• Russell Schmidt

The Free Agency Profile for the Atlanta Hawks


*Photo AJC

2014-15 Record: 60-22 (First Southeast, First Eastern Conference)

Season Summary: The Atlanta Hawks were the surprise of the league improving from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 38-44 record to the first seed in the East with a 60-22 record. Despite being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the season has to be viewed as an overwhelming success for the Hawks.

The high point of Atlanta’s season came in the month of January when the team had the majority of their 19 game winning streak. The streak was tied for the sixth longest in NBA history and the best in franchise history. The entire Hawks starting lineup was awarded with the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January. Coach Mike Budenholzer won Coach of the Year, and four Hawks made the Eastern Conference All-Star Team (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Teague).

Now the question with this Hawks’ team is can they carry over their success into future seasons, or were they merely a one hit wonder. The Hawks will not be short on doubters who claim their success was due to good fortunate and an unusually weak Eastern Conference. In addition many fans and experts still question whether a “starless” team like the Hawks can be considered a serious title contender. The Hawks will have just under $30 Million in cap space to retain and/or improve their roster for next season. In addition the Hawks exercised their rights to swap first round picks with the Brooklyn Nets that they received from the Joe Johnson trade a few years ago. This swap allows them to exchange their 29th overall pick for Brooklyn’s 15th overall pick in the draft. This swap will vastly improve their chances of finding an immediate contributor via the draft.

Cap Space: About $28 million under the current salary cap projection of $67.1 million.

Impending Free Agents:

-Paul Millsap (Unrestricted Free Agent)

-DeMarre Carroll (UFA), Pero Antic (UFA)

- Mike Muscala ($947K Team Option)

Will They Stay or Go:

Starting forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll are Atlanta’s big free agents. Whether it’s from Atlanta or some other team, both players will be getting big raises from their previous bargain contracts. After such a successful season the Hawks could be looking to keep things the same and to rely on continuity. Atlanta will have the cap space to retain both forwards, but signing both players will likely take up nearly all of their cap room. The Hawks key decision is to decide whether they really believe this team can win a title. If Atlanta resigns Millsap and Carroll they will be left with the midlevel exception and the draft to improve their roster. Carroll will likely command between $8-12 Million a year, and Millsap will be looking to sign a contract for around $12-15 Million a season. Reserve center Mike Muscala showed some promise as a rotation big off the bench and should be retained since his team option is for under $1 Million. Pero Antic has served as the first big off the bench for the Hawks the past two seasons. Despite only two seasons in the NBA, Antic will be 33 years old by the start of the 2015-16 season. Antic could be looking for a deal that pays him between $3-5 Million a season. If Millsap and Muscala are resigned there doesn’t appear to be a need for Antic on the roster with other big men like Al Horford and Mike Scott also on the team.

Team Needs: Power Forward/Center (if Millsap leaves), Small Forward (if Carroll leaves), Reserve Big Man (if Antic or Muscala leave)

Possible Targets:

Thad Young (Early-Termination Option), Greg Monroe (Unrestricted Free Agent), David West (Player Option), Amir Johnson (UFA)

These players are targets for the Hawks if Paul Millsap leaves the team. If they wanted to play as close to last season’s style without Millsap, Thad Young would be the best option. Young is a decent shooter and scorer and a versatile defender like Millsap. Getting a player like Greg Monroe would greatly change the system from last season, but it would finally allow Al Horford to play what many consider his natural power forward position.

Mike Dunleavy (UFA), Corey Brewer (UFA), Jeff Green (Player Option), Tobias Harris (Restricted Free Agent)

These players could be signed to replace Carroll at small forward. Other than restricted free agents like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, who are almost definitely going nowhere, there are no small forwards available via free agency that can provide Carroll’s shooting and elite defense. These targets can fill in for some of the things that Carroll provides for the Hawks, but Atlanta’s best option would be to retain Carroll’s services.

Sources:

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12711616/teams-told-nba-salary-cap-hit-100m-2017-18-season

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12307054/nba-free-agents-2015-2016

http://hoopshype.com/salaries/atlanta_hawks/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Atlanta_Hawks_seasons

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Basketball_Association_longest_winning_streaks

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