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Atlanta Hawks free agent investments supported by FiveThirtyEight projection model

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Travis Schlenk did a (very) nice job if you believe this projections.

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The roster for the Atlanta Hawks has changed quite a bit since the end of the 2016-2017 NBA season. The team’s best player, Paul Millsap, left in free agency and Travis Schlenk’s first order of business was to move away from Dwight Howard in a deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Throw in the fact that rookie John Collins is already making waves and there is an intriguing mix of talent despite the fact that Atlanta has visibly taken a step back in terms of immediate competitiveness.

With all of that turmoil, though, the Hawks didn’t go crazy on the free agent market. Only Dewayne Dedmon, Nicolas Brussino and Luke Babbitt join the roster from other NBA teams, with Atlanta re-signing Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova from within.

To that end, FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projections attach a numerical (contract) value to each and every player in the league for the 2017-2018 season and that exercise has been done with regard to the Hawks. Here is what the data says:

Luke Babbitt

  • Contract: 1 year, $1.9 million (veteran minimum)
  • $5.5 million in actual value for 2016-2017
  • $2.7 million projected value for 2017-2018

The projection likes the Babbitt contract and so does the general consensus. It isn’t an impact move but Babbitt’s shooting profile jumps off the page and that is the biggest reason for FiveThirtyEight’s respect for his overall impact.

Nicolas Brussino

  • Contract: 2 years, $2.85 million remaining
  • -$1.7 million in actual value for 2016-2017
  • $0.3 million projected value for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 (combined)

Yes, that is a negative number. Brussino is a project and will be a student in Hawks University. At the moment, he isn’t a productive NBA player but it was a no-risk flyer and one that is defensible based on his tools. The projection system only evaluates on-court performance, however, and that explains this.

Dewayne Dedmon

  • Contract: 2 years, $12.3 million (plus incentives), player option on year two
  • $15.6 million in actual value for 2016-2017
  • $9.1 million projected value for 2017-2018, $7.4 million projected value for 2018-2019

Dedmon enjoyed a breakout season in San Antonio and that is on full display with a value north of $15 million (!) a year ago. That might be over-inflated to some degree but, on a per-minute basis, Dedmon played like a quality center and he is young enough to think that can continue. At the very least, FiveThirtyEight sees excess value in year one and, if Dedmon were to pick up his player option, more value in year two.

Ersan Ilyasova

  • Contract: 1 year, $6 million
  • $18.3 million in actual value for 2016-2017
  • $8.1 million projected value for 2017-2018

This is one man’s opinion but a $18.3 million impact evaluation for last season is, well, insane. In the same breath, Ilyasova could certainly have justified an 8-figure investment and the Hawks are getting a very nice value on a one-year expenditure. Atlanta may need to trade him mid-season given the lack of team control but the deal makes a ton of sense.

Mike Muscala

  • Contract: 2 years, $10 million, player option on year two
  • $7.5 million in actual value for 2016-2017
  • $5.7 million projected value for 2017-2018, $5.0 million projected value for 2018-2019

FiveThirtyEight doesn’t love Muscala but they appreciate him enough to project a positive contract outcome. Much of his projected value for 2017-2018 could be tied to playing time, especially with Ilyasova, Dedmon and rookie John Collins around. Still, the Hawks University graduate should see ample time to provide a strong return on investment.

At the end of the day, none of the free agent (or waiver) moves executed by the Atlanta Hawks are likely to be franchise changers. Still, the team did a reasonable job of finding value on the market and, with any luck, Schlenk and his staff can extract even more with a mid-season deal or two. Stay tuned.