After playoff loss, Hawks pondering front office changes

ATLANTA (AP) After a disappointing season ended with a first-round playoff loss, the Atlanta Hawks are evaluating possible changes in their front office.

The current setup, in which coach Mike Budenholzer has authority over personnel matters with assistance from general manager Wes Wilcox, could be facing a shake-up.

There was even a report Wednesday that Wilcox had been fired, which was denied by the team.

''Hawks leadership is undergoing a period of evaluation and looking at how basketball operations works best,'' the statement said. ''There are no changes to report at this time and any reports indicating otherwise are inaccurate.''

It seems likely that changes are coming, especially after the Hawks dipped to 43-39 this season and lost to the Washington Wizards in the opening round. The season ended with a 16-point loss on Atlanta's home court in Game 6.

Budenholzer was promoted to president of basketball operations after a 60-win season in 2014-15, when the Hawks earned the top seed in the East and reached the conference final before getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Budenholzer moved up after the team parted ways with general manager Danny Ferry, who largely assembled the roster with a number of deft trades and signings, only to be forced out by racially charged comments he made on a conference call about prospective free agent Luol Deng.

Wilcox was promoted to general manager, but the team hasn't come close to duplicating the success it had two seasons ago.

That has raised questions about Wilcox's future and whether Budenholzer might drop his title as president while staying on as coach.

During the last offseason, Budenholzer and Wilcox engineered the signing of center Dwight Howard while allowing longtime stalwart Al Horford to leave for Boston. The team also dealt point guard Jeff Teague to Indiana, handing the job to Dennis Schroder, and signed Kent Bazemore to a $70-million, four-year contract.

Schroder showed flashes of brilliance, but Bazemore lost his starting job late in the season to rookie Taurean Prince, while Howard was a non-factor in the playoffs.

In a sign that he felt the offense performed better with Howard on the bench, Budenholzer barely played the eight-time All-Star in the fourth quarter during the series against the Wizards.

Now, the Hawks are heading into the offseason facing the possibility of losing Paul Millsap, who will opt out of his contract and become a free agent. He has been the Hawks steadiest player during the Budenholzer era, claiming a spot in the All-Star Game during all four seasons with Atlanta.

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For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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