The Hawks had been exploring the possibility of trading their All-Star forward, as had been widely publicized, and although reports had suggested they had since wavered on that prospect, there had been no declarative statement to suggest they had definitely changed course.
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That statement arrived on Monday when Atlanta’s head coach and president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer spoke to the media and affirmed that Millsap would be seeing out the rest of the season — and therefore the remainder of his contract — as a Hawk.
As it was reported by Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Budenholzer shared the franchise’s intentions in regards to Millsap with no uncertain terms:
He’s not going anywhere,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who also serves as president of basketball operations, to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “You can write that.”
Millsap, who had already voiced his desire and belief that he’d remain in Atlanta, also reacted to that news on Monday.
“Bud has been a man of his word,” Millsap said. “He has always shot it straight with me, always been honest with me. I take his word for what it is. It’s refreshing to know I’m not going anywhere and I’ll be on this team until the end of the year.
Now, I’ve got to make it work. Stick to basketball and try to get wins.”
If any further confirmation was needed to suggest that Millsap would remain in Atlanta, that arrived on Tuesday when the Toronto Raptors traded for Serge Ibaka.
Having been most frequently linked with an interest in acquiring Millsap, Toronto’s decision to move on and acquire a different power forward seems significant in this context.
The questions surrounding the Hawks at the trade deadline have therefore taken an unexpected shift.
If what’s best for the franchise has been decided to be retaining their star on an expiring contract, it would seem the hope is to make one last run. If that’s the case, can we now expect the Hawks to flip the script and pursue upgrades of their own on the trade market?
When Kyle Korver was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers this would have appeared to be an improbable timeline for the team to head towards, but with their moves since Atlanta has firmly planted one foot in the present and the other in the future.
Their current team led by Millsap, Dwight Howard and Dennis Schröder is certainly no pushover, but the Hawks are still lacking in certain areas.
Point guard depth has been notoriously thin throughout the season, and considering the Hawks have already experimented with veteran Gary Neal on a 10-day contract, a more experienced complement to Schröder and Malcolm Delaney could still remain on the agenda.
To date, the Hawks have yet to feel the full force of Korver’s departure as Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to ride one of the best stretches of his NBA career and Mike Dunleavy Jr. has proven perfectly serviceable.
Still, there could be little debate that Atlanta could use some more proven wing depth.
Although they’ve been able to lean on rookies such as Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry at different points throughout the season to date, a more experienced player would provide some welcome insurance behind the likes of Kent Bazemore and Hardaway.
The most important detail for the Hawks in any potential deal would be to avoid giving up any significant future assets, as they may be forced to build their future around those if Millsap signs elsewhere as a free agent this summer.
The balance of knowing what to give up that currently helps your team, and what the worth of any incoming addition would be in the bigger picture for the franchise, means that a deal won’t come easily.
But this is the route the Hawks have chosen, and if they’re happy to keep Millsap rather than adding pieces that may help further their road back to contention in the longer term, they’d be best served to at least explore making the most of the remaining few months they have with him.