On Sunday afternoon, the New York Knicks elected to waive 28-year-old forward Mindaugus Kuzminskas to pave the way for the return of Joakim Noah. In short, the Knicks had to clear a roster spot in order to bring Noah back from a lengthy injury absence and Kuzminskas was the odd man out in New York.
From the perspective of the Atlanta Hawks, this might seem harmless with the exception of a report from Marc Berman of the New York Post that the team could have interest in Kuzminskas should he clear waivers.
If Kuzminskas clears waivers, Lakers, Bulls, Hawks expected to have interest, per source.— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) November 12, 2017
At first blush, this might seem out of place given that Atlanta does not have an open roster spot. However, the Hawks could (in theory) apply for a hardship waiver given that the team has four-plus players out of action for multiple games and the latest injury report indicates that will likely continue on Monday in New Orleans.
Beyond that, Berman reported in 2016 that the Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers were the runners-up in pursuing Kuzminskas, with the caveat that Atlanta’s front office has changed since that point in time. Atlanta could theoretically create roster room in a different way than the hardship waiver, as the Hawks could pull off a trade or even part ways with a player like Nico Brussino should the team prefer Kuzminskas.
In addition, the Hawks cannot claim him Kuzminskas off of waivers because the team does not have enough cap space to absorb him directly. If Mindaugus clears waivers, Atlanta would have their entire Room Mid-Level Exception ($4.328 million) to offer him either a one or two-year contract.
At the age of 28, there isn’t a great deal of upside with Kuzminskas but he did perform reasonably well in his 2016-2017 debut and there could be value to tap as a result. This does seem far-fetched but, in the end, the Hawks have a reported history of involvement and another report that Atlanta could be in the mix in the next few days.