If you are an Atlanta Hawks fan then you probably know Bruce Levenson pretty well. The rest of the casual NBA fandom is probably far less tuned in to the work of the former Hawks owner. In any event, Bruce Levenson has been the man behind the podium pulling the strings for the Hawks since 2004. Levenson initially bought the team along with his partner Ed Peskowitz and since then he has been steadily pushing the team to newer limits. While Atlanta is currently enjoying a ride atop the Eastern Conference, life hasn’t always been so easy for the team. Let’s take a look at a few of Levenson’s big hits during his tenure inside the Hawks organization.
Securing Top Talent
One of the most important aspects of becoming a great NBA franchise is the ability to draft solid, young talent. Look at teams like the Bobcats and consider how long it has been since they’ve done anything special. The reason for their prolonged struggles goes right back to the drafting room. Fortunately for Atlanta, Levenson and co. haven’t had that same problem.
Levenson took over the team in 2004 and immediately struck gold when he drafted power forward Josh Smith at 17th overall. While Smith would never grow into the elite superstar that many hoped, he still brought a wide array of skills to a team that needed a scorer. By 2007 we would see Levenson add Al Horford, a center from Florida, to the rotation. Jeff Teague, a dynamo point guard with efficiency issues, would show up a year later. This young core would return Atlanta to true relevance but it would only be the beginning.
Spending Money the Right Way
You can draft all of the top talent in the world (Oklahoma City comes to mind) but if you can’t spend that extra money correctly, it’ll all go to waste. We saw Oklahoma City fail in this respect after drafting the most talented trio in NBA history: James Harden, Russel Westbrook, and Kevin Durant. Fortunately Forbes billionaire Bruce Levenson spent well in the 2014 offseason and acquired Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Dennis Schroder. These three guys would turn into the core of what Coach Mike Budenholzer was attempting to do with his offensive system and all of them made huge strides. The team would go on to break Atlanta Hawks franchise win-loss record as well as return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in almost 50 years. This past off-season we also saw the team re-sign Paul Millsap for another go around.
Handing over the Reigns
With the Hawks coming off of their most successful season of all time, excluding the single NBA Title in their history, it made sense for Levenson to field offers for the team. The Clippers had just been sold for an awe inspiring amount and that dramatically changed the value of an NBA franchise. The Hawks went from a $425 million value team all the way to the $850 million selling price to Antony Ressler.