. Bazemore is a player that most teams in the NBA could use in some capacity or another. 

But his increasing reputation will be in keeping with his increasing value. Which limits the number of teams that will be willing - or able - to pay Bazemore's price in the current market. The Hawks know his value. They need to pay it if Bazemore is reasonable and still wants to stay.

Not only for his individual contribution, but also to send a message that the Hawks are ambitious and upwardly mobile. The loss of Bazemore after he comes to the fore, combined with the loss of the team's best player, Horford, would only serve to indicate the opposite. It would shape the Hawks immediate future for the worse.


The trade for Teague was obviously made with the right intentions. Teague's $8 million salary can now be attributed elsewhere, even to re-sign players. Whilst Schroeder himself is young, talented and ready to be let off the leash, both him and Teague could not co-exist and be happy sharing minutes. One had to go.

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics - Game Six

The team decided to trade the 28-year-old with just one year remaining on his contract and keep the 22-year-old who is still getting better and not yet at his peak. But, if Teague, Horford and Bazemore were all to leave in the same summer, it would be a statement of the wrong kind.

Then Milsap could follow, too. Last season's starting five would be decimated. And they weren't even close to being the best in the East beforehand anyway. In nine successive playoff appearances, Atlanta have only made the Conference finals once - again they were swept by the Cavaliers.

They're not really getting any closer at this point. The team's level has stagnated. It's like there's a glass ceiling above them that nobody else can see. Although, perhaps this is the summer they are aiming to make their big move? Maybe it is.

But they're going to have to walk a tightrope to get there. 

Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Al Horford
Atlanta Hawks
Jeff Teague
Dennis Schroder
Kent Bazemore
Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division
Western Conference

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