January 2015, the Atlanta Hawks go on a 17 game win streak (streak ended in February at 19) and the entire starting lineup wins the Player of the Month honor. 4 out of 5 starters are selected to the Allstar game and Coach Bud is named the Eastern Conference Allstars coach. June 2015 the Atlanta Hawks make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in years. Coach Bud wins coach of the year. The following year the Hawks make it to the playoffs, 2nd round exit. The year after, the Hawks make the playoffs, 1st round exit. Present day, the Hawks are now 20-45 and our landscape looks much different than it did just 1 season prior. How did we end up here? Follow along, as we explore, piece by piece, how we got to this point.
- Demarre Carroll
Demarre Carroll had arguably the best season of his career with the 60 win Hawks. He averaged 12.6 points and 5 rebounds. He shot 48% from the field and 39.5% from 3. Demarre came up big for that season most games, with his impressive 3 point shooting which helped spread the floor. He was also a scrappy defender making big defensive plays for us and holding teams off. Often times his impact didn’t show up on paper, but we finished 1st in the east definitely thanks to his contributions on both ends of the court.
The Junkyard Dog was the first piece to fall in the grand scheme. After an aggressive season for the 6’8 forward, the Hawks were in somewhat of a difficult spot. Demarre was due more money the following season, but we were in a bind because we also had to re-sign all star power forward Paul Millsap. Instead of taking a pay cut to keep the roster together he chose to sign with the Raptors for 4 years/$58,000,000.
This propelled Kent Bazemore to the starting small forward position, since we were light at the SF position. Kent struggled at the new position and ultimately lost his starting spot to rookie Taurean Prince during the 2016-2017 playoffs.
Carroll is now the starting small forward for the Brooklyn Nets averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, shooting 41% from the field and 37% from 3.
2. Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague was fast and effective driving to the hole and able to finish hard or with a finesse layup, and an impressive ability to draw the foul when going to the paint. He averaged 16 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Smart passer, which kept defenses guessing, with the spread floor of Korver, Carroll, Millsap and Horford all at the 3 point line ready to take the shot. He was also a scrappy defender and didn’t mind playing against anyone. He didn’t say much nor showed much emotion, but he was locked in, donning the nickname/phrase “Teague Time”.
During the season following his all star year, the emergence of Dennis Schroeder began to become more apparent as games went on. While Teague shot much better from 3 that season, his lackluster play at times grew worrisome to many fans as well as the front office. As the season went on and well into the playoffs that year, Dennis’ role increased, as Jeff was benched in the 4th quarter game after game for lackluster play and turnovers. Dennis Schroeder soon found himself becoming the go to guard in close games and down the stretch. Sometimes it seemed like he just played with a bit more hustle. Fans wondered, “Could Dennis and Teague work together on a team?” Rumors of conflict between the 2 guards began circulating and Teague’s lackluster play continued.
After the final game of the 2nd round of the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers in which we lost by 1 point and ultimately were swept, Teague’s exit interview seemingly spelled the end for the guard in Atlanta. During the interview he admitted he had been battling injuries this season, which he played through. He was emotionless, when asked what he planned to work on in the offseason he replied simply “Getting healthy.” When asked what he thinks about the rotation the following season with him and Dennis he responded “I don’t know. That’s up to the coaches or whoever runs this team.” “You have no preference on the starting lineup?” Teague replied, “I’ve always been a starter. I want to start.”
Dennis was asked if he wanted the keys to the franchise, he responded “In the future I want to be the starting point guard.” “When the coach decides I get the team then I’ll be ready for it.” “The coach trusts me. I finished a lot of games.”
Shortly after this interview Jeff sold his Atlanta home and moved back to his hometown in Indiana. This was the end. Jeff Teague was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Teague is currently the starting point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves averaging 14 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and shooting 44.6% from the field and 38% from 3.
3. Al Horford
Al Horford lead the Hawks to numerous victories and triumphs during his tenure in Atlanta. A strong presence in the locker room, and leader on and off the court. This stretch big provided the type of floor spacing that stunned his opponent every time he pulled a 3-pointer. His ability to score, combined with his elite IQ, helped the Hawks overcome many obstacles during his final 2 seasons in Atlanta.
After 2 straight playoff sweeps against the Cavaliers, Al’s contract came to an end. The Hawks were hopeful to re-sign our star leader big man, but controversy began to brew. While waiting for Al Horford to make a decision on where he would sign next, the Hawks signed former All Star and Atlanta native Dwight Howard. The hope was to maybe move Millsap and re-sign Horford and Dwight. Horford might’ve felt slighted by the signing and took slightly less money to sign with the Boston Celtics. A statement soon came out, from Al’s father saying he left because the fans didn’t support the team.
From the Boston Globe:
“There wasn’t as much motivation for him when he saw all the empty seats when they were winning,” Tito Horford said. “He said to me, ‘Dad, when we were playing Boston, they were down 15 points and they were cheering their team like they were winning the game. They’re so into the game.’ This is special for us, especially for him.”
While Al fell short in the rebounding department he was vital to the Hawks’ most recent success. AJC interviewed Al Horford and Al actually stated he had no problem with Dwight Howard nor the fans. Maybe he was just ready for a change of scenery?
