“So close, yet so far.”
That quote is probably spiralling around the Atlanta Hawks’ minds for months now. They are on the cusp of landing someone they’ve been wanting for so long – Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam – and everyone knows it’s readily available for them, but they just can’t bring it home.
Though talks began as far back as the middle of the 2022-23 season, negotiations are still at the starting line to this day. In fact, the Raptors just declined another offer on Wednesday.
For the Hawks, who are most probably desperate to move the needle, it’s something they need. They are in a frustrating state coming off a 41-41 season that concluded in a second-straight, first-round playoff exit – they were middle-of-the-pack at best, as evident in that record.
All that’s despite having an offensive powerhouse in Trae Young, a two-way guard in Dejounte Murray, whom they traded three first-round picks for, a double-double machine in Clint Capela, and a host of wings and shooters – DeAndre Hunter, AJ Griffin, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, among others. Not to mention the mid-year instalment of well-respected maestro Quin Snyder as coach, who returned after serving as an assistant during the 2013-14 season.
Of course, it’s not hard to notice why the two-time NBA All-Star and All-NBA team member is being sought after. He’s 29 years old, at his peak and filled of confidence, and could play both forward positions and the center slot in small ball situations. A big, reliable forward that adds a scoring punch is natural fit for this Hawks team, which currently revolves around Young and Murray’s guard play.
Siakam is fresh-off a stellar 2022-23 campaign, where he continued flexing his 6’9 frame and 7’3 wingspan by averaging career-bests 24.2 points and 5.8 assists to go along 7.8 rebounds per game. He also logged an NBA-high 37.4 minutes per contest, leading the league in that category for the second consecutive year. Simply put, there’s a little bit of everything – matchup problems, scoring, rebounding, and facilitating, all with a good dose of durability.
Letting the young pieces go
More pieces or better draft picks may be added to sweeten the pot, but it seems like Hunter and Griffin could very well be included in a potential deal. It will be tough to see them go, especially since the former just had his best scoring year (15.4 PPG) while the latter is a young gun with a lot of promise, and was even used in game-winning scenarios – not just once, but twice. Both also appear to be tailor-made for Snyder’s defensive-minded system.
However, the swap is for a much significant player, and it’s now or never. It’s also the needed reinforcement alongside their two-guards, so Siakam is simply an option you can’t pass up, especially since he too is a match for Snyder’s schemes. Atlanta’s front office will definitely get its money’s worth and should find a way to swing a deal, which may include a third or fourth team.
Keep in mind that the Raptors are thinking of tearing things down, and have already watched Fred VanVleet walked for nothing while also listening to offers for OJ Anunoby. They are not that far-off from unloading Siakam. The Hawks simply have to navigate it well.