How aggressive would the Atlanta Hawks be in upgrading the roster if they start slowly?
“The Hawks traded away John Collins this offseason and could use a third star who can play power forward and complement Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, cementing this team as one of the elites in the East,” wrote Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report on October 13. “[Karl-Anthony] Towns will be a Hawk before the Feb. 8 deadline.”
Towns, 27, averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while shooting 36.6% from beyond the arc last season. But he only appeared in 29 contests with a calf injury disrupting his campaign.
He averaged 18.2 points, 10.2 boards, and 2.0 assists while shooting 25% from deep during the postseason.
The 6-foot-11 big man is in the final year of a five-year, $158.2 million contract.
He will begin a new four-year, $222.6 million extension starting in 2024-25. Swartz notes that cap relief is part of the potential appeal to the Timberwolves. The appeal for the Hawks is not just replacing Collins who was key to their defense last season despite his offense falling off substantially.
“Adding a three-time All-Star who can shoot, rebound, pass and operate in the low post would give Atlanta a dangerous Big Three and help push for home-court advantage in the playoffs,” Swartz wrote.
The cost of doing business would undoubtedly be high, though. And the package Swarts offered up highlights that perfectly.
De’Andre Hunter is starting a four-year, $90 million contract this season.
He may not be the elite two-way option he was billed as when coming out of college. But Hunter’s game is still developing and he is the player tasked with taking on the toughest wing assignments on a nightly basis. He has yet to play this preseason, though, and was mired in trade rumors this offseason.
It is unclear whether or not Hunter has been affected by the rumors. And sitting out with an injury is not the best way to boost his trade value. But he did send out a message about protecting one’s mental health.
Bogdan Bogdanovic received a four-year, $68 million contract extension in March which is notable because, unlike Hunter, it came from the current front office regime.
He was also said to be a reason the Hawks were comfortable potentially parting with Hunter.
Bogdanovic is also one of the team’s best shooters. On a squad that struggled with volume and was only mediocre in its efficiency, parting with him would be a tall ask under most circumstances. But adding a player like Towns isn’t a normal circumstance and, amid some strong improvements in the Eastern Conference, joining the arms race could be appropriate.
It would have to be an overwhelmingly positive addition to include rookie first-round pick Kobe Bufkin and draft capital, though, and it’s unclear that is the case.
Potentially trading for Karl-Anthony Towns might not solve Hawks’ issues
On paper, adding Towns would help the Hawks contend with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, both of whom added size this offseason, as well as separate themselves from the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and even Philadelphia 76ers.
They would even be able to keep Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu, solidifying their center rotation without even factoring in backups Bruno Fernando and rookie Mohamoud Gueye.
Towns’ experience this past season alongside Rudy Gobert could prove invaluable.
At the same time, the same issues that have arisen with Minnesota have a strong chance of popping up in Atlanta where there are two ball-dominant players already in place in Dejounte Murray and Trae Young as opposed to simply having to share with Anthony Edwards in Minnesota.
In the books, Swartz’s deal would shave more than $6.8 million off of the Hawks’ bottom line this season. But it would come right back next season with Towns’ extension kicking in, leaving his 2024-25 salary roughly $6 million over what the potential outgoing trio would cost combined.
As we have seen more often than not, especially this past season with the Denver Nuggets, is just how critical it is to have depth.
The Hawks would have to be comfortable with their remaining depth which is largely unproven to swing this deal.