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Will the Thunder poach the Atlanta Hawks firesale?

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Paul Milsap and Dwight Howard are available.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Denver Nuggets
Our ticket back to relevance?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s early January, and teams are beginning to make serious moves with their future. There’s just over a month before the trade deadline, and wins and losses are stacking up. As such, the Atlanta Hawks were the first team this year to make their move. With an unimpressive record of 19-15, the Hawks can no longer count themselves among the Eastern Conference elite. Budenholzer’s surprise appearance as a one seed in 2015 appears to have been short-term success. Kyle Korver, two seasons removed from his only All-Star game, has been seemingly dumped to the Cavaliers. Former Hawk forward DeMarre Carroll said that he believed the Hawks were “going in a different direction”. Paul Milsap now appears to be on the chopping block as well, with Boston fielding serious offers.

Indeed, the Hawks appear to be getting little more than a late first rounder for their efforts. Mo Williams will also be going to the Hawks as an expiring contract. In order for the deal to work, Mike Dunleavy is included. But Dunleavy’s two year salary means that the deal is pending a third team willing to take that salary on.

Does this help the Cavs?

Unquestionably. As any old basketball player will tell you, “your shot will never leave you”. Legendary shooters are notorious for playing well past their primes. Korver fits into this category. Over the course of his career, Korver has led the NBA in three point percentage thrice. And Korver’s range is unmistakably deep. This generation of Hawks suffered from a lack of shot creators, leaving Korver guarded extremely well on the perimeter. But the Cavaliers have LeBron, Kyrie, and Love. All of those guys will clear out so much space for Korver, it’s not even funny.

Can the Thunder benefit from this move?

We have three main paths to choose. I’ll evaluate each one...

Cash in on Mike Dunleavy

I know, it really sounds lame to take the Cavaliers’ leftovers. Dunleavy doesn’t exactly impress on the stat sheet, and he isn’t nearly as consistent of a shooter as Korver was. But Dunleavy has a reputation for being a hustler on the court, a manipulative defender, and a utilitarian of all aspects of the game. Dunleavy is that rare type who can slot into any position from power forward on down to shooting guard. Point guard is probably past Dunleavy as this point. But OKC needs offensive playmaking so badly that I think Dunleavy is worth a shot. I’d rather have Dunleavy start my possession than anyone on OKC’s bench, and that’s pretty lame.

Getting Dunleavy would mean OKC would need to give up their Ersan Ilyasova trade exception or an expiring contract. Morrow, Collison, and Roberson are the only expiring contracts on the books.

Buy in on Paul Milsap

It’s hard to see Presti making a big-time move for an All-Star caliber player over 30 years old. The biggest moves for an over 30 player I can remember Presti making are the moves for Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher, and Kendrick Perkins. Nevertheless, with OKC needing to win now or go home, I wouldn’t put it past Presti to make the plunge.

No question, Paul Milsap would be a huge acquisition for OKC. With 10 years of NBA experience and three All-Star appearances, Milsap is a proven success. Milsap has been to the All-Star game thrice, and to the Conference Finals twice. So the credentials and experience are there.

The skill is present for Milsap as well. 3.7 assists and 2.2 turnovers proves that Milsap can handle the ball and make good decisions. That capability is beyond any current Thunder big man. Milsap’s 32.5% clip from three does not impress. But considering that Milsap can play center, it makes him a better option from that range than Kanter. Lastly, Milsap’s averages of two steals and one block, along with his appearance on last year’s NBA All-Defensive Team, prove how valuable he could be to OKC.

Age and injuries are certainly legitimate concerns. Milsap is putting in his lowest PER since the 2009-10 season this year. But even if Milsap continues to decline, he will still be at a starter’s level for at least three more years. Milsap’s health has also been remarkable, as he has only missed more than 9 games once in his career. Minor injuries will likely sideline Milsap from time to time.

OKC’s offer could be something like Kanter-Morrow, or Oladipo-Abrines-Sabonis-Morrow.

Go for another Hawk asset (Dwight Howard)

As a Thabo fan from back in the day, the possibility of him returning to OKC excites me. I’ve watched Thabo play really well for the Hawks this year and last after recovering from injury. Thabo has been given a lot of ball handling responsibility, and often works as the team’s primary defender. Plus, so far this year, Thabo is up to 2 steals a game. Thabo’s threes are bad as ever though, so I’ll put away my rose colored glasses for now.

Tiago Splitter might be a good idea, but as a $9 Million expiring contract, the Thunder just don’t have the matching expirings.

Dwight Howard was just acquired and is on a three year deal. But at 31 years old, it’s safe to say Howard is probably not a part of Atlanta’s future plans. Howard is notorious for poor free throw shooting, and Howard’s dominant post game is well behind him. But Howard provides a combination of shotblocking and rebounding that the Thunder don’t have. If there was some way the Thunder could convince Howard to back up Adams, I think it would be an ideal situation. Howard could lead the bench, and not give up a zillion points like Kanter.

Howard is just a couple of million above Milsap, so any potential package will look similar.


My gut says that the Thunder stay out of this one completely. Presti just doesn’t seem like the type to press the panic button. My metaphor for Presti is the cool guy who doesn’t look out of sorts while his ship is exploding all around him. All of these deals would mean a serious re-tooling of the team, and Presti seems to believe in this current bunch. The team will be accentuated, not rebuilt.

However, I would support any potential deal to get Kanter or Oladipo off the roster personally. They are inefficient players who make the same mind-numbing mistakes night after night. Both Kanter and Oladipo have talent, but they just can’t put it together consistently. And they likely never will, as both of them are now in their mid-20s and at their athletic peaks.

It’s time to get Westbrook some REAL help. And with Atlanta having two All-Star bigs or even a potential bench addition waiting there to be taken, I hope Presti jumps at it. The Hawks are Spurs East. What better team is going to be willing to make such a big move? In my opinion, it’s now or never. But Presti has surprised me before.