The Hawks went on a big spending spree last offseason, and it paid dividends, as Atlanta exceeded national expectations and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Atlanta also failed to come to an agreement with John Collins on an extension, and he will become a restricted free agent. Luckily, the Hawks have his Bird Rights and can also match any offer he gets from another team. I expect the Hawks to bring Collins back, so if they do, how much will Atlanta have left to add to a roster that still needs a few more pieces?
Using ShamSports.com’s salary cap calculator (and our own Christian Salvador), I did my best to get a rough prediction of how much money the Hawks could be working with. Atlanta will also have some tools like the Mid-Level Exception to add some veteran pieces, which is another big help. I broke down which free agents I think will stay and which ones I think will walk earlier this week, and I’ll be doing a three-part series on which free agents I like for the Hawks to target soon, so be on the lookout for that. Just a note, with Kris Dunn only playing in four games in 2021, it’s likely he picks up his $5 million player option. I expect the Hawks to accept qualifying offers for Skylar Mays and Nathan Knight, which would total a little under $3 million. That gives the Hawks roughly $96.5 million in scheduled salary liability before adding their draft picks.
The 2021-2022 NBA Salary Cap is set at $112,414,000. The Luxury Tax threshold, which the Hawks will probably end up passing, is at $136,606,000. This past offseason, the Hawks offered Collins a four-year, $90 million contract worth roughly $22.5 million per season. I think it’s fair to say that Collins could have outplayed that number, and some team may offer him a max contract.
Gut feeling, I think he gets something in the 4/$110-$115 million range, which I would be perfectly fine with the Hawks matching. That’s pretty close to the max deal he could get. If the Hawks choose to let John Collins walk in free agency, the Hawks would have to comply with the regular $112.4 million salary cap. The Hawks can only dive into Luxury Tax range to re-sign their own players. So, without Collins, the Hawks would only have about $16 million to spend in free agency.
Using Bird Rights, the Hawks can give Collins a max deal worth $28,103,500. For the sake of a round number, i’ll calculate it as $30 million. That’s a pretty big chunk of change, but with the contracts I talked about coming off of the books, the Hawks would still be able to add a few key players before the hard cap hits them. The key for the Hawks is to sign John Collins last. Atlanta would then be able to push up against the hard cap of $112.4 million, then dive into the luxury tax threshold to pay Collins. If the Hawks go that route, they would qualify for the (Projected) Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception that’s worth $9,536,000. That would not count against the salary cap, and they could use that money to pick up a really solid player. There is also a projected Bi-Annual Exception worth $3,732,000. So, at least for 2021, not re-signing Collins would not benefit the Hawks. In addition to the exceptions, re-signing Collins would still give the Hawks roughly $10 million to spend on free agents.
Depending on how the team handles Collins and their current free agents, these tools will have to be used in different ways. However, the Hawks should still have a decent amount of space to improve the roster and get back to competing in the NBA playoffs.