After a strange Thursday, the roster for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks is becoming ever-more impressive: last year’s No. 2 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen), two (Joel Embiid) and one (Frank Kaminsky) of last year’s top selections, both of whom have missed significant time this season. The other (Gerald Green) has been playing NBA ball in China.
The addition of rookie center Derrick Favors from Utah was significant enough, when it was announced that first-round pick Trae Young had been traded to Oklahoma City for second-rounders, but Favors won’t be the lone new face Atlanta will have at some point soon, as Friday afternoon saw the announcement that, in addition to Young, the team had agreed to terms with veteran wing Thabo Sefolosha on a one-year, $4.5 million deal:
Back on Tuesday, the Hawks had cut seven players — all undrafted players or trade deadline castoffs — from its team roster, only to re-sign three of them on Thursday: guard Terry Rozier and forwards Evan Turner and Justin Anderson. There had been a report Thursday morning that, having already terminated the contract of Enes Kanter, the team had agreed to trade starting center Dwight Howard, however that bit of news did not come to fruition.
“The timing wasn’t good, we didn’t like the timing,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said of the team’s massive roster purge, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get Thabo back.”
Sefolosha, the league’s leader in defense for three of the past four seasons, is coming off a stellar campaign with the Utah Jazz. But he can’t start until July 1, so he will not play a meaningful minutes while his new team (or with others, for a league-imposed 48-hour window) considers him suitable for the playoffs.
“Thabo is a winner,” Schlenk said. “He’s always been a winner, so he can help us. We got a great veteran on our team. We want to put some guys in situations where they feel like they can win.”
The Hawks can rest their hat on their ability to keep their starters together, even with a less-than-year-old roster. With Kaminsky, Markkanen, Embiid and Young already in tow, Atlanta could presumably embrace a path similar to the one they took last year, which led to a 4½-game divisional lead with five games remaining, then stumble in their playoff push and miss the postseason entirely.
Or it could use the second-half push as a chance to further add to a core that, in Markkanen and Embiid, could offer a strong foundation for years to come.