According to conflicting reports, the status of Hawks General Manager Wes Wilcox appears to be up in the air. According to Jeff Goodman and Marc Spears of ESPN, there are reports that Atlanta Hawks may be moving on from Wilcox for the position of general manager. This decision comes just days after the teams season was ended by division rivals Washington Wizards. The Hawks would lose in six games and Wilcox may be the team’s first casualty heading into the off-season. Key in the shaping of this Hawks team, Wilcox has made bold moves in an effort to keep Atlanta in the mix. The trading away of point guard Jeff Teague was considered strange, and the addition of lackluster center Dwight Howard raised eyebrows. So with the Hawks potentially moving on from Wilcox, the obvious question is what next, for a team in flux.
Atlanta Hawks part ways with GM Wes Wilcox after two seasons, sources told ESPN. Story: https://t.co/bwmkzIqMIk
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 3, 2017
Hawks Letting Go of General Manager Wes Wilcox?
It appears that the Atlanta Hawks may not be outright firing general manager Wes Wilcox afterall. In a statement posted on the Atlanta Hawks official NBA website, the team is weighing all of their options going forward.
“Hawks leadership is undergoing a period of evaluation and looking at how basketball operations works best. There are no changes to report at this time and any reports indicating otherwise are inaccurate.”
This coming off-season will be confusing and unpredictable for Hawks fans. All-Star forward Paul Millsap is expected to opt-out of his contract. The team only has seven players under contract heading into next season. This team is at risk of going into the next campaign, with Howard as it’s best player, a situation no team wants to be in. Plus there is one glaring hole, the team needs to find a new general manager. Despite the free agency worries, the potential general manager vacancy could be the teams biggest problem.
The Paul Millsap Problem
The Hawks best player this past season was Millsap. The four-time NBA All-Star has a player option in his contract, something he is not expected to trigger. Providing scoring, rebounding and veteran leadership, Millsap is a key player. If the Hawks let him walk, it would be a huge loss for the organisation. The 32 year old will test his value for good reason. The Hawks appear to have hit a wall, so the timing couldn’t be better. This would leave Howard as the teams best player. The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets both tried and failed to build around Howard, so the Hawks would be wise to avoid that option if possible.
Atlanta has the money to keep Millsap, so if the All-Star decides to stay the team has room. However, the firing of Wilcox means the chances of that happening are slim. This would be a major setback for all involved in Atlanta. Millsap is the difference between this team making and missing the playoffs, he’s that valuable. So who ever is in charge this off-season, needs to make him the No.1 priority. To move on from Wilcox and your teams best player, could be devastating to Atlanta’s playoff chances next season.
Dennis Schroder had a Great First Year as Starter
One key aspect of any team is it’s point guard. This past season, first year starter Dennis Schroder had a great year. Averaging 17.9 points and 6.3 assists whilst playing 31.5 minutes, the German made significant strides this campaign. A candidate for Most Improved Player, Schroder took Teague’s place in the Hawks starting rotation. Wilcox traded Teague for a pick that turned into rookie Taurean Prince. The Hawks believed Schroder was ready and got what they could for Teague.
Confident he was their guy, the Hawks signed Schroder to a four-year, $70 million deal in late October. Starting 78 games this season, the promising guard has gone from bench warmer to primary ball handler in just one season. If things turn bad, at least the Hawks can rely on a young point guard, who can lead the team going forward.
Who Could be the Next General Manager?
If one general manager could take this Hawks team to the next level, it’s Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. After building the Cavaliers championship winning team, Griffin is a sought after asset. Out of contract after this season, Griffin would be an ideal general manager for the Hawks to pursue. Signing Griffin would not only make Atlanta better, it would make a significant dent in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are a conference rival, so this could be the first step to making the gap between the two teams that much smaller. However, Griffin will not be an easy man to persuade.
The Cavaliers are arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference. As the No.2 seed in this years NBA Playoffs, Griffin currently runs a great team. This could lead to Griffin feeling like the position of Hawks general manager is a step down from his current position. Now, money, job security and status are all important in the world of being a general manager, but Griffin has one player a general manager couldn’t turn their back on. LeBron James is the NBA’s best, most impactful player and has been for a while. Griffin has the games best player, something the Hawks simply can’t offer.
A lot will happen this off-season in Atlanta. From free agency, to finding new leaders as well as a new general manager. There may be gaps all over this franchise, but that just makes the situation that bit more intriguing.