The Atlanta Hawks went into the 2016 NBA Draft with four picks but there was never a real chance that all four players would be on next season’s roster. Atlanta ended up using both of their first round selections on college wing players in Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry.
In the second round, Atlanta’s focus was on acquiring players that could continue their development next season without occupying a roster spot. They selected shooting guard Isaia Cordinier out of France with the 44th pick, and while he may take part in summer league, he is expected to remain overseas next season. The Hawks then opted to trade the 54th pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for cash considerations.
"I would just share that it truly comes down to roster spots and our inability to make sure that 54 was going to be on the roster,” Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox said when asked about the decision to deal away the 54th pick. “It's not about whether or not we thought the player was a fit or not; it really was a decision based upon roster management. Ultimately, that's why.”
Free agency is still a week away but Wilcox and company still have some work to do with the Hawks’ roster. Atlanta already has 10 players under contract for next season, not counting Prince and Bembry who will also be on the roster.
"I think roster spots are something we're always managing and it was certainly something that we looked at this season,” Wilcox said. “When we look at our current roster, we very quickly get to 10 or 11 players. If you add be it one or maybe two players in the first round and get to 12 or 13, and very quickly, the roster starts to fill up and there's certainly positional needs that we're going to have to address, be it through trade or free agency.”
Atlanta could continue to reshape its roster through trade and they do have some wiggle room to play with. Mike Scott and Lamar Patterson’s salaries are non-guaranteed for next season, while Mike Muscala has a team option. Each of those players would be considered bargains but could be jettisoned if the Hawks need a roster a spot.
Here is a look at the Hawks roster as it stands currently:
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Mike Scott (Non Guaranteed $3,333,334)
Mike Muscala (Team Option $1,015,696)
Lamar Patterson (Non Guaranteed $874,636)
Unsigned Draft Picks
Isaia Cordinier (Likely to remain overseas)
So if the Hawks elect to keep everyone while adding Prince and Bembry, that puts the roster at 12 with just three open spots. We haven’t even talked about free agency where Atlanta has placed a high priority on retaining the services of Al Horford and Kent Bazemore. Re-sign both and the roster is at 14 and Dennis Schröder is still the only true point guard in the bunch. That doesn’t even account for any other player the Hawks could opt to pursue in free agency.
The point of this exercise is that the draft was just the first step in remaking this roster for next season. The Hawks have the cap space available to further upgrade the roster but will be in the market for at least one point guard and maybe even two. To do that, more changes are likely to come. Whether that is a trade or simply letting go of a non-guaranteed player remains to be seen.