Veteran 3-and-D wing named Hawks dream free agent target

NBA: APR 10 Suns at Clippers

The Hawks have the opportunity to completely reshape the roster this offseason.

Despite the Spurs owning a few of their first-round picks, Atlanta has plenty of resources to elevate the club. The two biggest dominos will be what the Hawks do with the No. 1 overall pick — trade it or take the best player available. And whether they build around Trae Young or Dejounte Murray.

Once those are decided, the rest of the offseason becomes fairly simple. If the Hawks trade Dejounte Murray, everything should be about length and physicality. Surrounding Trae Young with size and length should’ve been the approach initially, but there’s always time to make the correction.

Though the Hawks don’t currently have a ton of cap space to do so, that doesn’t mean they can’t create some. Dealing Dejounte Murray and Clint Capela will clear tons of cash. Others could also be moved as well. Moreover, Hawks ownership is once again insisting there are no financial limitations.

Granted, we’ve heard this before. Tony Ressler has blatantly lied to everyone about his willingness to spend money and cross the luxury tax threshold. Every course of action suggests the opposite is true. It might be different this Summer, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

If the Hawks are given a bigger budget, things begin to get fun. Free agency presents even more opportunity to improve the club, and Greg Schwartz of Bleacher Report believes Royce O’Neale is Atlanta’s dream free agent target.

The Atlanta Hawks are projected to have modest spending power this summer. They’ll be armed with either the $12.9 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception or the $5.2 million taxpayer MLE, and they’ll have a lot of roster questions to answer either way.

Regardless of whether the Hawks decide to keep Trae Young, they need to get better defensively. They ranked 27th in defensive rating and weren’t a particularly good three-point shooting team, either (36.4 percent, 17th overall).

Getting a veteran three-and-D wing like Royce O’Neale would be a realistic dream, especially since he’d be taking a pay cut from his $9.5 million salary from 2023-24.

The 30-year-old O’Neale had a plus-13.8 on/off differential with the Phoenix Suns (98th percentile, via Cleaning the Glass). The Suns were 6.5 points per 100 possessions better on defense with O’Neale on the floor. Add in the 37.0 percent that he shot from three last season, and he’d be an ideal free-agent addition for Atlanta.

I’m sure some might be a bit disappointed with Royce O’Neale being the Hawks’ “dream” free agent target, and to a certain extent, I agree with you.

If money is no issue, my dream targets would be Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Those probably aren’t too realistic, but if your dreams are realistic then they aren’t dreams.

O’Neale is the type of player the Hawks should be targeting, though. I seriously doubt the Suns let him go after acquiring him at the trade deadline in February for a number of minimum contracts and second-round picks. Despite struggling in Phoenix’s series against Minnesota, O’Neale contributes to winning basketball. Hell, everyone on the Suns struggled against the Timberwolves. He can defend multiple positions and shoot the three-ball. That’s what the Hawks need.

Photographer: John McCoy/Icon Sportswire
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