Hawks may not solve Cleveland for years to come

Nothing that Mike Budenholzer draws up may be good enough to overtake Cleveland in the near future. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Nothing that Mike Budenholzer draws up may be good enough to overtake Cleveland in the near future. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Customary in the aftermath of elimination is much somber and unsolicited advice on what the ousted team must do next to be better.

There has to be a ready fix out there, somewhere, right? If only the organization was a little smarter or a little more imaginative. If only it would listen to me.

But what if there is no fix? What if there is no option out there that will fundamentally alter the team’s place in the food chain?

Take, for instance, the Hawks.

Time for some good, old-fashioned abject hopelessness.

OK, we all know that unless they acquire a dynamic star player, one who is the end-of-game answer for when all else fails, they are likely to remain in that NBA purgatory of being just pretty good. It is a position with which they are quite familiar.

But recognizing that and doing something about it are two very different propositions.

They don’t mass produce such players. Stars of that magnitude are in shorter supply than mercy in a Jason Statham movie. In the upcoming free agent market there is maybe one real difference maker – Kevin Durant – and even he has yet to show he can lift a team to championship heights. And there has been no hint, no proffered scenario that he has him coming to Atlanta. Kidnapping apparently is out of the question.

A burly center like Detroit’s Andre Drummond could help the Hawks mix, but he’s a restricted free agent and the Pistons are committed to keeping him.

A scorer like Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan? Nice piece, but then what?

Bringing center Dwight Howard home? Maybe a good idea five years ago, if then.

We step back and wonder what the Hawks will do next with their own parts: To sign or not to sign Al Horford? How much is Kent Bazemore worth? What to do with the tandem of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder – all the more intriguing as Teague spent the last moments of the season on the bench?

But, really, what does any of that matter? All the Hawks will be doing is moving around pieces and still coming up with no combination capable of beating Cleveland.

Like the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Hawks are going nowhere until the Cavs erode. They are stuck and will remain stuck behind Cleveland unless LeBron James takes his talents to oh, say, the LoDo District (Denver) or The River District (Sacramento) or Venice Beach (Los Angeles) – somewhere far, far away from this time zone. No way the Cavs let James, who has an opt-out in his contract, leave town again.

The Cavs have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love signed through 2019. Tristan Thompson, Mr. Offensive Rebound, is signed through 2020. They have between one to two more years of complimentary pieces such as Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and J.R. Smith.

Turning 32 in December, James has a few more good years in him. The Cavs seem to have stumbled onto reliable leadership when they made the mid-season coaching change to Tyronn Lue. Unless Cleveland is beset by a key injury or some kind of internal meltdown, there may be no overcoming it for years to come.

Such bleak pessimism, such surrender before the first transaction of the 2016-17 season is not a common reaction in the aftermath of elimination. We want to believe that for every short-coming there is a remedy.

But for the Hawks, I just can’t envision anything significantly different for the near future.

Reader Comments 0

12 comments
E77
E77

Sometimes you have to tell the client something they don't want to hear. . . . good piece Jeff. The Hawks are a really good basketball team and could go toe-to-to with all but 3 (maybe 4 teams).  They are substantially better than 80% of the league.  Unfortunately, this is nothing more than the high-end of NBA purgatory, and they are completely stuck.  In the NFL or MLB, we would take our chances in the playoffs with the 6th or 7th best team every year.  Would be awesome.


Unfortunately this is not MLB.  Sad to say . . . but the Braves are in a better position going forward than the Hawks. Yes, I said that.

atlanta spirit
atlanta spirit

Nice to read a solid article on the ajc without spin.  Truth hurts but start planning for 3 years out or keep on keeping on.

Mark Cosby
Mark Cosby

Not a reason to blow up the team. Make some moves and may the chips fall where they may. You never know. Sometimes superstars get hurt; look at the Clippers. You think the Blazers would've advanced if Blake and CP3 would've been on the floor?

Reeco Banner
Reeco Banner

Here's the answer get players worried more about winning and less about how many tattoos they can get!

Viola Jackson
Viola Jackson

Hawk's you did good and next year you will even do your best yet

Tony Kirby
Tony Kirby

They can solve Cleveland. They cant solve LeBron James

Lane Tomme
Lane Tomme

Exactly. Cleveland would be a 8 seed at best if they didn't have LeBron

Philip Brown
Philip Brown

May not? Or anyone else. Let's be honest here. Never have.

Mr. G
Mr. G

Plain and simple if you don"t have a shooting guard you shoot yourself in the foot

green machine
green machine

this team isn't that far away from cleveland.  in the past two sweeps we've been close enough to win 6 of the 8 games.  this season the cavs shot the ball way over their heads.  i can live with love making a high percentage of threes, i can see frye making an ok percentage, i mean we know that jr. smith always kills us, but when james is hitting them at a high rate, shumpert is making most of his, and even richard jefferson knocks down a majority of his--than you are probably going to get beat.


if the cavs shoot that high a percentage the rest of the way--no one will beat them.  the problem i have is that we didn't do anything drastic to take them out of their comfort zones.  love was terrible inside the arc but we were content in letting him spot up and shoot a ton of wide open threes.  professional shooters can make uncontested jumpers.  i once saw elton brand make 15 straight threes in pre-game warmups in phillips a few years ago--and he's a big c/forward.  we needed to try and play love the way they defended korver.  you can't leave someone if they are that hot!!!!  i know the percentages are better than giving up a layup--but make them drive and than contest at the rim.  


gotta find a way to get a difference maker.  not sure how but you have to put together a package that includes:  teague, 1st round pick splitter/scott and other fodder to try and acquire cousins, george or derozen.  dennis can run the point--would love to keep horford/millsap/korver as well.  probably can't get a stud with that offer but a lineup like this would give the cavs some trouble:


pg:  shroder

sg:  korver or hardaway jr

sf:  millsap

pf:  horford

c:   cousins


bench:

humphries

moose

scott

hinrich

thabo

tavares


unless any of them are involved in cousins trade.