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Hawks ahead of the game when it comes to future payroll flexibility

The Hawks are one of the few teams in the NBA with some open payroll space in the near future, but just exactly how much space is that?

With the NBA trade deadline in the rear view mirror and the buyout deadline rapidly approaching on March 1, it seems to be a good time to take a look into the Atlanta Hawks payroll situation and where the teams stands moving forward.

It is no secret that around the league many teams are hurting in their checkbooks after the summer of 2016 when seemingly any decent players were getting max or near-max contracts from teams. With the NBA Salary Cap maximum set at $99,093,000 for the 2017-18 season, there are only four teams in the entire league under the salary cap.

The Hawks have a total cap hit in 2017-18 of $99,626,116 with only $73,144,938 of that amount being active players on the team. One important thing to note is that the Hawks currently only have 13 players on their roster, not including two-way contracts, and the team is only allowed to have 13 players on the roster for a maximum of two weeks before they have to add a 14th player to their roster. This will most likely be done with 10-day contracts or a rest-of-season contract, although they could convert two-way players to full NBA contracts.

So where is the difference between $99,626,116 and $73,144,938 going? The Hawks, as most other rebuilding teams do, have taken on a considerable amount of “dead” money this season in an effort to acquire assets from other teams in exchange to take on these unwanted contracts. Of the $26,888,540 the Hawks have accumulated in inactive cap, Jamal Crawford and Marco Belinelli make up a majority of the amount.

Crawford, as you might recall, was acquired from the Clippers in the summer in a three-team exchange that included Danilo Gallinari going from Denver to Los Angeles with Diamond Stone, Crawford and a 2018 first round pick (via Houston) coming back to Atlanta. Crawford was traded to the Hawks and was assured a buyout from the team which amounted to $10,942,762 for this season and $2,304,226 in 2018-19.

Belinelli was just recently bought out by the Hawks who payed nearly all of his remaining contract for this season at a price of $6,306,060. This means that the duo of Belinelli and Crawford account for $17,248,822 which is nearly three quarters of the Hawks dead money for this season.

Some of the other players the Hawks have waived this season include the likes of Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy, Nicolas Brussino, Quinn Cook, Jeremy Evans, DeAndre Liggins, Sheldon Mac and Okaro White. Tyler Cavanaugh too was waived once by the Hawks but re-signed a two-way contract with the team that was converted to a full contract.

Now, with the Hawks active salary money that amounts to the aforementioned $73,144,938, Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder and Miles Plumlee make up 44.31 percent of the total. Bazemore, who signed a 4-year $70 million-dollar extension with Atlanta back in 2016, was slated to make $16,910,113 this season with a steady increase over the next two years to $18,089,887 next season and then to $19,269,662 in 2019-20. Schroder signed his own extension with the Hawks just last summer and with make $15,500,000 per year through 2021. Plumlee’s contract, which was acquired in a bad contracts swap, will end in 2020 at a per-season cost of $12,500,000.

Outside of those three players, the Hawks will have two expiring contracts this summer in the forms of Ersan Ilyasova and Malcolm Delaney. The Hawks have three players on rookie-scale contracts (Prince, Collins and Bembry) with certainly more to come after the next NBA Draft in which the Hawks have three first round picks.

Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala both have player options after the end of this season for $6,300,000 and $5,000,000 respectively and could decide to opt out if desired. Dedmon’s 2019 deal includes the possibility of incentives from 2018 adding an extra $900,000 to his $6,300,000 in 2019 as well that could (and surely will) raise his cap hit in 2019 to $7,200,000. The rest of the roster in Isaiah Taylor, Tyler Dorsey and Tyler Cavanaugh are on league minimum salaries that expire after next season.

As for now, when almost all of the Hawks dead money drops off the books following the conclusion of this season, Atlanta will be responsible for $70,456,108 in 2018-19 giving them at least $30 million in salary cap space going into the offseason.

This is assuming Muscala and Dedmon accept their player options, however. Should both players opt out, the Hawks will gain another $11,300,000 in salary cap space, giving them a whopping $41 million dollars available, should the team renounce their cap holds. This is possible in a market where all but five teams are projected to already be over the salary cap maximum for 2018-19.

The Hawks are in good position with a nice array of draft assets moving forward and a payroll that is becoming increasingly more flexible. Be sure to follow along with Peachtree Hoops this offseason as the Hawks could possibly be the team looking to take on another bad contract in exchange for assets or could even make a big splash in the free agent market. You never know what could happen.