Story by KL Chouinard
When the Hawks traded Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 2019 first-round pick, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Mo Williams, there was a lot of talk about Korver’s storied Hawks career, and justifiably so; Korver compiled an amazing four seasons in Atlanta. There was also plenty of chatter about the pick and how the Hawks built up a stockpile of assets to sustain the team through the draft. What probably wasn’t discussed enough was that Dunleavy’s talents suited the 2016-17 Hawks in a number of meaningful ways.
The 6-foot-9 Dunleavy fit well alongside players like Kent Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr. as a tall wingman who could guard some of the NBA’s bigger small forwards. He also fit the bill as a small-ball power forward when the Hawks opted to play an extra wing to boost the offense or had to match another team that was doing it. And Dunleavy shot more than well enough to make those lineups work. In 30 games with the Hawks, he made 33 of 77 threes and his three-point shooting percentage of 42.9 percent led the Hawks for the season.
Dunleavy also figured as a stabilizing force on offense, someone who could put a pass in the right spot or make a backdoor cut to the basket that stressed an opponent’s defense.
In the playoffs, the Hawks continued to count on the 15-year veteran. Head coach Mike Budenholzer relied heavily on bringing big shooters off the bench to space the floor in “5-out” offensive units where every Hawk on the floor could knock down a three-point shot. In such lineups, the Hawks used the open floor to drive to the rim and kick out a pass, often multiple times, until they reached a quality shot. Dunleavy figured prominently in that role, as did Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala. In the 32 playoff minutes that Dunleavy and Muscala played together, the Hawks outscored the Wizards by 16 points. In the 43 minutes that Dunleavy and Ilyasova shared the floor, the Hawks held an 11-point edge over Washington.
Dunleavy will turn 37 before the start of the next regular season, but his 2016-17 season served as proof that there is still a spot for him in a league that, now more than ever, emphasizes versatile size, three-point shooting and good decision-making.