Al Horford will hit the free agent market officially at 12:01 am ET on July 1, and for months, it has been well known that suitors will be lining up for his services. The Atlanta Hawks have long held the inside track according to most rumblings, though, largely because the team could offer more years and, by proxy, more money than any other franchise in the NBA.
Zach Lowe of ESPN brings word, however, that Atlanta may not be rushing to offer Horford an elusive five-year contract.
The Hawks are reluctant to offer Horford the fifth year only they can dangle, and if they hold firm, they are at grave risk of losing him for nothing, per league sources.
In a perfect world, Mike Budenholzer, Wes Wilcox and company would undoubtedly like to secure Horford, who recently turned 30 years old, on a four-year contract. After all, Atlanta could still offer the biggest contract available with 7.5% annual raises compared to 4.5% from other suitors, but that advantage would pale in comparison to that of a fifth year.
The Hawks are also dealing with the possibility that Kent Bazemore could walk away for nothing, as the talented swingman will be coveted by at least a handful of teams. Lowe also highlighted the harsh reality that Atlanta could be looking at a full rebuild as an option if both Horford and Bazemore get away in the coming days.
Kent Bazemore will have suitors everywhere, including in Milwaukee, Memphis and Brooklyn, sources say. If Bazemore and Horford walk, the Hawks will be at a fork in the road: rush to fill the gaps with high-priced talent or trade Millsap and race to the bottom?
Personally, I believe that the Hawks should absolutely weigh a "blow it up" strategy if Horford walks away, and the one-two punch of both players leaving for no return would perhaps hasten that line of thought. Still, this particular organization may be reticent to press the reset button for fear of losing momentum with the fan base and, as Lowe deftly points out, the fact that Budenholzer is the head coach and head decision-maker only complicates matters.
The Atlanta Hawks may not have to make that type of organizational decision, simply because Horford (and Bazemore) could return in the near future. If that does not happen, though, chaos with the roster could ensue in a way that this organization has not endured in nearly a decade.