After a bit of time to allow the 2017-2018 season to breathe, there are a number of on-court questions to answer and, in this space over the next few days, the Peachtree Hoops staff will spring into action to tackle them. In our third roundtable, our staff discusses the pending player option decisions for Atlanta Hawks big men Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala.
Brad Rowland: This is a situation in which both agents will have some behind-the-scenes work to do. Because Dedmon and Muscala must decide on their player options before free agency technically begins on July 1, there is a lot of uncertainty. Dedmon had (easily) the best season of his career and, in a vacuum, he is worth more than the $7.2 million he can lock in for next year. Beyond that, he’ll be 29 in August and this might be his best chance to ensure increased long-term financial security. However, the center market is tough and it is unlikely Dedmon can find a suitor for more than the mid-level. As for Muscala, his skill set plays well in a reserve role virtually anywhere in the league and $5 million is a significant number for someone with his profile and lifetime earning. Much in the same way as Dedmon, I believe Muscala is worth his contract or more but there doesn’t seem to be the same probability that he can command that kind of money annually on a long-term deal. If he can, he should opt out and maximize this payout. If not, $5 million is an appropriate number and he can try again in 12 months. It’s time for the agents to earn their money and they know it.
Jeff Siegel: Dedmon is in line to make as much as $7.2 million for next season, will he opt out of that for the chance to get somebody’s full mid-level exception ($8.6 million) this offseason? The market is going to be incredibly tight this season and while it’s no guarantee that it’ll be any better next year, a bird in the hand is might be worth two in the bush for Dedmon. Whether the Hawks go with a center in the draft or not, Dedmon would still play a key role for the team next season and would be a positive influence on the younger guys.
Muscala’s a bit trickier; I wonder if he’ll wait until after the draft to make his decision before the June 29 deadline. If they go with another big man, then he might find himself squeezed out of the rotation in Atlanta and will want to move on to greener pastures. A backup big man who can space the floor, is a good passer, and is at least a neutral force defensively should be worth more than the $5 million Muscala’s slated to make next season, but once again, there just isn’t very much money available this summer, especially for big men.
Graham Chapple: Who even knows when it comes to Dewayne Dedmon. He seemed very upbeat about his summer at his exit interview -- seems likely he’ll opt out -- but the market could be as tight this year as it was last year, so is Dedmon going to find the contract he wants? Will he settle for less than 6/7 million per again? Atlanta, depending on their salary situation (and the guys they sign in the summer) could have some cap space left that they need to spend and could offer Dedmon seven or eight/nine million over one year, which Dedmon might find is his best financial option for the coming season. I think he’ll definitely shop around (his stock has never been higher than it is now) and he’ll leave if a team can offer him a little more than he earns this year over two or three years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back to Atlanta if the market dries up for him, which is entirely possible. Not because he’s not good but because teams might not just have the cap space to add a guy on a 9/10 million contract.
When it comes to Muscala, I fully expect him to opt into that player option. Similar to Dedmon, I think the market is tight and though Muscala could fall into someone’s exception, I think he’ll stay, think he wants to be in Atlanta and he’ll do that if he can. I’d be surprised if he opted out (though, I do think he could slot into just about any team’s bench and perform well, and that could play a factor).
Glen Willis: I think that might be pretty dependent upon what ultimately happens with the coaching staff. Dedmon became a shooter for the first time in his life working with the player development staff. And Muscala’s skill set if a perfect fit for the Budenholzer schemes. The market is expected to be incredibly tight, so it might be safest for each to opt in and hope to build additional value next season. But the league continues to head in the direction in which traditional bigs that can’t shoot have less value. That might lead one to presume they would have increased value on the market. But I think it’s going to take at least one more season for players like Dedmon and Muscala to be rewarded. It’s very likely that too many teams feel like they are already overspending at the position and thus there might be incredibly few spots for which free agent bigs will compete.
Greg Willis: Very tough to project this but my hunch is that Dedmon opts in and Muscala opts out. Dedmon is two years older and has more money on the table than Muscala. Muscala’s skill set should be very marketable, but that did not seem to be the case last summer. Still, I think Muscala could find a nice role on a good team with a multi-year deal. Even if his salary is in the $5M range, there is upside for him to look at other opportunities.
Sam Meredith: Dedmon is likely going to opt-out of his deal with the Hawks because at his age and coming off the best season of his career this may be his last chance to get a big pay day. Legit 7-footers who can shoot the three and defend at the rim are in high demand and I’ve said before I think Golden State is a legitimate landing spot for Dedmon as the marriage just makes too much sense. As for Muscala, I think his contract status could depend on how the coaching staff is built. Muscala was a great fit in Budenholzer’s system but, with the head coach out the door, things could get interesting.
Xavier Cooper: I fully expect Dedmon to opt out. Playoff teams could really use a player like Dedmon. He doesn’t make wrong moves and he’s improved as an outside shooter. If I’m the Atlanta Hawks, I would possibly try and keep him if it doesn’t cost too much because younger players can learn from his maturity and style of play. He’s not a star but he’s the perfect example of an older guy who would be a great mentor for the youth. I believe Muscala likes playing in Atlanta and I don’t really think he’s shown enough skill to have a litany of suitors. But then again, money could be thrown around left and right this summer and there’s probably a team out there that thinks they can do something with him.
Zach Hood: I do see one of Dedmon or Muscala being back in Atlanta next season, but probably not both. I see Muscala opting in to his $5 million player option. I’m not super confident that this will happen due to uncertainty revolving around the coaching situation in Atlanta at the moment as well as the possibility that the Hawks bring in other bigs through the draft and/or keep Dedmon. Despite all of this, I guess I just see Muscala riding it out on more year in Atlanta unless he feels like he won’t get a lot of playing time. Muscala is a solid bench piece but I feel like he would be taking somewhat of a risk going into free agency right now when he has $5 million on the table.
I feel that Dedmon is more likely to test free agency. He played relatively well in an expanded role this season, posting career highs across the board. Dedmon averaged 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and .9 steals per 36 minutes and he shot 35.5 percent from behind the arc on 141 attempts. Dedmon only had one three-point attempt in his career prior to this season, and his ability to knock down the long ball should elevate his value on the open market in today’s spaced out game. I think the Hawks like what Dedmon did this season and will be willing to discuss a new deal with him, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say someone probably outbids the Hawks for Dedmon’s services this offseason.