The Atlanta Hawks open free agency with only two point guards on the roster and, frankly, with a lot of uncertainty. Dennis Schröder appears to be cemented, at least for now, as the team’s starting point guard for 2017-2018 and beyond. Behind him, Malcolm Delaney is under contract for next season at a reasonable salary cap number and showed signs of life during his rookie season in the NBA.
With that said, Delaney did not do quite enough to ease concerns about his stability as a high-end backup and that led to Atlanta investing in Jose Calderon for the second half of the season. It is reasonable to believe that Delaney could take a step forward in his second season, as many players arriving from Europe do, but even if that happens, he will hit the restricted free agent market in the summer of 2018.
That leads us to a breakdown of the available free agent point guards. There is no reason to explore the top end of the market, simply because the Hawks already employ Schröder and would not have the funds necessary to jump into the mix. With that in mind, here is a selection of the players that might be available.
Probably too rich
- Patty Mills - It seems exceedingly unlikely that the soon-to-be 29-year-old will have any interest in coming to Atlanta unless an overpay is made. On the bright side, Mills could reasonably play alongside Schröder and he would be one of the best backup point guards in the league. Unfortunately, Mills will command an eight-figure salary and the Hawks would not be able to offer such a number unless the rebuild is on in the post-Paul Millsap era. If that happens, Mills is probably too old to make sense.
- Darren Collison - Collison has a big-time issue off the court, as he plead guilty to domestic battery and was suspended last season. If the Hawks wanted to look beyond that, Collison would have on-court value as a high-end backup but, with Delaney in the mix already, it probably isn’t worth the type of financial capital necessary to attain a player in Collison’s realm.
- Shelvin Mack - Mack just concluded a three-year contract that was handed to him by, well, the Atlanta Hawks. I’ve long poked fun at the Hawks for sending both Mack and Justin Holiday away in favor of Kirk Hinrich (and, by proxy, Kris Humphries) and it would only be amusing if Mack were to return. The 27-year-old is nothing better than an average backup but he can operate an offense and serve as functional insurance. The light never came on for Mack as a shooter (32.1 percent career mark from three) but, if the Hawks wanted someone to push Delaney and provide Budenholzer with options, it could make sense.
- Jose Calderon - Calderon endeared himself to Hawks fans with a memorable playoff performance but he’ll also be 36 years old when the season opens. He could likely be signed on a one-year deal and that is appealing but Calderon’s defensive issues are well documented and provide a defined ceiling. Positively, he’s a tremendous shooter and passer that could fill a role on basically any team during the regular season. -
Brandon Jennings - Jennings will be an “old” 28 to start the season, as he has played more than 16,000 NBA minutes and battled some injuries. Beyond that, he was not a positive factor last season and has converted only 31.9 percent of his threes over a two-year period. Jennings is a professional point guard but probably isn’t an upgrade on Delaney at this stage.
Ty Lawson - Lawson is nearly 30 and had extremely high-profile issues off the floor that cost him quite a bit of money. With that said, he got his groove back (to an extent) on the floor last season and was quietly good. I suspect he’ll be looking to cash in on the market, making Atlanta a sub-optimal destination, but the Hawks could do worse.
Deron Williams - Many jokes were fired about Williams’ dismal NBA Finals performance but, before that, he was certainly a competent backup option. He’s the most famous player on this list after being an NBA All-Star but those days are gone. He’ll snatch some money but it probably won’t be in Atlanta.
Tyler Ennis - Ennis did not impress in his first couple of seasons after being a first-round draft pick. However, he’s still only 22 years old (23 in August) and was sneaky productive down the stretch of last season in Los Angeles. Candidly, I was never a huge fan but the (very) young age is enticing on a cheap, team-friendly deal.
Trey Burke - It’s been a swift fall for Burke, who was a lottery pick in 2013 and the NCAA Player of the Year before that. As a Michigan fan, this hurts my soul but Burke is probably in the market for league-minimum or something in that range. If he would take that in Atlanta, I think it’s a good investment. Beyond that, it’s dicey. The shotmaking and distribution just haven’t been there and he’s not a plus defender by any stretch.
Michael Carter-Williams - Everyone knows that Carter-Williams can’t shoot and that is the biggest reason he lands on a list like this. There are other issues as well but, if paired with the right pieces, he could be a solid bench option (as an unrestricted free agent) for someone because his size and relative tools.
More of a combo guard
Langston Galloway - Galloway certainly isn’t a point guard offensively but he is a career 37 percent three-point shooter and the Hawks need spacing. It’s a tricky fit, though, in that he isn’t big enough to defend shooting guards. At 25, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to throw Galloway into the mix but, with Delaney already not being the purest of point guards, it’s a tough fit.
Brian Roberts - Roberts is 30 and isn’t much beyond a shooter. He’s on the list because, well, he can shoot and would be available for the minimum.
Nobody at all
It would be difficult to be higher on Malcolm Delaney than I am. If he take a reasonable step forward as a shooter after struggling (wildly) as a rookie, there is every reason to believe he can be a solid backup point guard next season.
If that belief is held internally, the Hawks could simply explore the G-League (or even undrafted free agents) for a developmental third point guard option. Frankly, this might be preferable to overpaying (especially if more than one year) for an older player and the Hawks could deploy their player development staff in a big way. For reference, Bryce Cotton could be an interesting name and he is already on board for Atlanta’s Summer League roster in July.
In short, the free agent class of point guards is kind of a mess and this was one of the reasons why selecting a developmental player in the 2017 NBA Draft would have made sense. Still, Atlanta will probably employ a third point guard at some point this season and that marriage could be consummated in early July.