The Atlanta Hawks soared to the top of the Eastern Conference during the 2014-15 NBA season, largely due to a team-first mentality and sound defense. Their offense thrived on ball movement and finding the open man, while their team defense worked due to communication and effort. Thanks to free agency, though, things could change dramatically in both departments before next season.

Per reports, the Hawks may look different for the 2015-16 NBA season due to free agency, as they could potentially lose small forward DeMarre Carroll or power forward Paul Millsap. Both would be huge losses as they played key roles in Atlanta’s rise to greatness. Atlanta broke down due to injuries as their playoff run winded down, but Carroll and Millsap still played a huge hand in helping the team get to the Eastern Conference Finals.

There is always the awful reality that both players could bolt for a better chance to win elsewhere, but the odds appear to be in their favor that they’ll keep at least one of them. Ideally one or both agree to a discounted price and the Hawks can maintain continuity and make another deep playoff run, but in today’s NBA, that’s simply not very realistic.

Carroll vs. Millsap

Carroll is younger and arguably a little more versatile, has developed into the better three-point shooter and is also a lockdown defender. At 28 years old, he’s still very much in his prime and looks to have tapped into some of his upside, which means the Hawks could sign him and watch him develop into an even better player. At 30 years old, Millsap is an under-sized power forward who should slowly exit his prime over the next 2-3 seasons. He’s probably the guy who is closer to being a “superstar” of the two, while he’s also a solid defender who can easily score the ball and rebound at a higher rate.

Truth be told, Atlanta isn’t going to lose with either player. The question, then, may be how much they’re going to cost to keep and which is going to be easier to replace. Carroll’s shooting can be replaced via Kent Bazemore and Mike Scott off the bench, while the team could also bring in shooting talent via the draft or sign a specialist off the street in free agency. Millsap could be replaced by either Scott or Mike Muscala, but neither are the defender he is and he has more versatility, as well.

The current situation has Atlanta looking at $23 million to spend in free agency. They could try to sign both of these guys, but both players are at their peak value and bring a tremendous amount of versatility and value to the table for whoever wants them the most. Carroll alone is expected to ask for something along the lines of five years and $40 million, if not more. Millsap’s contract would probably be even fatter because he’s the better player on the surface, so signing both players doesn’t look good unless there is a discount.

Millsap’s value is tough to gauge, as he plays at a position where there are some bigger studs that people will be waiting on (LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, most notably). What happens with them could dictate his value an where he winds up. Carroll might be an easier player to gauge, then, as he can fit in any system as a hard-nosed defender that can knock down three’s. He’s already been loosely tied to rebuilding teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, two teams that could probably pay him what he wants.


Millap’s perspective on Atlanta is interesting, as he noted the team is “a family”. That may make him a little more likely to take a discount or at least choose the Hawks if it’s close. Carroll might be the wild card, as this is his one big chance to make bank. Ultimately, if one goes, I think it’s Carroll, but the Hawks still technically could sign both, especially if they unload someone like Dennis Schroder and/or Mike Scott to free up some extra cap space. Carroll may have more left in the tank, but Millsap would arguably be tougher to replace, while the Hawks do have some guys already on the roster that they could give more minutes to.

Playoff Odds

The big question, of course, is what either situation means for Atlanta’s playoff hopes for the 2015-16 NBA season. As long as Atlanta keeps one of Carroll or Millsap, they’ll be right back in the playoff mix, just like they have been the past two years. Bringing them both back could make them legit title contenders, while losing both could have them take quite a hit. Luckily the East is still pretty weak, so as long as the Hawks don’t lose both of their top free agents they should remain one of the conference’s top-four teams.

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