Another day, another trade rumor for the Atlanta Hawks.
Only this time, it appears the Hawks were closer than ever to making one of the rumored deals that have been purported to be possible in recent weeks.
“The Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks were making headway on a deal that would have sent De’Andre Hunter to the Pacers,” wrote Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on June 22 noting that the discussions “ultimately broke apart.”
Hunter’s, 24, inclusion in trade talks is a newer development this offseason, at least to the level that it has been. The highest draft pick on the team, he is currently the team’s best wing defender and has displayed a budding offensive game that has developed from solely catch-and-shoot looks to putting the ball on the floor and getting his own.
Fischer notes that, while this particular trade got “derailed”, Hunter has been the Hawks player most mentioned in trade chatter heading into the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists this past season, shooting 46.1% from the floor and 35.0% from beyond the arc. However, the Hawks posted a better net rating with him off the floor (plus-0.8) than on it (minus-0.5), per Cleaning The Glass, and Hunter has averaged 1.4 turnovers to 1.5 assists in his career.
He begins a four-year, $90 million contract right as the Hawks are facing a salary cap crunch.
Atlanta Hawks’ looming salary cap woes possibly forcing the issue
The Hawks are on track to foot an $8.3 million luxury tax bill, a practice they have never participated in under team governor Tony Ressler. Ownership has also suggested that they would pay the tax for a title-contending team and gave the front office full control of a roster makeover.
It’s similar to what happened to Kevin Huerter who signed a four-year, $65 million extension last offseason and was traded to the Sacramento Kings eight months later.
“Further details of the framework are still unknown,” Fischer continued. “But as the Hawks have consistently looked at deals that could help Atlanta jump from No. 15 into the top 10 of this draft, the Pacers were not willing to swap the No. 7 pick in those discussions for Hunter.”
Hawks general manager Landry Fields said he was exploring trades to move up in the draft.
He, naturally, did not get specific about who or what was being discussed. But Bleacher Report draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman reported that the Hawks had “explored” the idea of moving Hunter, not with the idea of creating some breathing room under the cap or even acquiring additional draft capital.
Instead, Wasserman says their goal is to clear a path for promising second-year forward AJ Griffin who isn’t the defender Hunter can be but looks to be a better shooter (39% 3P).
The Hawks have been linked to any number of prospects both if they stay put or if they make a trade to get a little bit higher from Duke center Dereck Lively to Kentucky guard Cason Wallace, and many others in the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22.