Being from Massachusetts we have four full seasons, fall, winter,spring, and summer. However we have one season that eclipses the other seasons: construction season. I cannot recall how many months I have seen construction crews working on the same stretch of road. These work projects can take months and sometimes you start to wonder if the road will ever be rebuilt.
In a lot of the same ways, the Atlanta Hawks have entered a period of rebuilding, they no longer are contenders in the East and are now fully into the process of rebuilding. As we have seen from teams like the 76ers and the Magic, that rebuilding can be a dangerous and tedious process, that does not always pan out the way you intend it to.
Now the Hawks do have some potential to grow and rebuild, rookies like John Collins and Tyler Dorsey showed some amazing play in Summer League, draft picks and young talent can help a team grow like the 76ers have done in the Process.
Two words also remain, that give the Hawks potential: Mike Budenholzer. He studied under the Great Gregg Popovich, and used those skills to lead the 2015 Hawks to a 60 win season, topping LeBron’s new Big 3, and winning the East.
On the topic of the 2015 Atlanta Hawks, they were one of the most surprising teams of the season, coming out of nowhere to win 60 games. Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and even Kyle Korver, made the All Star team. Even more unbelievable than that, is the fact that the entire Hawks starting lineup (Teague, Korver, Carroll, Millsap, and Horford) won Conference Player of the month for the East, and managed to go 17-0 in January.
They took the number 1 seed and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in two 6 game series topping the Nets and Wizards, until eventually getting swept by the Cavs in the East Finals.
Like a shooting star, the Atlanta Hawks soared high in the sky, but soon found themselves fading into the dark. Al Horford left to Boston in free agency, Jeff Teague would sign with the Pacers, Carroll wanted to get paid in Toronto, Kyle Korver got sent to the Cavs in a trade, and, finally, in this past offseason Paul Millsap decided to take his talents to the Mile-High City. From that 2015 miracle team, only Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala remain.
Inspired to write this article came while reading a Sports Illustrated piece about former all stars and “Where Are They Now?” So, without further ado, we are going to delve into where the former Eastern Conference Player(s) of January, 2015, find themselves at today:
Venturing to the Pacers of Indiana, Jeff took over the starting point guard role left vacated by George Hill’s departure. He started all 82 games for the Pacers last season, and averaged more minutes than in his past seasons in ATL. His scoring stayed consistent, while his rebounding and assist numbers took a nice bump. The Pacers won 45 games in Teague’s lone season, capturing the 7th seed before being swept by the Cavs in the first round.
In the offseason Jeff Teague ended up making the surprise move by going to the now stacked Minnesota Timberwolves. Playing along with Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl Anthony Towns, we can expect Teague’s assist numbers to jump up as his scoring takes on a background role. Minnesota is going to be one special squad to watch this season.
The heart and soul of their defence, the Junkyard Dog, felt betrayed when the Hawks chose to pay Millsap instead of DeMarre Carroll, he decided to go and play in the true North. Toronto had rough times ahead for DeMarre, he injured his right knee and only played 26 games in the 2015-2016 season.
His return for the following season saw the Raptors clinch the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, where they defeated the Bucks in 6 games, advancing to the Conference Semi-finals, where they were once again, swept by the Cavaliers, a scenario that DeMarre is far too used to. He did not produce much in the playoffs, struggling shooting 55% from the line, and only 31% from behind the arc.
Acquired by the Brooklyn Nets in the offseason, it will be interesting to see if Carroll will reblossom as a defensive stopper for the new look Nets and provide them the defense that they desperately need.
The sharpshooting Kyle Korver, stayed in Atlanta for the next one and a half seasons being a quality role player acting as a starter, while providing one of the most jaw dropping highlights that in some Hawks fans’ eyes, eclipses anything done by The Human Highlight Reel.
After that season, the Hawks somehow realized that Kyle Korver’s dunking prowess was too great for the South to handle, so they sent him to the Cavaliers, where he shot the ball extremely well shooting almost 49% from behind the arc and putting up 10 PPG coming off the bench.
When the playoffs came, Korver’s role was lessened and so was his accuracy, the Cavs eventually lost to the Warriors in the finals. The Cavs have loaded their roster with players like Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder, oh and Dwyane Wade, so there are a lot of younger, more athletic guys ahead of him in the rotation, Kyle will stay have a role as one of the best shooters in the league off the bench, so he will always have a home in the NBA.
The “Center” of their team as well as their actual center, Al Horford departed after the 2015-2016 season to go to the Boston Celtics and go on a tear under Brad Stevens. His scoring and shooting took a dip, while his assist number shot up. The Celtics lacking a true point guard had to rely on Horford to move the ball and sometimes run the passing game out of the high post.
With the Celtics capturing the 1st seed in the East, Horford entered the playoffs advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Celtics losing in 5 to the Cavaliers. Horford shot the ball surprisingly well putting up 15 PPG.
Horford is back with a now star studded Celtics adding Hayward and trading for Irving in the offseason, yet the Celtics have not solved their biggest problem, lack of rebounders. Horford barely averaged 7 a game last season, with Aron Baynes backing him up, and Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder departed, will the Celtics manage to clean the glass?
Now we come to the most recently departed, well departed from Atlanta. Paul Millsap left the Hawks in free agency to join the up and coming Denver Nuggets. After a long and suffering campaign in 2016-17, Millsap saw the writing on the wall. Dennis Schroder was making strides as the head PG, Tim Hardaway JR emerging as a scorer, Paul Millsap saw that all of his former teammates were gone and decided he deserved better.
He was the number one scoring option in Atlanta and took secondary duties when it came to rebounding as Dwight Howard ate up boards like me scarfing down pasta. However I am worried about Paul out in Denver, the frontcourt is a log jam almost as bad as Millsap experienced in Utah (Millsap, Favors, Jefferson, and Kanter all fighting for minutes), now he will more than likely start and have young talented players like Trey Lyles back him up, but the former alpha dog, Kenneth Faried is still around. The Mannimal is not ready to give up his starting role to the newcomer, so the potential drama may be one of the bigger stories in this NBA season.
Paul Millsap is a versatile player, he can do it all, shoot, pass, rebound and defend. Too quick for most power forwards, and too strong for small forwards to defend. Pairing him with Nikola Jokic being the basketball equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, running the offense out of the high post. Gary Harris and Murray spreading the floor let’s Millsap have the paint almost all to himself.
All good things must come to an end. Seeing a team breakup and move on over the years is like seeing the Beatles breakup. Paul Millsap like Paul McCartney, having another successful career on his own with other members.
Jeff Teague as George Harrison, who did have a few good years after leaving but did not do much after that. Al Horford most being like John Lennon, having a solid few seasons after leaving the band, and will probably suffer a severe injury sooner than later. Kyle Korver being Ringo Starr, not that great or memorable but went on to another team/band, and despite being relatively out of the spotlight, contributed solidly to his craft. Now you may say, “Nate, there were only 4 Beatles and you are doing this article on the Hawks starting 5.” To which I would reply, “Shut up, sit down, and be ready to be educated.” DeMarre Carroll is Pete Best, the often forgotten, “Fifth Beatle” who was with the Beatles before they came to America and was the first to leave the group. DeMarre often gets forgotten in the Hawk History, he played a significant role but was never good enough to be part of the “Fab Four”