NBA Free Agency: Sizing Up the Atlanta Hawks’ Remaining Offseason Options


Dec 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) and small forward DeMarre Carroll (5) and point guard Jeff Teague (0) and center Al Horford (15) walk on the court against the Utah Jazz in the third quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


More than just a buzzword, it has become a desirable quality in the face of new punitive stipulations in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The dreaded repeated tax is to be avoided by all but large market teams who believe they can capture a championship in the near future. Even the once profuse Russian billionaire-owned Nets have reined in spending this offseason after reportedly losing a mind boggling $144 million in losses over the past season.

Flexibility alone will not win you championships but the front office is banking on having cap space and strategically acquiring players to eventually bring the Atlanta Hawks to the promised land.

There’s a lot of factors that comprise flexibility in today’s NBA environment: the ability of players to play different positions and fit multiple roles, structuring contracts so they can be moved, the ever-important cap space, among others.

The Hawks have been one of the most fiscally responsible teams over the last two seasons since dumping Joe Johnson and his massive contract. They have avoided the luxury tax line for the past two years (and thus eligible to receive revenue-sharing from the teams above it) but also remained below the salary cap last year and may aim to do the same next season.

Here’s a quick look at the salary cap sheet compiled from information by Shamsports and Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ.

Atlanta will have to decide on the fate of a couple of important bench pieces. Mike Scott, the former second-round forward out of Virginia, and Shelvin Mack, the undrafted rookie out of Butler, both are facing restricted free agency after receiving qualifying offers. The Hawks own their early bird rights, meaning they can match any offer sheet either sign if the so choose.

In addition, Elton Brand is an unrestricted free agents and fails to qualify for Bird Rights, so he will have a cap hold worth 120% of his 2014-15 salary, set at $4.8 million. All three could help supplement the Hawks bench like they did last season for a relatively cheap cost.

With this season’s salary cap set to jump almost $5 million to $63.8 million, the Hawks might have a handful of cash to play with. And there are rumblings about Atlanta possibly being a landing spot for free agents with a watchful eye of potential destinations. This from Sam Amico:

If true, Atlanta can please the many fans of the franchise and become a free agent landing spot in an offseason with so many players to be had. So which free agents are possible fits for the Hawks this offseason?

Without some shrewd maneuvering, the Hawks will not be able to afford a max-level free agent. They look to have about $11.5 million in cap space after the Lou Williams and Thabo Sefolosha transactions.

Even after snagging Sefolosha on a $4 million per season deal for three years, could the Hawks still look at Luol Deng?

Atlanta may still have a void at small forward when DeMarre Carroll sits. Mike Scott cannot defend smaller forwards and despite the ambitions of Kyle Korver and Sefolosha, placing them across from the bigger forwards is probably as much a losing cause.

Now there are rumors swirling regarding Deng’s availability and willingness to come to Atlanta. He reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million extension from Chicago before being traded to Cleveland mid-season, but was that because of Coach Tom Thibodeau’s draconian minutes burden?

Deng brings solid on-ball defense and the ability to create shots for himself while staying within the flow of a selfless Atlanta offense. But while he can certainly add to this team, after the acquisition of Sefolosha, his presence on the team may create redundancy. It would be a bad business decision to ink Deng to a $10-$12 million per year deal only to fight for minutes while exceeding the salary cap and hampering roster flexibility.

For this reason, the Hawks may chose to, and I believe will, stand pat unless a bigger opportunity, presumably in the event of a possible trade, opens up. For General Manager Danny Ferry, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. There’s no point in building a team whose ceiling is not a championship caliber ceiling, and the Hawks brass knows this.

In short, I imagine signing Sefolosha kills all rumors linking the Hawks to many of the free agents available, and that’s not a bad thing at all. There may be another smaller move in the works, but why sacrifice flexibility without a purpose to do so?

The Eastern Conference looks to be less competitive than the Western Conference again in 2014-15 and Atlanta will have Al Horford back from a season-ending injury. In it’s current form, I believe they can compete for a top spot in the East.

If and when there’s an opening to supplement their roster, Atlanta should strike without hesitation. But Deng is not that player at this current time.

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