The Hawks Screwed Up
On July 3rd, the Atlanta Hawks made what seemed to be a relatively small move, one that many may have missed entirely in the midst of free agency madness. In it, the Hawks traded the expiring contracts of Solomon Hill and Miles Plumlee for Chandler Parsons. None of the three are expected to make a serious impact on any team, and both Hill and Plumlee make around $12.5 million, while Parsons will make $25.1 million this year, so the salaries are almost a perfect match. Why, then, could this turn out to be an enormous mistake for the Hawks?
First, they lose flexibility - the two smaller contracts are much easier to move than the larger single one. Second, they were not at all compensated for making Memphis’ life easier with even a 2nd-round pick. Which, by the way, would be a pretty good pick considering how bad Memphis is supposed to be.
Medium-sized expiring contracts are some of the most valuable assets non-contending teams can have at the trade deadline. Teams will trade for them to move salaries for future seasons, they are essential to make the salaries match in trades, and they can easily be bought out to save the acquiring team money. Both Hill and Plumlee fit this category.
If the Hawks end up looking to get better at the deadline by acquiring a real player or are just looking to take on bad contracts from teams with assets attached, Hill and Plumlee’s contracts would have been very helpful. Parsons does not leave them many options.
For example, what if the Hawks were ahead of schedule and they wanted to make a move for Robert Covington, a great 3-and-D forward who would slot perfectly into the starting small forward spot. The Hawks could have used Hill’s salary and then included whatever draft compensation the Wolves wanted.
Or if they were looking to gain assets for the future and the Wolves were looking to get rid of a bad contract, the two teams could have structured a deal around Gorgi Dieng and draft compensation for either Hill or Plumlee’s contract. They are now without either option.
Teams have been willing to give up a first-round pick to swap a multi-year contract of around $15 million for an expiring smaller value. That is what the Rockets traded to the Cavs last year to get out from under Brandon Knight’s contract. The Hawks aren’t without options where Parsons’ contract is concerned, but the size of it means there are almost no trades out there where a team can send back proper value.
The only reasonable explanation for a move like this would be to open a roster spot, but their last three signings were Jabari Parker, Ray Spalding on a non-guaranteed contract, and Vince Carter on an agreed-upon but unsigned deal. Since that deal puts them at 16 roster spots, it is safe to assume they will cut Spalding and sign Carter, which means they made this trade so that they can sign both Jabari Parker and Vince Carter instead of choosing just one of them.
Why did the Hawks feel they needed to sign both? Parker and Carter are both best-suited to play power forward, and the Hawks are loaded at the four! Rising star John Collins is a better power forward than center. Highly sought-after #4 pick De’Andre Hunter will be spending some of his time there, as will #10 pick Cam Reddish. Trade headliner Chandler Parsons will play there too.
Parker is the confusing piece. Vince Carter is a revered veteran who only needs spot minutes in his final season - he’s well worth the roster spot. Jabari Parker is signed to a player-friendly deal that holds no upside for the Hawks. Atlanta overpaid and gave him a player-option as well, so if Parker somehow proves worthy of the salary, he will likely opt out and make more money on the open market in a new deal, but if he sucks, he will just opt in and make way more than he should.
The Hawks essentially traded away valuable expiring contracts to sign Jabari Parker, who will take any minutes he plays away from more-valuable youngsters, is not on a team-friendly deal, and could potentially be a locker room issue. When you can do all that, you just have to.
There’s a chance that this deal means nothing in the larger scheme, but it’s awfully shortsighted to rob the team of the opportunity. This was a flat-out misuse of assets and could end up costing the Hawks significantly. Memphis has made some great moves this summer; if their front-office hot streak continues, I guarantee they take advantage of what they fleeced from the Hawks.