Even Without Any More Moves, The Hawks Should Be A Team Built for 2025 (2024)

With free agency slowly coming to a conclusion, it is no secret that the Atlanta Hawks have not been heavily involved.

As of this article, Atlanta has not signed a single free agent. They picked up the team option on Garrison Mathews, who gave them good minutes as a three-point shooter, but have otherwise been inactive. This inactivity comes after they made a big trade to move Dejounte Murray to the Pelicans in exchange for Dyson Daniels, Larry Nance Jr., a 2025 first-round pick and a 2027 first-round pick.

Given their team context and the roster itself, sitting out free agency largely makes sense. Any real changes they were going to make to the roster had to come through trades.

At the onset of free agency, the NBA announced the various financial restrictions that teams would have to adhere to. The Hawks were likely only interested in one piece of information: the tax line.

The National Basketball Association today announced that the Salary Cap has been set at $140.588 million for the 2024-25 season. The Tax Level for the 2024‑25 season is $170.814 million.

Per Spotrac, the Hawks have $153,288,268 in active roster cap allocations. When factoring in Zaccharie Risacher's cap hold of $12,569, 040 dollars, they come in at $165,857,308 dollars in cap commitments. This projection assumes that they renounce the cap hold on Saddiq Bey, which the have not done yet. Adding up their current cap holds and active roster cap commitments puts them over the luxury tax and gives them part of the taxpayer mid-level exception to add free agents.

Keith Smith of Spotrac published a list of the spending power each NBA team has, including the Hawks.

My best estimate of max spending power each NBA has remaining (most they could offer a single free agent signing):

ATL - Taxpayer MLE - $5.2M
BOS - Veteran Minimum - $2.1M
BKN - Non-Taxpayer MLE - $12.8M
CHA - Room Exception - $7.9M
CHI - Partial Non-Taxpayer MLE - $4.3M
CLE -…

— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 2, 2024

Frankly, there is practically no chance that the Hawks are paying the luxury tax. They have made moves to get under the tax in seasons prior and I would expect that trend to continue. Still, it doesn't change the fact that Atlanta cannot really add anyone in free agency outside of vet minimum signings or a sign-and-trade.

Through their actions, the Hawks have made it clear that they want to surround Trae Young with a sustainable foundation of players that make sense around him and maximize his talents. There was really no one on the veteran's minimum that fit that description. I think the free agency inactivity becomes more acceptable when considering the moves they made prior to July 1.

First, they committed to Trae Young. They could have traded him and attempted to kickstart a rebuild, but they likely realized that not having control of future first-round picks makes a rebuild very daunting. Young is also one of the premier offensive creators in the NBA. His scoring gravity, playmaking ability and offensive impact cannot be discounted. If the Hawks want to recapture the success of 2021, it is hard to envision that happening without Young on the roster.

Then, they cut their losses from the initial Murray trade. Instead of refusing to admit an obvious mistake, they got back real value for a player that just did not fit on their team. Murray is a All-Star level talent, but his fit with Young never materialized. A player like Dyson Daniels, whose defense and playmaking complement Young, makes much more sense on the Hawks' roster.

Looking at the current state of the Eastern Conference, is there a free agency move available that would have made the Hawks elevate into a new tier of talent without handicapping their long-term future? Currently, Atlanta is likely still in the play-in tier of teams in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics, Knicks, 76ers, Bucks, Cavaliers, Magic and Pacers all project as stronger teams. The Hawks are in a tier with the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors. There is not a player that makes under $5.2 million that would move the Hawks past either the Heat or the Raptors.

Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, DeMar DeRozan is reportedly interested in taking a one-year deal or a sign-and-trade. The Hawks should not be interested in either deal.

"Well, I think there's interest in DeMar DeRozan, but the kind of contract that he might want just is not going to be available. It's not left out there in the marketplace. The Bulls are more than willing to work on a sign-and-trade agreement to get him the years and money that he might want, but with the new salary cap rules, those are much more difficult for teams to do."

"I think in DeMar DeRozan's case, and it may not be as appealing to him, but it may look like a one-year deal somewhere. Let the market reset next year because if you do a sign-and-trade, it's got to be at least three years. And now you're locked into a three-year deal at a number you may not like."

Adding someone like DeRozan, even for one year, would curtail the development of the Johnson-Risacher tandem. His reluctance to shoot from the arc, on-ball reliance and shot selection also make him a poor fit with Young. A sign-and-trade would be even worse since they would be making a long-term commitment to a player that makes little sense for their roster.

Breaking down the other options make it clear that the Hawks do not have any clear, win-now moves on the table. The Hawks do not have a real shot at acquiring Lauri Markkanen - nor should they. Zach LaVine's contract runs for three more seasons at cap hits north of $40 million. Even if Atlanta gets a pick from Chicago to take the contract on, it severely limits their roster flexibility. Their best bet is to be patient and open up as much flexibility for the 2025 off-season.

Considering that, moving Clint Capela needs to be a priority. Rostering three centers (Capela, Okongwu and Nance) who make real money does not make any sense. At bare minimum, that deal needs to happen by the 2024 trade deadline. He has value as an expiring contract, but his age and his salary of $22 million severly limit the amount of teams who can take him on.

A deal for DeAndre Hunter would open up further flexibility for 2025, but the simple reality of his expensive contract means that he probably will not be moved this summer. Practically every team either has their wing situation figured out or lacks the salary cap space to take on Hunter's contract. He is also too good of a player to salary dump. Hunter's shooting and perimeter defense are in-demand skills across the NBA that the Hawks shouldn't throw away for nothing.

Atlanta came into this off-season as a play-in team with limited draft capital, little cap space and a backcourt that needed to be broken up. They have broken up that backcourt, gained draft capital and refrained from wasting their already-limited cap room. With the exception of finding a Capela trade, there is not much more that the Hawks could have done in this transaction cycle that would have improved their trajectory. Their best bet is to be patient and re-assess the roster in 2025 after surrounding Young with wings (Daniels, Johnson and Risacher) who project as a fit for his talents. The decision Young makes on his player option in 2026-27 will be a true testament to the success - or failure - of this front office's plan.

Even Without Any More Moves, The Hawks Should Be A Team Built for 2025 (2024)
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