The Atlanta Hawks could have a perfect landing spot for one of their heftier contracts and could even get something out of it too.
It all depends on the Houston Rockets.
“Keep an eye on the Rockets possibly trading bouncy forward K.J. Martin to create further financial flexibility,” wrote Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on June 27. “Atlanta, Phoenix, and Brooklyn have been mentioned as Martin suitors dating back to the February trade deadline.”
Martin, 22, averaged 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists – all career-high marks – this past season. He did not shoot the three-ball particularly well at 31.5% but shot 35.7% in 2021-22 and 36.5% in 2020-21.
The No. 52 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, Martin’s athletic reputation certainly precedes him and would be a nice addition to a skilled Hawks’ lineup.
A lot has changed for the Hawks since the trade deadline.
They have had a coaching change and traded their longest-tenured player – John Collins – to the Utah Jazz in a move largely driven by the implications of the salary cap.
Reports of a “mandate” to get under the luxury tax were shot down but the return for trading Collins suggests otherwise. One of the keys will be what the Hawks decide to do with their $25.3 million trade exception.
The Hawks have several players who are going to need their contracts addressed in the near future between Saddiq Bey, Dejounte Murray, and Onyeka Okongwu. All three are extension-eligible but Murray in particular could pose a tricky scenario with league rules limiting how much of a raise he can receive.
Atlanta Hawks could dump salary on Houston Rockets
“The Rockets have several succession plans,” The Athletic’s Kelly Iko said on the ‘HoopsHype Podcast’ with Michael Scotto on June 13. “For example, if Lopez re-signed with Milwaukee, they’d pivot to guys like Clint Capela.”
Atlanta has that trade exception – the largest in the NBA. But trading Capela, 29, for Martin would free up more than $18 million in cap space.
It’s unclear just where he would fit into their rotation behind/alongside Bey, De’Andre Hunter, AJ Griffin, and Jalen Johson and the forward spots. He does not shoot as well as Bey, Griffin or Hunter and lacks the size and physicality that Johnson brings leaving him without a clear-cut path to minutes.
But the Hawks were also said to have been in talks with the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers over Hunter.
Would Houston pivot to trying to trade for him if they miss out on their top targets?
Moving Hunter, 25, instead of Capela still saves around $18 million for the 2023-24 season. But it would save an additional $44-plus million over the life of both deals – Capela is beginning a two-year, $45 million extension while Hunter starting a four-year, $90 million contract.
“They are gonna remain really active in trade talks,” said ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on a recent edition of SportsCenter. “Virtually everybody among their veterans, except for Trae Young, has really been a part of the conversation for the Hawks. They want to improve this roster, that’s [general manager] Landry Fields’ mandate.”
That is a slight tweak to the previously rumored “mandate” Fields was operating under. But it does fit with reports that the likes of Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic (who cannot be traded until September after signing a four-year, $68 million contract in March) could be had.
Murray is said to hold a value just below Young’s, for what it’s worth.