What Does the Kyle Korver Trade Mean for the Hawks Going Forward?

Graham Chapple —  January 7, 2017

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

It is done. The Atlanta Hawks announced today that swingman Kyle Korver is headed to Cleveland in a three player deal with the Cavaliers. The Hawks receive a future first round pick (2019, protected 1-10), forward Mike Dunleavy and guard Mo Williams.

Korver spent five seasons with the Hawks and averaged 10.7 points per game on 46% shooting from the field and 44.6% from three-point range. In his time with the Hawks, Korver set a then NBA record for most consecutive games with at least one three-pointer made with 127. Korver also made one All-Star appearance in his time with the Hawks in 2014.

Very quickly on the return for Korver: once fans get over the initial shock they will see that this is actually a decent deal for the Hawks. Korver was getting up there in age, was heading for free agency this summer (although I do believe he would’ve re-signed with the Hawks) and may have been heading for a payday that the Hawks might not have necessarily wanted to commit to (since Korver is 36 in March, even a two year deal would take him to 38).

In terms of what is heading to Atlanta with regards players, Mo Williams will not feature in the Hawks’ plans, Coach Bud made that clear today:

“Between injuries and the end of his career, I wouldn’t expect Mo do be a part of us going forward.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

It was rumoured the Hawks tried, but evidently failed, to find a third team to take Mike Dunleavy but Coach Bud has said that Dunleavy will get some burn with the Hawks:

“We will bring him in. I think he’s got the type of game and a skill set that I think he could be very good playing for us. We’ll just have to see how he is, integrate him, continue to build. He’s a player who we’ve liked, and personal I’ve liked, for a long time. We’ll see how he fits into our mix.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

I expect Dunleavy to be eventually moved, but I also wouldn’t be surprised either if Bud decided to keep him around. He’s a bit of a downgrade on Korver as a shooter, but still a very serviceable player. We’ll touch on that in just a sec.

What does this trade mean for the Hawks short-term?

Coach Bud has spoken about this already, confirming to Chris Vivlamore of the AJC what a lot of people already assumed would be a by-product of this trade: more minutes for Tim Hardaway Jr. and more minutes for the rookies, Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry. From Chris Vivlamore of the AJC:

With the departure of Korver, Budenholzer said he expects a bigger role for Tim Hardaway Jr. and more minutes for rookies Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.

No real surprises here. Hardaway’s minutes had already increased from last season anyways (averaging 22 minutes per game this season compared to 17 minutes per game last season) but it seems like he’ll be receiving a few additional minutes. The big win here is for the rookies, who normally wouldn’t see game time unless there was an injury to one of the other wings in the rotation. For the immediate future it will be Taurean Prince who will see more game time as DeAndre Bembry is not with the team to Dallas due to personal reasons. Very unfortunate personal reasons…

The Hawks, however, do lose a veteran voice in the locker room and a tutor for the younger players in the locker room, not to mention their best perimeter shooter.

Of course, it also means that the Korver Kounter is no more…

If you’re a fan of or have been wanting Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry to play some more minutes, this move certainly open up avenues in that regard. That’s the big takeaway for the immediate future.

What does this trade mean for the Hawks in the near future?

(When I say near future, I’m talking about the rest of this season.)

Some fans, writers and pundits alike are of the belief that Korver is simply the first domino to fall, expecting soon to be free agents Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha — and possibly even restricted free agent Tim Hardaway Jr. — to be traded sometime in the near future. But according to Coach Bud, you should hold your horses on the assumption that the Hawks are going to make more moves. Speaking on the direction of the franchise:

“My answer to that is I don’t think there should be any assumptions made about anything. Organizationally, we have to make hard decisions. I think it’s important that each one of them puts us in the best situation, the best place, to be a great organization. In this case, we made a trade that wasn’t easy. It was a hard decision. This is a good team that we have. This is a team that has shown an ability to compete at a high level. Keeping it together is something … I just wouldn’t make any assumptions going forward.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

This is why I wouldn’t be surprised the Hawks decided to keep Dunleavy. It is worth noting that Dunleavy has shot 39% and 40% from behind the arc in recent seasons and still has a season to run on his deal after this one, although it isn’t fully guaranteed. If he could replicate similar form for the Hawks, they aren’t that much worse off without Kyle Korver. They’re worse off without Korver, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not “now we’re not going to make the playoffs” worse. After all, Korver shot just under 40% from behind the arc last season and is shooting just under 41% from three-point this season.

This move won’t derail the Hawks’ season but what would derail their season would be any Paul Millsap trade, which this move would seem to suggest is possible in the near future. But it all depends what they want to do with Paul Millsap.

Millsap (as his is right) is going to opt out of his deal at the end of this season and is going to seek a four/five year max deal, his last big deal and one that he’s certainly entitled to. Paul has said that his heart is in Atlanta (an obvious hint that he would perhaps like to re-sign with the Hawks) but at the end of the day both sides have to want the same thing. Do the Hawks want to pay Paul Millsap the max until he’s 38? That’s the question the Hawks front office need to ask themselves. If they don’t then they need to trade him, and that hurts me to say but it’s the truth. They just lost Al Horford for nothing and if they didn’t want to pay Horford the extreme max until he was 35, why is it any different here with Millsap?

If this is the beginning of a teardown in Atlanta, and Millsap, Sefolosha and THJ for that matter are traded, you can expect the Hawks to drop out of the playoff race and join the lottery race, ‘Fall for Ball’ if you will (Lonzo Ball, a highly rated product out of UCLA. Think of that as 2017’s ‘Low Seed for Embiid’). And the Hawks can drop in a hurry if they want to, the Orlando Magic, who are 12th in the Eastern Conference are just five games behind the Hawks. They could easily launch themselves into the top 10 of this draft, but it all comes back to what they want to do with Millsap.

Back to Korver, the Korver trade doesn’t dictate what the Hawks will/won’t do this season, but it may be the true indicator of what is possibly to come.

What does this trade mean for the Hawks long term?

Again, this trade isn’t the one that defines the Hawks’ long term future. If the Hawks are pleased with Dunleavy, he could ultimately just be part of a move that downgraded slightly in order to receive a first round pick, which is the smart business decision and that might be the end of it. Is that the likely case? Probably not.

Long term (this summer and beyond), this particular trade doesn’t change a whole lot for the Hawks and whether they’re heading for a rebuild: they’re just down a shooter. It’s any possible Paul Millsap deal, that’s the trade that’ll reveal what direction the Hawks are heading in and this Korver deal, while it doesn’t necessarily mean that Millsap is also being traded, is the clearest indication that the Hawks may be looking to head in a new direction.

With Cleveland’s 2019 first round pick heading now to Atlanta, the Hawks add another pick to their ever growing collection. Atlanta’s current draft pick situation per Real GM:

Of course the Hawks — bar that 2nd round pick heading to San Antonio this season — still own the rights to their own picks too. It’ll be interesting to see what the Hawks do with these. Do they package them to perhaps move up in a draft? Do they spend some to bring in an established player from another team? Or will just they keep them all?

We can’t say for sure where the Hawks are heading in but it sure seems like their direction just became a whole lot clearer. All will be revealed in due course…

Graham Chapple