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NBA review and offseason preview: Atlanta Hawks


NBA review and offseason preview: Atlanta Hawks

The NBA playoffs are in the rear view, the draft is officially over. That means free agency takes over the league and the trade market truly takes off. Beyond our daily coverage of all things Washington Wizards, CSNwashington.com will exmaine the situation for all the other teams in the Eastern Conference. First up, the team that survived and eliminated the Wizards during the playoffs. 

Team: Atlanta Hawks

2014-15: The magical regular season resulted in the Southeast Division champs racking up 60 wins; All-Star berths for Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague; and running away with the Eastern Conference regular season title. The playoffs were a different story. Though the Hawks outlasted the Washington Wizards in six games to reach the conference finals, the labored throughout, never finding the offensive prowess that dominated during a 19-game winning streak. Injuries against the Cavaliers, including an ankle for Korver that required surgery, compounded their problems during a four-game sweep.

Offseason moves: Two draft-day trades resulted in Atlanta shipping the 15th overall pick for New York Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr. and two second-round picks from the Washington Wizards. Hardaway's play dipped last season, but his salary costs less than then first-round pick the Hawks traded away. For a team with both starting forwards entering free agency, available money might trump all in the eyes of new owners.

Key free agents: PF Paul Millsap, SF DeMarre Carroll, SG John Jenkins, PF Elton Brand, PF Pero Antic (Restricted)

[UPDATE - Just hours this post went online, news broke that Antic reportedly will play overseas in the Turkish league. Actually, the same team Jan Vesely played for last season.]

What to watch: Millsap developed into one of the game's best top stretch-4 options. In some Kevin Durant-less world, the versatile 30-year-old is an ideal fit for the Wizards, but don't expect the Hawks to let another team outbid them for Millsap. Carroll might be another story. Atlanta's small forward's breakout season included an uptick in scoring during the playoffs. The two-way threat will generate suitors seeking a 3-and-D option. Even if they keep the two starters, the Hawks need more frontcourt depth at all three positions. Getting back Thabo Sefolosha from his season-ending ankle injury suffered outside a New York club will certainly help on the wing.

Outlook: Atlanta can remain among the teams to beat in the East, but likely won't match last season's high even with the entire team returning. The unknown variable is whether the new ownership group wants to make a splashier move beyond retaining Millsap and Carroll.

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

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Former Wizard Jared Dudley: Time for a Wizards shake-up

Jared Dudley spent one season with the Washington Wizards. The core pieces on the current roster were there during that 2015-16 campaign. Based on that prior experience and a first-hand look Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets forward offered a candid assessment of the 5-10 squad. 

"I’m seeing a team that has been together too long,” Dudley told NBC Sports Washington following the Wizards’ 115-104 home loss. “They haven’t made progress, so it’s time to change things over there.”

John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter were teammates of Dudley for a full season. Markieff Morris joined the roster at the 2016 trade deadline. Washington failed to make the playoffs that season, but qualified in each of the next two and has reached the postseason in four of the five last years. 

The Wizards did not advance beyond the second round during any of those postseason appearances and lost in the first round last season after a 43-39 regular season. Following a 2-9 start, Washington won three in a row before falling to a scrappy Nets team that lost leading scorer Caris Levert earlier in the week to a gruesome ankle injury.

Dudley started and played 22 minutes in Brooklyn's win. The 12-year veteran's opinion on Washington included suggestions like extended use of a small-ball lineup. 

“I think (they have) good players, but sometimes, good players need different situations. For them, I think that it’s tough the way the league is changing. They play two bigs,” Dudley said about the combination of power forward Markieff Morris and center Dwight Howard. “In this day in age, Otto needs to play more four because he’s tall enough, more spacing.”

Facing a Brooklyn defense that leads the league in opponent mid-range shots, Washington often settled for such looks. The Wizards attempted a season-low 18 three-point attempts. 

The NBA rumor mill continually attempts to plot a new course for the Wizards. New York Times NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to “engage” Washington in trade talks for Jimmy Butler before shipping the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start,” Stein reported earlier this week. “They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts.”

Dudley sees the logic of moving at least one of those three players.

“I think they’ve had enough time, but they really haven’t (broken) through,” Dudley said. “I can see by the All-Star break or summer time one of these pieces moving. It’s going to be good for them. If it’s John, or Otto or Brad, one of them three, I think their next move is going to be good for both teams."

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

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Kelly Oubre Jr. is ready to 'take over the world' with new Converse shoe deal

Kelly Oubre Jr. takes his style very seriously, perhaps to a point even further than the most fashionable of NBA players. He wants to be a figure in the industry someday as a designer of his own shoes and clothing line.

So when he approached the process of brokering a new shoe contract, he took into consideration factors that went well beyond the average player and outside of the mainstream. He wanted more than a basketball shoe. He wanted a lifestyle brand and a partnership that wasn't solely about basketball.

Oubre left Adidas to sign a new mutli-year deal this week with Nike and Converse. He will wear Nike shoes in the meantime, until a concept made by Converse is ready for game action. Then, he will become the only NBA player to wear the brand on the floor.

"Everyone knows me and I'm a different individual," he said. "Converse is reinventing themselves in the basketball world. I will be the only athlete this year flying the flag. I'm very excited to be able to represent."

Converse has a history in the game of basketball, of course. Before Nike and Adidas took over, Converse was the dominant brand for most of the 20th century, up until the 1980s. Their Chuck Taylor All Stars maintain a legacy today in the casual shoe market.

The deep basketball history of Converse appealed to Oubre.

"It's old school. It started with basketball, then it went to the rock stage, then it went to people wearing them without any thought to what the foundation of the brand was," he said.

Oubre said there is no release date yet for the new-age Converse basketball shoe. He expects to have some input on the design of future shoes and said it's part of why he chose them.

Oubre plans to begin his own clothing line at some point with the working title of 'Dope Soul.' He told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that it is "coming soon," but couldn't provide any further details. 

Oubre had restrictions under his previous contract with Adidas and had been looking forward to finding a new deal that would allow for such things. It sounds like he may be afforded that freedom.

For now, with Converse, Oubre is excited to chart a new path with an unconventional company.

"You can't really define Converse because we've done everything and we're about to take over the world," he said.