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.