Ah, there's nothing like the shine of the NBA offseason. The NBA Draft and free agency, the hope that is inspired by these two events is rivaled only by the apocalyptic let down every fan feels when their team inevitably doesn't hit the jackpot.
The Atlanta Hawks are built, cap-wise very flexibly, as our own hawksfanatic broke it down for us earlier this month. They are about 10M under the cap after accounting for likely renouncements, draft pick cap holds, qualifying offers and the like.
So, in short, if Carmelo Anthony decides to be a free agent, or Chris Bosh, etc., a sign and trade is the only likely way the Hawks could accommodate this. Chances are we won't have to be concerned around this scenario as the Hawks aren't likely to do anything from a top-level perspective other than go after LeBron James if for some reason he was available to Atlanta.
The strong likelihood is that the Hawks will fly below the radar again this offseason, as they did last season after being eliminated in the Dwight Howard chase. Danny Ferry and team quietly snapped up Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll on the first day of free agency, though Carroll's signing wasn't official until much later. Later in the free agent season they added Elton Brand, which turned out to be a good use of roster space after the Hawks big men started missing a lot of games.
So which players will it be this season for the Hawks?
First, let's address Luol Deng. Deng is a player who works hard, but whose reputation far exceeds his current production. He's an unrestricted free agent with the Cleveland Cavaliers at this point and they are expected to go deep pockets for him, considering they sent draft picks away to get him from Chicago.
Right now Deng is a league average production player and reminds of the former Houston Rockets power forward Rodney McCray. McCray was an excellent player with the Rockets in the 80's and played well with Sampson and Olajuwon. When he neared 30 years old, he was sent to the Dallas Mavericks, who were hoping to add some veteran legs to finally push past everyone and make it to the Finals. But McCray aged quickly and his production fell off.
Also, Lance Stephenson. Stephenson's price tag seems to be going way beyond what he's shown he is on the court. He's exciting, and his defensive efforts have been stout, but if the price is eight figures, the Hawks can't pay for Lance's ceiling. Right now, his efficiency is meh on offense and we haven't even discussed the apparent personality difference than that of the Spursian culture Danny and Bud have built.
We're steering clear of restricted free agents on this quick list of possible Hawks next season. It's so incredibly hard to pull a restricted free agent away from a team that it seems unlikely that Greg Monroe or Gordon Hayward would be chased. Not to mention, like Jeff Teague last season, teams wait a long time before purusing them.
Here it is: A quick, careless list of players I could see the Hawks rostering next season for a decent price, short contract length or both.
Marcin Gortat, Wizards
Gortat is a legit big and gave the Hawks fits when he was with the Magic, what seems like 100 years ago. He's productive on the defensive glass, a must add for the Hawks front court and he's not a zero offensively or protecting the rim. Earned over 7M last year and might get expensive given he's likely the second best big available in free agency after the restricted Greg Monroe.
Spencer Hawes, Cavaliers
Don't laugh. Hawes fits the stretch five approach the Hawks used this season and his advanced stats didn't suffer for it. Hawks is alright on the glass and passes very well, rivaling Al Horford for assist rate among centers. He made a little over 6M last year and I could see him stretching the D for the Hawks.
Jordan Hill, Lakers
Hill flat-out produces. His rate stats are fantastic and his efficiency is underrated. He is an excellent offensive rebounder, does very well on the defensive glass, is alright at rim protection and is straight efficient in the offensive game. He made 3.5M last season so the price is already reasonable considering he's as below the radar as the Hawks are.
DeJuan Blair, Mavericks
He's a slightly lesser version of Hill and doesn't defend as well because he gives up so much height at 6'7. Still, his production is sound in that he owns the glass and is a better passer than Hill. He made the minimum last season. Totally worth it.
Trevor Ariza, Wizards
If you are looking for a possible Millsap-like sneaky signing, then maybe Ariza, but the Wizards playoff run may raise the price a bit. He's made over 7M per for a while and likely will get a raise, but if teams are focused on Carmelo and Rudy Gay opts out and teams believe in the Power of Deng, then maybe someone can get in and get Ariza on a short deal. Ariza had a career-high True Shooting percentage this season after he also had a career high in three-point rate. The price is likely going to be too-high for the Hawks to bring in Ariza as another three & D player. DeMarre Carroll, who the Hawks stole for 2.5M a year over two years, is a slightly lesser version of the player Ariza was this year, and that was Trevor's best season.