(Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)
It was normal day here in Ireland yesterday and I’m just scrolling through Twitter on a beautiful Irish evening — on a day where I should’ve been absorbing all The Finals media buzz — when suddenly I see the Hawks Twitter-sphere explode after Sham Charania of Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical tweeted this.
Atlanta and Philadelphia are discussing a deal centered on a Jeff Teague and Nerlens Noel package, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 2, 2016
Quite the Tweet, wouldn’t you say? Out of the blue too. Even neutral fans were taken aback with this development.
Let’s give some brief context as to why this has arose:
Jeff Teague’s future in Atlanta has been to subject of much speculation for most of this season. A few off the court happenings such as Teague selling his Atlanta penthouse, deleting all Hawks related posts from his Instagram account earlier in the season, and posting a peace-out sign after the Hawks’ season ended have all led quite a few Hawks fans to believe that the writing is on the wall for Teague in Atlanta and that he will be traded. As for on the court reasons as to why Teague could be on the way out, some believe that backup point guard Dennis Schröder is finally ready to take the reigns from Jeff Teague and with the two guards heading into free agency together — Teague as an unrestricted free agent meaning he can walk of his own accord, Dennis as a restricted free agent meaning the Hawks have the right to match any offer sheer he signs — the Hawks are clearly faced with a choice.
For the Sixers, a healthy Joel Embiid is expected back next season and Dario Sarić is also expected to join the team, having spent the last two seasons since he was drafted by the Sixers in Europe. Embiid will probably slide straight into the starting lineup at center, and the addition of Sarić would mean another forward is added to the many that already exist in Philly — with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor already among the center/forward ranks. Both are centers by trade — with Noel adapting to a power forward role — but the two have struggled to play well together. With the addition of Embiid and Sarić — not to mention either one of Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons (who are both forwards) by way of the number one overall pick — it would appear as though Philly needs to unload a big or two. They have been in need of a quality starting point guard, and the hope would appear to be flipping one of their extra bigs for a point guard, and that’s how these particular trade discussions have developed.
Before we head any further let’s address a few things. As Shams noted, “an agreement isn’t imminent”, so nothing is final here. What I’m going to discuss is purely hypothetical, since this trade has not actually happened as of this moment.
Firstly, let’s kind of nail down the basic framework of this trade, because this will not be a straight up swap deal, as Shams also noted “a trade centered around Jeff Teague and Nerlens Noel”. Centered. Jeff Teague is a good point guard and all, but Noel has much higher upside — as a big man having just turned 22 this year — and, as such, the Hawks are going to have to add a little more to make this deal happen.
You’d imagine a first round pick would be involved, and the good news for the Hawks is they own a future first round pick that isn’t their own: the 2018 (lottery protected) first rounder from the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired in Adreian Payne trade. So, they have that at their disposal, in addition to owning their own draft picks. They also have a slew of incoming second round draft picks. They have a second round pick coming from Washington this year, two more second round picks in 2017 via Miami and Brooklyn, and another in 2019 from Washington.
Something like Jeff Teague, Tim Hardaway Jr., and that future Minnesota pick for Nerlens Noel and Nik Stauskas would make a lot of sense to me. Robert Covington’s name has also been mentioned among NBA circles. Something like that.
Again, that’s nothing official, just purely hypothetical. No deal has taken place as of yet, and the deal should not considered as done.
But let’s just say — just an excuse to talk about it, because it’s fun — that it does happen. What would this trade mean for the Hawks?
Dennis Schröder fanboys rejoice/point guard reigns handed to Dennis Schröder
With Jeff Teague outgoing, the Hawks officially commit to Dennis Schröder as their point guard of the future, and he’ll take up the job he’s wanted for a while now: the starting point guard role. He’d be handed the keys to the point guard role, free to run the team as he has always wanted to.
It would also mean my — and other Hawks writers/fans alike — Twitter timeline would be flooded with the Dennis Schröder fanboys/Jeff Teague haters coming out in full force to proclaim to everyone that they were always right about him and blah, blah blah… The gloating would be endless…
Hawks would be in need of a backup point guard
Unless Isaiah Canaan — or another mysterious point guard by way of a three team trade — is included in any potential Teague-Noel deal, then the Hawks would be in need of a backup point guard. Kirk Hinrich is a free agent, and the Hawks no longer have Shelvin Mack available to them, having traded him to Utah back in February. Mack would’ve been great to have in reserve if this deal — or any Teague/Schröder deal — took place (shout out to Brad Rowland who has hopped on this since day one of that trade) but, alas, it was not to be… But because they did trade Mack, the Hawks would need to find a backup point guard, either in free agency or the draft.
