Hawks: Buy or sell free agents

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While the results on the standings sheet were far from satisfying this season, the Hawks have a lot of positive things going for them heading into this offseason. They have a talented young core, a projected high draft pick, and a plethora of cap space to spend.

At the same time, you could make the argument that Trae Young is perhaps the only untouchable player on this team. Even the talented John Collins, who the Hawks would be foolish to move, has had his name appear in trade talks. After drafting two wings in last year’s NBA Draft lottery, De’Andre Hunter or Cam Reddish could ultimately end up elsewhere in the right trade package.

However, as of now, I consider the Hawks’ core to consist of Young, Collins, Reddish, and Clint Capela, with Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter on the outside looking in. Both Huerter and Hunter have a ton of promise; they just have not shown quite as much as the others. The Hawks are looking to become more competitive, and it will not be the same group of guys forever if that is the case.

While Atlanta may have a big-time move in them this offseason to make that push, they will also have to decide which of their own free agents to retain. The Hawks’ young lineup has shown enough to win more consistently, but the team has lacked the role players around them to hang in there for a full 48 minutes. These smaller decisions can play a massive role in just how big a jump Atlanta makes in 2020-21.

Restricted free agents

De’Andre Bembry

The one thing that Bembry, the longest-tenured Hawk, does have on his side is that he is a quality defender off the bench for a team that desperately is trying to fill the gaps on defense. He can serve as a ball-handler if needed. However, as much as I hate to say it, he offers little else.  As badly as the Hawks need defense, they need shooters off the bench just as much. In today’s NBA, you are in trouble if you can’t shoot the long ball with success. With the Hawks having two young talented wings on the roster, it is difficult to justify the Hawks handing him a deal or matching any sort of offer for Bembry’s services. A change of scenery may be what is best for him.

Skal Labissiere

I would not say there is no chance the Hawks let Labissiere walk after not playing a single game for Atlanta. However, Travis Schlenk has reportedly coveted the former top college recruit for a long time, and it should take just a small financial commitment to retain him. This trade has been viewed as the Hawks doing Portland a favor by taking some cash and helping the Blazers free some room, but there could be more to it. Labissiere has the making of a quality young role-player and is the most significant question mark of all the free agents.

Damian Jones

I actually liked what I saw from Damian Jones in spurts last season, and I think if he plays his cards right he can have a decent NBA career. However, there are a couple of things that are not working in his favor as far as the Hawks attempting to retain him. For one, it seems the team highly values rim protection from the center position, which is not Jones’ specialty. The Hawks also made moves to acquire Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon, and have Bruno Fernando on the roster as well. Jones is the odd man out here and will likely be playing elsewhere in 2020-21.

Unrestricted free agents

Jeff Teague

This one may surprise you. Teague has mightily struggled in his return to Atlanta, looking like a shell of the player he once was. You could say it has been an unsuccessful experiment. However, when you look at the list of free-agent options at point guard who may take a short-term deal and a bench role, it is slim pickings. There was mention of Teague being more than a rental when he was acquired. He has not made an excellent case for himself, but the familiarity with the team and lack of options could make him Atlanta’s best choice to fill out the roster.

Treveon Graham

We saw a bit more of Graham when the injuries started to pile up, but considering he was warming the bench before that, he is not in the Hawks’ long-term plans. The reality is that Graham was a throw-in with Jeff Teague so the Timberwolves could open up a roster spot, and he will likely be playing elsewhere next season.

Charlie Brown Jr.

The Hawks seem to like Charlie Brown Jr., but at the same time, it’s not like they were handing him minutes on a platter either when they desperately needed shooting. This could boil down to his Summer League performance — if the event even takes place. There is no way he gets anything more than a two-way contract though.

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