Mike Dunleavy was traded over the weekend to the Atlanta Hawks. Naturally he was bummed. He left the prohibitive favorite Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James who makes everyone’s life easier and has to settle for the Hawks who have had an up and down season-currently they are in the up part. But the Hawks have pieces that still need a little more experience and grooming- Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder- to be considered true contenders. Coach Mike Budenholzer is on the hot seat with many Atl ticket holders and the Grant Hill ownership group is trying to get rid of their toughest player in Paul Millsap. So exactly what kind of team is Mike Dunleavy going to? By opening up the bidding market for Paul Millsap, are the Hawks signaling they are trying to rebuild and make the playoffs at the same time, a mixed message?
Mike Dunleavey has been around the block and is having none of it. The #3 pick in the 2002 draft, Dunleavy has not lived up to his expectations on draft day as a Duke forward waiting to explode in the league. He has never been an All-Star. He is a role player who stretches the floor but at best, is the third option. In Oakland, fans were so disappointed at his game and what they perceived to be a lackluster effort, they began shouting at him Skeletor, Skeletor.
Dunleavy has never fulfilled his promise as a top-5 pick. His best years are buried and forgotten but he doesn’t seem to know that. He can’t guard younger players and his shooting is in the tank. Still, he wants a buyout so he can sign with a contending team.
Dunleavy is 36 years old. His best season was in 2007-08 when he averaged 19.1 points a game for the Pacers. Up to that point it was only the third time Dunleavy had played a full 82 game schedule. He has played one 82 game season since then. The Pacers were Dunleavy’s third team. The Hawks will be his sixth, if he finds a compromise between what he wants and what the Hawks want.
In a 15 year career, Mike Dunleavy has only been to the playoffs four times. He has advanced out the first round once, in 2014-15 with the Bulls. So you understand his level of urgency to not be stuck on a team that has zero shot at the title.
But the Hawks don’t have to give Dunleavy what he wants. What usually happens in cases like this is contending teams who think Dunleavy can help them, say the Clippers, offer the Hawks a replacement. But in the Clippers case, they don’t have much the Hawks would want. The Hawks want a Korver replacement, someone who is going to stretch the floor and make threes. A contender isn’t going to give that up. Nor is Atlanta going to buy Dunleavy out without getting something for Korver in return.
So it’s a tricky negotiation, one in which the Hawks hope another team can get involved and give them something for Dunleavy. But frankly, Dunleavy isn’t having a great year, that is why he was expendable in Cleveland so where is his leverage? He is shooting a career low 40%. He has played the same amount of minutes this year he played his rookie year. His three ball is at at seven year low. His rebounding numbers haven’t been this depressed ever, but you can attribute that to the minutes. He is averaging 4.6 points and his defense has been the worst it’s been in 8 years.
His career nearly over, this is Dunleavy’s last card to play before obscurity and retirement. He wants one last shot at a ring. Will he get it?
As for the Cavs, first world problems. The Korver-Dunleavy deal cannot be consummated until Dunleavy reports and takes his physical. So Kyle Korver is in limbo, unable to practice or play with the Cavs because Dunleavy is trying to force his way out of Atlanta.
After a trade, a player has 72 hours to report. He has to take and pass a physical. Otherwise the trade is null and void.
Mike Budenolzer hopes the opposite. “I think he’s got the type of game and a skill set that I think he could be very good playing for us. He’s a player who we’ve liked and who personally I’ve liked for a long time.”
But does Dunleavy like the Hawks? No.
The Hawks don’t care. They plan to fine him if he doesn’t report.
On Monday, finally realizing there was no way out for him, no path to get to a contender, Dunleavy came to his senses after meeting with Mike Budenholzer. Dunleavy will report tomorrow which will complete the trade.