Atlanta Hawks ‘in the mix’ for Boston Celtics’ former first-round pick

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Hawks are said to be among the teams ‘still in the mix’ for free agent forward Grant Williams, potentially via sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics, per a new report from Jared Weiss of The Athletic (subscription required) published on July 4.

Williams, 24, was the No. 22 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Celtics and has shown improvement every season, averaging career-highs of 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.7 this past season while shooting 39.5% from beyond the arc on 3.7 attempts per game which were also a career-high mark.

He hits restricted free agency after a season in which he fell out of head coach Joe Mazulla’s rotation at times in the postseason including the Eastern Conference Finals.

Williams averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 boards, 1.3 assists, and shot 42.9% from deep in the series.

However, he only played three of the seven games in the series and only got into three of the six games the Celtics played against the Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs, a series Boston won 4-2.

A 6-foot-6, 236-pound bruiser, the Hawks could use his ability to play the 4 and 5 while helping to space the floor consistently, an option they don’t currently have on the roster. That was John Collins’ role before he was traded to the Utah Jazz but his three-point shot abandoned him while likely helped seal his fate.

Their other top options – Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu – are physical but lack the consistent threat to knock down threes that Williams possesses.

He’s shot 39.7% from the outside over the last three seasons including 41.1% in 2021-22.

How the Hawks can land Celtics free agent Grant Williams

Since the Collins trade helped them to drop below the luxury tax apron, the Hawks have access to the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception – worth $12.4 million – which Weiss says is the other expected outcome of Williams’ free agency.

And, despite the Celtics having the right of first refusal because Williams is a restricted free agent, he could be available with Boston’s big investment in big man Kristaps Porzingis whom they acquired from the Washington Wizards in a three-team trade on draft night that originally involved the Los Angeles Clippers but ultimately included the Memphis Grizzlies instead.

If the Celtics do insist on a sign-and-trade, the Hawks don’t have any salaries that line up financially, with what Boston might want, and what Atlanta could be interested in moving.

They do have a $25.3 million trade exception that was generated in the Collins deal.

The Hawks could take a similar approach as the Celtics took in 2020 in the trade that sent Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets for a second-round pick and the largest trade exception in NBA history at $28.5 million — Boston is said to be eyeing a first-rounder for Williams.

All of this shows just how complicated something that would seem simple can be, and that’s before considering the other roster moves the Hawks would have to make to get into compliance with league rules by the start of the 2023-24 season. They currently have 15 guaranteed contracts with two more set to lock in before the end of July.

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This is also a relatively new rumor for the Hawks who have been linked to any number of deals this offseason so it is unclear how much of a push to expect if any at all.