Looking ahead, the Hawks will have an interesting and unique situation on their hands come June. Let’s start by taking a look at the current roster:
|2 yr/$16 mil
|2 yr/$4.47 mil
|2 yr/$4.86 mil
|2 yr/$11 mil
|2 yr/$8 mil
|1 yr/$2 mil
|2 yr/$6.66 mil
|1 yr/$12 mil
|2 yr/$1.96 mil*
*Muscala deal has two team options
**Atlanta also holds International Rights to Walter Taveras and Lamar Patterson
From a financial standpoint, it is evident there are no bad contracts on the books for Atlanta. Entering Free Agency, the Hawks will be responsible for a little under $40 million in salary. With an estimated salary cap of 66.5 million this upcoming offseason (this is not an official number by any means), the Hawks have an estimated $26 million to spend. Without doubt, a large majority of this money will likely be used in attempt to bring back Free Agent starters Paul Millsap and Demarre Carroll. Keeping this core should be the number one priority for Atlanta, and I do not see them bringing in many (if any) outside Free Agents this offseason. I expect Millsap to sign a deal that is likely going to earn him around $14 million annually. If Millsap walks, then expect the Hawks to look at Free Agents such as Lamarcus Aldridge or Draymond Green, as they would be great fits in Coach Bud’s system. However, I don’t see any reason for Millsap to leave, as he has made it known he is happy in Atlanta. I can see Carroll getting around $7.5 million, but if offered more than that by another team, the Hawks may let him walk if they believe he is a product of Coach Bud’s system. This is a big raise for both players, but with the salary cap projected to skyrocket in 2016, they should be worth every penny. Because Carroll and Millsap only signed 2-year deals with Atlanta, they do not have Bird Years with the team, meaning we cannot go over the cap to sign them. However, I do not see this being an issue. I think at the end of they day, the Hawks will retain their core. Do the math and that leaves the Hawks with around $4.5 million in cap space.
Though I like John Jenkins and think he has looked impressive in the latter part of this season, the Hawks opted not to exercise his 2015-16 option for a reason. He will earn more in Free Agency and it appears the Hawks have other plans. Austin Daye is on a 10-day contract, and was purely a depth signing. It appears unlikely he will be in the Hawks’ future plans (or even have a spot on the playoff roster for that matter). I could be wrong, but I am under the belief that this may be Elton Brand’s last hoorah. He contemplated retirement last offseason and is still undecided in regards to his future. This leaves Pero Antic. To my demise, the Hawks have expressed interest in resigning Pero. I see him probably getting a one or two year deal worth around $2 million annually. The Hawks are known to hold 14 players on their roster, and assuming these three players are resigned, this leaves the Hawks with $3 million to fill two roster spots.
As of today, the Hawks are projected to have the 9th and 51st pick in this year’s draft. They are in a unique situation in which they can contend for a title and draft a lottery pick in the same year. On top of this, the Hawks have Lamar Patterson and Walter Taveras stashed overseas. Many felt that the Adreian Payne trade was an indicator that Atlanta was pleased with Tavares’ development and that he is likely to be brought over next season. I think trading Payne was the right move, as it offers Atlanta more flexibility this offseason. The Hawks get a second chance at a first round pick later on down the road and move a player who has had an abysmal year shooting from behind the arc. At first glance Payne looked to be a perfect fit for Coach Bud’s system but he struggled in the D-League and the organization decided to part ways with him. Tavares, the 7’3’’ center, would offer Atlanta elite size and the rim protector they desperately need off the bench. Lamar Patterson is also making huge strides over in Turkey, and I think he will assume John Jenkins’ role off the bench next season.
But what will the Hawks do with their draft picks? The Hawks have many options. They can part ways with Mike Muscala, as his deal is non-guaranteed. Perhaps they will let Taveras play overseas for one more season. The Hawks also have an abundance of tradable contracts on their hands, and could easily make a move to open up a roster spot. I imagine the Hawks will likely continue their trend of stashing their second-round selections overseas as they have with Mike Muscala, Lamar Patterson and Walter Tavares. I think this may be the offseason that could send the Hawks into the next stratosphere. If they can manage to retain their key pieces and bring in a good lottery pick, this team could be scary good for years to come. The proposition of adding a Justice Winslow or a Willie Cauley-Stein to this roster should have fans salivating. The way this roster has been built, the team has options this offseason. The future is bright for Atlanta, and we could see a dynasty in the making if they can continue their success. But right now fans are thinking about one thing: bringing a championship to the city of Atlanta in 2015.