The Atlanta Hawks were one of the great stories of the 2020-21 season, bursting into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The young squad advanced to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
But this season has been a disappointment, as Atlanta has stumbled to a record of 17-22. The Hawks didn't make significant changes over the offseason, though they did re-sign John Collins and extend Kevin Huerter, hoping the team would grow together.
On Tuesday, Hawks president of basketball operations Travis Schlenk vented his frustration on 92.9 The Game's The Morning Show w/ John & Hugh.
"Every team we play goes out and gets 130 [points]. The common denominator in that is us," Schlenk said. "I have to accept that responsibility that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to bring everybody back. That's on me. We have a few weeks before the trade deadline. That's what I have to figure out."
The Hawks sound like a franchise open for business before the February 10 deadline, and Schlenk is clearly concerned about his team's ability to defend.
On Friday, Marc Stein noted, "Keep an eye on Atlanta as an emerging suitor for [Philadelphia 76ers'] Ben Simmons." So add the Hawks to the list of teams that might end the Simmons stalemate.
The Hawks would need to send out at least $26.3 million in outgoing contracts to match Simmons' $33 million salary, regardless of whatever Simmons is giving up while not playing for the Sixers. Atlanta can get most of the way there with either John Collins ($23 million) or Danilo Gallinari ($20.5 million). Collins is in the first of a five-year, $125 million deal (player option on the final season) and is “increasingly frustrated” with his role in Atlanta, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Gallinari's $21.5 million for 2022-23 is only $5 million guaranteed.
Atlanta can also offer multiple first-round picks (if needed) and prospects like Cam Reddish, De'Andre Hunter and/or Onyeka Okongwu. Would the Sixers view Collins as a forward who can play alongside All-Star center Joel Embiid? Or would Philadelphia prefer the financial flexibility in Gallinari's contract and as many of the Hawks' youthful considerations as possible? Or would the Hawks need a third team willing to offer something substantial to the 76ers for a bounty from Atlanta?