The Atlanta Hawks (19-21) are heading home after a 2-2 road trip despite plenty of reason to think things went much worse given the amount of turmoil that has been reported and the injuries they have suffered through. They even rose back into the nine-seed with the Chicago Bulls falling to the Boston Celtics on Monday.
But the Hawks are far from out of the woods yet still sitting two games below .500 and clinging onto that ninth spot by one half-game. That uncertainty around their future continues to fuel speculation over an in-season roster shakeup.
While there has been a lot of speculation around John Collins for the last three years, some suggest a smaller deal that would keep the top guys together.
There is a chance the Hawks could do just that with the help of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Atlanta Hawks land Robert Covington, Luke Kennard in proposed trade
“Going after…Bogdan Bogdanović (player option) and Jalen Johnson won’t come cheap,” writes Dan Favale of Bleacher Report in offering a bold trade for every team to consider ahead of the trade deadline. “But if the Clippers are willing to part with a 2028 first, they can offer up to two swaps (2027 and 2029) on top of Mann and other salaries.”
Bogdanovic, 30, missed the first 22 games of the season recovering from offseason knee surgery.
He has returned to average 16.4 points – matching his career high – on 55.7% true shooting.
The sixth-year NBA veteran has a player option worth $18 million for next season which, given his age, has led to speculation over whether he could be an attractive trade target for a contender.
“The Atlanta Hawks wouldn’t dare move Bogdanović in a vacuum,” Favale continues. “But they seem just concerned enough about their future finances that they might consider the opportunity to scoop up first-round equity, Robert Covington, and store-brand Kevin Huerter (Luke Kennard).”
Atlanta moved forward Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings in large part to avoid the luxury tax despite his possessing a skill set they could desperately use now.
Kennard, 26 has shot better than 39% from beyond the arc in each of his six NBA seasons and, while he doesn’t offer much on the defensive end or as a creator, there is a lot of value in that even if the Hawks weren’t struggling from deep as a team.
He is in the second year of a four-year, $51 million deal with a club option for the final season.
The 31-year-old Covington is an upgrade over Justin Holiday, 33, defensively – the latter has even been removed from the rotation at times. He is only knocking down 28.3% from deep this year but shot 38.2% over the previous three seasons. Covington is in the first year of two-year deal that will pay him $11.7 million next year.
This deal is already complex enough with the Hawks shaving less than $1 million off of the bottom line while also locking themselves into an additional year with Kennard compared to Bogdanovic as well as Mann.
Favale describes the 26-year-old Mann (8.2 PPG, 34.5% 3P) as “criminally underused”.
The former second-round pick signed a two-year, $22 million contract extension last offseason only to see his production slip along with his playing time.
All of that creates a murky outlook for this hypothetical scenario before getting to Johnson, the 20th-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. After what was essentially a redshirt rookie season, Johnson has been called upon plenty as the Hawks have dealt with multiple injuries in the frontcourt.
Johnson’s development has not been linear – he has three double-digit outings and three outings with three points or fewer in the last six games – leaving his value on the trade market largely unknown though he possesses an intriguing skill set.
However, the Hawks arguably cannot afford to give up what they have already.
“Bogdanović would arm the Clippers with an efficient slinger from deep who can do more on-ball work in the half-court than Kennard,” Favale argues of the Hawks’ swingman, “and Johnson, while not an offensive boon, would offer switchable center depth for a team that trends small anyway.”
Atlanta has already had to manage games without Dejounte Murray and Trae Young in the backcourt while Collins has missed time and Clint Capela remains out with a calf injury.
The Hawks would gain some clarity with this move more than anything outside of the draft pick which figures to be a later first-round pick or picks. But the hit to the chemistry and moving on from Johnson so soon might be too steep of a price to pay.