In a guard dominant league, backup point guards aren’t too hard to come by. They could choose to bring back Kirk Hinrich if they wanted to, but there’s also good backup talent available this summer, such as Jeremy Lin, Aaron Brooks, Raymond Felton, Leandro Barbosa, Ty Lawson, Jerryd Bayless, Norris Cole, Randy Foye, Brandon Jennings, Ish Smith, and Ramon Sessions.
Seriously, there’s TONS of guys available, so I really don’t feel as though this would be a difficult problem to overcome.
The ultimate Al Horford insurance
As every Hawks fan and their dog knows, Al Horford is a free agent this summer. He has said, on multiple occasions, that he loves Atlanta and that he wants to remain with the Hawks. I, personally, think it’s very unlikely he leaves this summer, but that’s not to say that contract negotiations between his party and the Hawks couldn’t go pear shaped.
If he did decide to leave Atlanta, Noel would provide the ultimate center insurance the Hawks would need if Horford did walk.
I do not think that the goal of this trade would be to replace Horford, in anticipation of an exit, but rather back him up. Again, I do not think the writing would be on the wall for Horford in Atlanta if this trade was made official.
While trading Teague for a young big it would be very comparable to when the Blazers traded Nic Batum before the 2015 draft for a young big in Noah Vonleh — just before LaMarcus Aldridge became a free agent — I think the free agent stars in question are in different boats. I think Aldridge always gave off uncertain vibes, whereas Horford has clearly stated his desire to remain in Atlanta.
In short: acquiring Noel would NOT automatically equate to Al Horford leaving Atlanta.
Noel slotting into backup role would seem to indicate end of the road for Splitter in ATL
While Noel’s arrival, at least I do not think, wouldn’t indicate Horford’s exit, I would say it almost certainly guarantees that Tiago Splitter exit from Atlanta, as Noel would claim the role of back up big.
Splitter can be classified as used goods at this stage of his career. He’s 31 years old, has been playing professionally since 1999, has never played averaged than 24 minutes per game in an NBA season — despite featuring as a starter for the Spurs on more than 150 occasions — and has begun to break down, playing just 157 regular season games in the last three season (out of a possible 246 games), including just 36 games last season in Atlanta.
And then you add the fact that he’s due to make $8.5 million next year… As the Rasheed Wallace trade did to the Pistons in 2004, that just puts you over over the top. $8.5 million to sit on the bench for at least 30 games, not even playing over 20 minutes per game when he does play, and he’s never been a great rebounder in the NBA.
The addition of Noel would give the Hawks an actual rebounding force off of the bench, a mobile body, and an athletic big that can run the floor very well — all things that Splitter is just unable to do anymore. Noel gives you a cheaper option (for a year at least, before becoming a restricted free agent in 2017) and can do all the things Splitter can’t do. The only thing Splitter has going for him over Noel is his passing ability, but even in his short stint on the court last season for the Hawks this was rarely seen — at least not to the extent we saw it in San Antonio.
However, moving Splitter wouldn’t be easy, and would likely require the Hawks to send an assets/draft picks in order to convince a team to absorb Splitter’s contract and his broken body.
Teague’s exit should open up additional cap space
Jeff Teague is scheduled to make $8 million next season in the final year of his current deal. Noel is due to make $4.3 million next season, giving the Hawks — depending on the other pieces moving in any Teague trade — a little more cap space to operate with. They will be able to retain Al Horford no matter what his financial demands are, but the extra cap space may invite the Hawks to hand out the overpay that Kent Bazemore will receive from other teams this summer. If the Hawks really wanted to keep Bazemore — having seen this song and dance already with DeMarre Carroll just last year — then this trade would help them to do that.
Is it wise, if you’re Atlanta, to overpay Bazemore? No, not really, but they’d have the additional cap space to do so if they so chose. That’s another topic for another day…
It does seem as though there is a genuine interest in both sides to get this deal done, so it’ll be interesting to see how it develops and if it goes through. Watch this space…