The Atlanta Hawks have flexibility this summer.
Because of the very reasonable contracts assigned to players like Al Horford, Jeff Teague and even Kyle Korver, Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox enter the upcoming free agency period with a great deal of options. Yes, DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap are unrestricted free agents who will command large sums of money, but in the event that the "new" front office wants to jump into the market for a "max" player, they have the ability to do so.
In that vein, we put together a quick guide to how to approach rumors and innuendo with regard to the available players on the market who fit the "max" description, at least in the minds of some.
Monroe is a fine player. The 25-year-old big man boasts career averages of 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, and he is coming off arguably the best season of his career (15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds per game) in 2014-2015.
However, Monroe has long been associated with the Hawks and it boggles my mind. He is a non-shooter offensively and, well, he is a below-average defender by any stretch of the imagination. Fortunately, it appears that the new-look front office has less interest in him than the previous regime.
Re: Greg Monroe pursuit. I think the last administration in Atlanta was more fond of him as a basketball player than the current one is.— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) June 29, 2015
Monroe is almost certainly going to receive a max deal from someone, but if you take the big numbers with some context, it is a great thing that it won't be with the Hawks.
Leonard is a dream scenario for basically any team. He is 24 years old and already a top-15 player in the NBA who has an NBA Finals MVP on the resume. On top of that, there is room for growth offensively, and he has never been anything resembling an issue off the court.
Sadly, Leonard is a restricted free agent and the Spurs have zero incentive to let him get away. Moving on.
Like Leonard, Butler is also a restricted free agent. There have been some rumblings that Butler has eyes on moving away from Chicago, but he would need to take a short deal at the max to have any chance of that happening, and even then, Chicago is the odds-on favorite to retain his services.
The Hawks and Butler would be an intriguing fit, but he's never been mentioned as an option, and Chicago will likely match any overture. So likely, in fact, that noted cap expert Mark Deeks made this declaration:
Put it this way. If Jimmy Butler is not a Bull come the season opener, I will eat my own face on NBA TV.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) June 29, 2015
Yep, he's staying in Chicago.
News "broke" on Sunday that Green could garner interest from the Hawks. Atlanta should be interested in a player with Green's skill set, but unfortunately for the Hawks, he is also a restricted free agent. Beyond that, the Warriors have already expressed that they will match any offer, meaning that he's not escaping from Oakland.
Oh come on.
Here's an interesting name.
Kevin Love recently opted out of the final year of his contract with the Cavaliers to great fanfare. NBA diehards undoubtedly know that Love was never opting in to the final year, so the process isn't noteworthy, but he is an unrestricted free agent with big-time upside.
It is public knowledge at this point that Love and LeBron James aren't the closest of friends, and his situation in Cleveland is dicey. Still, the Cavs can give him the most money and a chance to win immediately, which is a combination that is difficult to beat. Throw in the fact that he has ties to the West Coast (read: Lakers), and the Hawks seem like an afterthought.
If (and this is a big if) Love was truly on the market to any and all suitors, he would be incredibly intriguing for Atlanta. Love's offensive game would seemingly fit brilliantly with Budenholzer's system, as he is a career 36% shooter from three-point range that would also greatly help on the glass. Defense is an issue for Love but he isn't a trainwreck, and even if this seems far-fetched, it would be fun in a basketball sense.
First and foremost, I love Marc Gasol. I am on record in stating that he is the one (yes, one) center in the league worthy of a decision to move Al Horford to the power forward spot, and I would love for the Hawks to pursue and sign him. Still, he's probably not leaving Memphis.
Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has the latest on that front:
I'll spoil the Gasol part since there's so much talk on that front already this morning: I think he's back and it happens very quickly.— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) June 29, 2015
In short, don't get your hopes up, even if it would be tremendous.
Here's the one that many Hawks fans are already excited about. Word trickled out last week that Aldridge was almost certainly going to leave Portland, and in that initial leak, he was linked to the Hawks as a potential destination. It must be noted that Aldridge has been more directly tied to both the Spurs and Lakers at this point, but given that Atlanta has the money, positional flexibility and winning culture to offer, it isn't crazy to see LMA giving the Hawks a real look.
The prospect of Horford and Aldridge playing together would be fun, though there are some potential pitfalls. Both players are at their best in the mid-range offensively, but Aldridge is a very good rebounder for the 4 spot, and the two players could become interchangeable in some ways.
We will stop short of a full-on "fit" evaluation until things get more serious (if they ever do), but from where I sit, LaMarcus Aldridge looks like the most likely "max" guy to see Atlanta as a realistic destination. That should bring extra eyeballs to his every move over the next few days.
All in all, it seems more likely that the Atlanta Hawks will heavily invest in their own guys, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, rather than spending the big money necessary to engage in real discussions with the above players. Still, there is something to be said for endless possibilities, and the Hawks are one of the more interesting teams to follow in the NBA when it comes to free agency.