Al Horford is currently the starting Center for the Boston Celtics averaging 13 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5 assists, shooting 50% from the field and 43% from 3, arguably his best shooting season of his career. He also helped lead the team along with Isaiah Thomas to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2016-2017 season.
4. Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver was the sort of sharpshooter our franchise could only dream of. During the 60 win season he broke the record for the most consecutive games with a made three pointer. The Hawks’ twitter account appropriately began using the fire emoji to keep track of Korver’s made 3 pointers called the Korver Kounter. His current team has also adopted this counter.
During the 60 win season, the floor was spread with shooters, options you could say. This took pressure off of the entire team on the perimeter and allowed Korver to find his spot and catch and shoot as he pleases. The next 2 seasons Korver struggled to get to his spot and knock down those shots as he did previously. He still shot well, but teams were catching on as our floor became less spread. The departure of Demarre Carroll also meant the departure of his 3 point shooting. Teams soon began double and triple teaming Korver easier with that hole in the offense. His 3 point shooting percentage went from 49% during the 60 win season to 39% just one season later. He was becoming less effective as more players departed. The following season we picked up Dwight Howard, and lost Jeff Teague and Al Horford more good shooters.
With the aging guard on the decline Hawks decided it was best to use him as a piece to pick up a draft pick and a roster spot. Korver was 35 at the time, and while he wasn’t as effective for the Hawks his shooting ability was still very attractive for 3 point shooting teams who had the ability to spread the floor.
In January of 2017 the Atlanta Hawks traded Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, and a future first round draft pick. Mo Williams was waived, and Dunleavy received limited minutes.
Korver immediately began making an impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were able to spread the floor much easier with Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, J.R. Smith, and Kevin Love on the squad, all effective shooters/scorers. In the first half of that season with the Hawks he shot 41% from 3. In the 2nd half with the Cavs his shooting spiked to an impressive 49% and ultimately aided in the Cavs’ playoffs run to the finals that season.
With slightly less minutes, mainly due to the roster moves of the Cavs, the veteran sharpshooter is averaging 9 points 2 rebounds and 1 assist, while shooting 45% from the field and 43% from 3. Korver was resigned this year by the Cavs. It’s safe to say he’s still got the same touch we all know and love from him.
5. Paul Millsap
Many may know him as the Anchorman. Many have even said they’ve spotted him in Phillips Arena with his lunch pale and hard hat night in and night out. Paul Millsap gave the Atlanta Hawks arguably the best years of his entire career. He was our leading scorer every season he was here and gave his all every game. Whether it’s a clutch circus shot to send us into overtime for the win, a hard rebound to dribble the ball out in the final seconds, or a major block to give our offense some momentum, he was the man. It’s no secret how he made it to the Allstar game every year he played with us. While not as vocal, his presence was felt on and off the court and in the locker room. His spirit of hardwork and effort is one that still lingers on.
After a playoff riddled tenure with the Hawks, the glory of the 60 win season had all but become a distant memory. The Hawks lost to the Wizards in the 1st round of the playoffs in a series that went on 6 games. The final game Dwight was benched in the final minutes after proving to be sort of a liability on the court. The frustrated Hawks knew that a change was imminent.
After that season Hawks hired a new GM, and Coach Bud gave up his role as President of Basketball Operations. The Hawks were now headed in a new direction. That direction consisted of getting younger, stockpiling draft picks and relieving the team of big contracts to free up cap space for the future. The Hawks grew tired of mediocre 1st and 2nd round exits, it was time to try something new in an attempt to make a run further than the Atlanta franchise has ever been. First Dwight Howard was moved to the Hornets after just one season with his hometown team.
Unfortunately the aging Paul Millsap wasn’t necessarily in this long term plan. Millsap had just turned 32 and was due big bucks from the Hawks in the following season. Rather than re-sign the star forward for an expensive long term contract the Hawks did not make an offer at all, leaving Millsap to sign with the Denver Nuggets for $90 million over the next 3 years.
Millsap is currently averaging 14.5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He’s shooting 44% from the field and 36% from 3. He’s been injured majority of the season, but looks to help guide this young team to a playoffs sooner than later alongside talented big man Nikola Jokic.
And this was the end of one of the greatest eras of Atlanta Hawks history. The once all star, player of the month, cohesive starting lineup of the Atlanta Hawks is now a distant memory scattered across the country all doing well on their teams. It’s apparent the type of guys they are just by looking at what they’re contributing to their new teams. Deep playoffs runs with the Celtics and the Cavs, elite mentoring on the Nuggets and the Nets, and starting caliber play on the Timberwolves. Every time we see them, the reception from our coaching staff and our current players who had the pleasure of being apart of that stretch with those guys, is as if they never left and still have some Atlanta pride. These are “The Real Allstars of Atlanta.”
Now the Hawks have their eyes on the future. With our new GM from Golden State, Travis Schlenk, leading the charge already with some fire draft picks in John Collins and Tyler Dorsey. The emergence of Dennis Schroeder proves that we’re in good hands at the point guard position. Taurean Prince is finding his stride at the right times. Kent Bazemore is looking alive this season proving to be down for the long haul.
While our record doesn’t necessarily reflect it, our young guys are fighting night in, night out, giving it their all, developing and growing closer every step of the way. With Dennis Schroeder and Kent Bazemore leading this young and hungry team, this could potentially be a quick turnaround.
With high hopes for the future, one still reminisces on what was, and dreams of what can be.