The off-season is a time for teams to improve their roster by adding young prospects and free agents. This process involves the asking questions such as who should be retained, who should be added, and who should be moved in order to improve the team going forward. In this series we will examine the financial situations of all teams and look at potential free agents that would be ideal targets for each team. In addition we will look closely at which players to retain and which to let go. The first team up in this segment is the Atlanta Hawks. The hawks finished the season at 38-44 and were ousted in the playoffs in 7 by the Indiana Pacers. The hawks are a team with quite a bit of financial flexibility going forward and look to be major players in free agency. So, who should Atlanta target going forward? Well, let's take a look at the list!
Hawks Free Agents
1. Gustavo Ayon, C
Ayon is a restricted free agent for the hawks. Ayon put up decent numbers in the regular season averaging 4.3 ppg and 4.8 rpg. For an Atlanta team that is in need of size, Ayon is a good value. So, should the hawks retain Ayon? I say the hawks should look elsewhere. While Ayon offers some size and production the hawks have better options moving forward. Pero Antic, Mike Muscala, and Bebe (Lucas Nogueria) are better options for this team. I believe that Muscala and Nogueria can offset the loss of Ayon and for those reasons Ayon should not be retained. The hawks would be better served taking the money spent on Ayon and use it to attract other free agents.
Verdict: Don't Retain
2. Shelvin Mack, PG
Mack is an interesting prospect. He was originally 3rd on the depth chart at the point guard position but was able to work himself into the rotation and move above highly touted rookie Dennis Schroeder. Mack provided solid production behind Jeff Teague and I'm sure anyone who watched Atlanta this season would agree that he should be retained.
3. Mike Scott, PF
Mike Scott is a player who made great strides this season. He has become a nice offensive weapon off the bench as a good scorer and a guy who has pretty good athleticism. A second round pick, Scott has definitely proven himself as NBA player by climbing into the rotation of the hawks. Moving forward Scott is a player who should be kept on this Atlanta team. He provides some nice versatility with his scoring ability and athleticism, which was clearly on display in the series against the Pacers.
4. Elton Brand, PF
Brand is another big man who provided solid minutes all season and in the playoffs for the hawks. I do think it would be nice to have him on the roster but I do not see him returning to Atlanta considering he is an aging player who probably wants to play for a title contender. He is an unrestricted free agent and while it would be nice to have his veteran leadership it does not seem that the stars will align for this one.
5. Cartier Martin, SG
Martin is another unrestricted free agent and while I feel that Brand should be retained I think the opposite should hold true for Martin. At the wing position, on which the hawks are in much need of depth, I think Atlanta is better off exploring options. There will be many wing players available in free agency and I believe that Martin is a player who is easily interchangeable.
Verdict: Don't Retain
Free Agent Targets
While I could go on about the numerous free agents in the NBA and examine each one to see if they are a fit with each team, it would be better served to narrow that list down to the top three players each team should target. These players are players I believe could actually come to the team. While all teams would love to add LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, it's safe to assume that it is an unrealistic option for most teams.
1. Gordon Hayward, SG/SF
Hayward is an ideal fit in Atlanta, plain and simple. A good all-around player, Hayward would fit right into Budenholzer's team-oriented offense. He would serve as a nice playmaker and scorer and would provide some much needed depth at the wing position for Atlanta. What should be noted is that he is a restricted free agent. If the hawks want to add him, I believe their best plan of attack would be to offer Hayward a shorter contract with a lot of money.
2. Luol Deng, SF
Deng is another player who would be ideal in Atlanta's offense. He has good basketball IQ and also has pretty good scoring ability. I think he and Hayward provide very similar abilities and therefore would be a good fit. While Hayward should be the first option I think Deng comes in a very close second because unlike Hayward, he is a unrestricted free agent. The reason I do have Hayward above Deng is because of Hayward's youth. I think Hayward has more potential and therefore would be the better pick. What is good with this option is Atlanta will most likely not have to offer Deng as much as they would have to offer Hayward, which leaves room to improve the roster more.
3. Greg Monroe, PF/C
Consider the hawks a dark horse for Monroe. I do think Monroe will leave Detroit because of the log-jam in the frontcourt. However, there is a caveat. Monroe is a restricted free agent and the Pistons have the right to match any offer he is given. With that being said I think he would be a nice addition for Atlanta because of the depth it would add for the hawks down low. Additionally I think he could play the center position and allow Horford to move to his more natural position of power forward. If the hawks do go after Monroe I believe they should move Millsap for a wing player so that the log-jam in Detroit isn't created in Atlanta. An interesting prospect but definitely someone the hawks should look at.
So, with all this being said, who should the hawks target in free agency?