Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It Is Time for the Atlanta Hawks to Rebuild...Again

The new Hawks Owner has his new GM (AJC).
The keyword in the city of Atlanta these past few years has been rebuild. The rebuilding of Interstate 85 after a fire burned down a important bridge north of the city. The new homes of the Falcons and Braves, with one in a spaceship like stadium and the other a new Metroplex-like setting in Cobb County.

The word rebuild has also been thrown around in terms of the Atlanta Braves' farm system and the idea of competing come 2018 after 3 straight losing seasons. However, the one team in Atlanta that has the hardest challenge of reaching the top of their league is the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks have always been the other team in Atlanta. The Braves ran rampant with 14 straight division titles and Atlanta's only world championship. The Falcons electrified audiences with the stellar play of Michael Vick and are coming off a Super Bowl appearance. And even Atlanta United FC of the MLS has captured the heart of the city with their exciting play in their first season.

This, along with the fact that the Hawks are in an extremely top heavy league, have given them a badge of mediocrity. A large amount of fans in Georgia have chosen teams like the Warriors, Cavaliers, Lakers, and Celtics over their local team.

After a missed opportunity with the record setting 2014-2015 season where the Hawks had 60 wins and their first conference finals appearance, they have fallen off drastically. With all five starters that collectively won January player of the month for that year gone.

For most of the 2016-2017 season, I, like many of the Hawks fans, felt that the franchise had absolutely no direction. But at the end of the season, new owner Tony Ressler decided enough was enough by firing Wes Wilcox and relieving coach Mike Budenholzer's presidential status of roster moves.

The new guy in town is former Warriors executive Travis Schlenk, and he has already sent the message that the Hawks will be starting over. He showed the change in ddirection of the Atlanta organization by not offering All-Star forward Paul Millsap and extension.

He also refused to match the New York Knicks' offer to Tim Hardaway Jr., trade Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets, and let Thabo Sefolosha sign with the Utah Jazz. The message is clear, the rebuild is on and Schlenk is gonna build this team from the ground up.

In what was almost 2 years overdue, management has finally hired the staff needed to take the necessary steps to build an NBA Finals caliber team. Ressler has now made it known that the 10 straight playoff appearances no longer mean anything to the franchise. They can now set their standards much higher and it comes at the right time.

As announced by the Hawks and the City of Atlanta to the media, a $193 million expansion is coming to Philips Arena to make it one of the premier arenas in the NBA. Similar to the Braves' plan to field a contender for the opening of SunTrust Park, the Hawks are looking to match their aesthetically pleasing arena with a team that has the potential to bring that one missing piece to the Hawks organization.

Schlenk is off to a seemingly hot spark with picking Josh Collins as the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The rookie has made waves in the Summer League with spectacular dunks and amazing athleticism. Second round pick Tyler Dorsey brings amazing perimeter shooting to the team according to Jeff Siegel of Peachtree Hoops although he will need to upgrade his defensive and passing skills over the first few years.

Second round pick, center Alpha Kaba, will be expected to improve on his skills overseas, hopefully becoming ready for the NBA in the future. Schlenk also made waves by acquiring young center Diamond Stone, a first round pick, and Jamal Crawford, who would eventually be waived, in a three way trade.

Moves like this show that after years of uncertainty, the Hawks are in it for the long haul instead of seemingly winging it year by year. Schlenk is going to have to make the difficult choices in order to build a winner in a city that has been craving one since 1995.

It will be interesting to see the direction the Hawks will head in over the next few years, but what is certain is that this may be do or die for the franchise. The Hawks have failed to obtaing the status of winners since their move to Atlanta in 1966. How many more rebuilds will it take for them to finally reach an NBA Finals and step out of the shadows as that "other team" in Atlanta? Only time will tell.

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