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Atlanta Hawks salary cap primer entering free agency

With free agency finally beginning on July 1st. Here's a short recap of what to expect.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

This article is meant to serve as a quick reminder on all of the Salary Cap issues related to the Hawks this off-season as well as to update the current contracts that the Hawks will have on the books for this off-season. There are only a few pieces of the puzzle left to determine, which are what the Salary Cap as well as starting values of Max contracts for Paul and DeMarre. So let's dive into what the cap sheet looks like for the Hawks currently and then point you to where we have discussed Salary Cap issues for the Hawks:

Player 2015--2016 2016--2017 2017--2018 Total
Al Horford $12,000,000 $18,000,000 --- $12,000,000
Jeff Teague $8,000,000 $8,000,000 $12,000,000 $16,000,000
Kyle Korver $5,746,479 $5,239,437 $9,954,931 $10,985,916
Thabo Sefolosha $4,000,000 $3,850,000 $7,315,000 $7,850,000
Mike Scott $3,333,333 $3,333,334NG $6,333,335 $6,666,667
Shelvin Mack $2,433,333 $2,433,334NG $4,623,335 $4,866,667
Kent Bazemore $2,000,000 $2,600,000 --- $2,000,000
Dennis Schröder $1,763,400 $2,708,582TO $6,771,455 $4,471,982
Tim Hardaway Jr. $1,304,520 $2,281,605TO $5,704,013 $3,586,125
Austin Daye $1,185,784NG $980,431 --- $1,185,784
Mike Muscala $947,276NG $1,015,696NG,TO $1,014,746 $1,962,972
Total (Guaranteed) $40,581,065 $17,089,437 $0 $57,670,502
Only Guaranteed (Roster Charges added) $42,159,344 $21,980,676 $6,749,916 ---
Total (Under Contract) $42,714,125 $28,861,988 $0 $71,337,605
Only Under Contract (Roster Charges added) $43,239,218 $31,035,872 $6,749,916 ---
Free Agents: Rights held by Hawks:
Paul Millsap $12,350,000 (Early Bird) up to $16,625,000
DeMarre Carroll $3,175,192 (Early Bird) up to 104.5% of Average Salary
Elton Brand $2,600,000 (Early Bird) up to 104.5% of Average Salary
John Jenkins $2,228,025 (*Other) up to $2,228,025
Pero Antić $1,625,000 (Early Bird) up to 104.5% of Average Salary
Gustavo Ayón $1,950,000 / $2,850,000 *(Early Bird / Bird) up to 104.5% of Average Salary / Max with Bird
Total w/ Cap Holds $66,642,342 / $67,542,342 --- --- ---
Total w/ Cap Holds (likely) $58,239,317 --- --- ---
Salary Cap Projections $67,100,000 $89,000,000 $108,000,000 ---
Luxury Tax Projections $81,600,000 $108,000,000 $127,000,000 ---

Notes: Red denotes cap hold; TO-Team Option; NG-Nonguaranteed.

Mike Muscala and Austin Daye are minimum salaried players, their salaries count as 2-year vet minimum but are paid more based on years experience (except for Mike in 2015-16 when he is a 2-year vet).

There are conflicting interpretations of the waiver wire process and how it relates to the rights that the Hawks hold for Gustavo Ayón. This is why I list two different cap holds for him.

(Contract data from and

I have crossed out the obvious move for the Hawks which is is to renounce Brand, Jenkins, Antić, and Ayón. This move clears leaves the Hawks with $58,239,317 in cap holds. We won't know the exact amount of cap space this leaves the Hawks with until the end of the July moratorium and the Salary Cap is announced. The current projections is $67.1 million which would leave the Hawks with ~$9.1 million in cap space.

As a bit of a disclaimer, I have taken small liberties with the upcoming cap sheet. Technically, as the Hawks enter the off-season they will have the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception ($5.464 million) and the Bi-Annual Exception ($2.139 million). These carry cap holds, so the Hawks will start the off-season over the cap. With recent moves and using common sense, the Hawks will not remain over the cap and thus will lose the ability to use the NTMLE and BAE. They will be left with the Room Mid-Level Exception ($2.814 million), which does not carry a cap hold, and using more common sense will only be used after the Hawks spend up to the Salary Cap.

The Issues

We have discussed a myriad of issues with the Salary Cap. A quick rundown of each issue in rough order of importance:

  • Paul Millsap's options: the biggest issue here is if Paul is willing to take his Early Bird Max (starts at $16,625,000 over 4 years for $73,981,250). If this happens, Paul would be signed after the Hawks spend up to the cap. If not, then the Hawks might be in trouble.
  • DeMarre Carroll's options: what is going to be DeMarre's biggest offer elsewhere and is he willing to take what the Hawks can offer? If Paul is willing to sign for his Early Bird Max, then the Hawks cap space is likely earmarked for DeMarre. Under the scenario above and assuming a $67.1 million Salary Cap, the Hawks could offer DeMarre a deal starting at ~$12.2 million (recall that DeMarre has a cap hold and this can be pushed to his starting salary). If for some reason you insist on waiving Austin Daye, that would add on $422,183 (recall, incomplete roster charges) to give DeMarre a starting salary ~$12.6 million. Is this enough? Tough to say.
  • Edy and Lamar possibilities: the important takeaway here is that the Hawks CAN sign Edy and Lamar through the Room Mid-Level Exception, but it is not a smart idea because it limits the number of years in a contract to 2. So the Hawks would prefer to save some cap space if they want to sign these guys. Also, the Hawks have a slight loophole with the Excluded International Player Payment where they can include an uncapped bonus up to $625,000 to each (I retain a finder's fee though).
  • Do not expect the 2017--18 Salary Cap to spike: if you hear prognosticators talk about a rapidly increasing Salary Cap for 2017--18 and how this may dictate free agency dynamics, it is likely incorrect. The currently projected spike is likely because the NBA has a disingenuous accounting strategy that is not likely to occur.
  • Now frivolous issues with other Free Agents: in the unlikely event that the Hawks care to retain any of their "other" free agents, the issues are covered. The biggest current takeaway is that the Hawks can renounce Elton Brand and still bring him back with the minimum player exception. It would cost the Hawks $947,276 but Elton would be paid $1,499,187.

So these are the main issues we have covered for the upcoming off-season. We will have another update once the Salary Cap is determined, which is likely to be around July 8th. Enjoy.