The Atlanta Hawks likely completed their 2018-19 opening roster yesterday when it was announced that they will add Vince Carter and Daniel Hamilton, each on one-year deals, to fill out the 14th and 15th spots on the team. While unlikely that either player will have a significant on-court impact for the team next season, they both stand to have a strong impact in the locker room and on the practice court while providing depth in case of multiple injuries to the team’s wing rotation further up the roster. Carter’s veteran leadership will be important for a very young Hawks team, while Hamilton’s versatility on the wing will push guys ahead of him in the rotation to better themselves in all areas.
Fans around the world know Carter’s name, but it’s worth examining how he’s still able to play at an NBA level despite 2018-19 being his 21st season. At 41 years old, the high-flying Vinsanity has been left well in the past, though he can still bring it from time to time, in favor of a more measured approach to the game that has served him well as he’s aged – outside of some of the game’s all-time greats (Dirk Nowitzki and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar come to mind), there are few superstars who have accepted diminished roles throughout their career and remained effective pieces for their teams; Carter played more than 30 minutes a game for the Grizzlies in the playoffs just a little more than a year ago. At this point in his career, the professionalism he’ll bring to the team will be his biggest asset, but in a pinch, he’ll still be able to get out there and show what he can do.
Hamilton is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum – Carter played just as many games for Memphis in that 2017 playoff run as Hamilton has played in his entire NBA career to this point. A standout at the G League level last season, he spent the last two years in the Oklahoma City organization, first as strictly a G League player and later on a Two-Way contract. A walking triple-double threat last season, he threw up at least 15-8-8 in 13 separate games for the Blue and averaged nearly 16-9-8 for the year.
Standing 6’7 with a 6’9 wingspan, Hamilton has a lot of the makings of a point forward and has played games at point guard, shooting guard, and small forward across his two-year professional career. Scoring efficiently has long been an issue for him and continued to plague him at the G League level, where he shot just 41 percent last season and 28 percent from distance.
A worthwhile flier, Hamilton has some upside to explore as a primary ball handler off the bench. It will take something special from him in practice before he’s given the opportunity to play in a wing rotation that already features Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter, and Justin Anderson, to say nothing of incumbent players Tyler Dorsey and DeAndre’ Bembry, but the Hawks clearly believe him to be better than a guy like Alex Poythress, whom they signed to a Two-Way contract earlier in the week.
The signings of Carter and Hamilton also give us an interesting window into Atlanta’s plans for the roster this season and even a look into how buyout negotiations developed with Carmelo Anthony, who was officially traded from Oklahoma City on Wednesday and will be summarily waived in the coming days. Without Anthony, the Hawks have 15 fully-guaranteed contracts and both Two-Way spots filled for the 2018-19 season, which means they’re going into the season with just two full-time point guards on the roster in Jeremy Lin and Trae Young. Two-Way player Jaylen Adams can fill some time there, but given Lin’s injury history and Young’s inexperience, a third point guard may have made sense for the club.
Then again, they can always cut somebody loose later in the season if it becomes apparent that they need another full-time point guard, or they can give the reins to players like Bazemore and Bembry, who have shown adequate playmaking abilities in previous seasons. Prince also may get a few looks as a primary ball-handler this season, just to see what he can do with that role and develop his playmaking skills while the team is still in development mode.
Interesting only to those who are enthralled with the deep minutiae of the salary cap, these two signings indicate that Anthony will likely get every dime of the nearly $28 million he is owed from the Hawks, rather than giving some back in a buyout to secure his path to the Houston Rockets. Anthony held all the negotiating power in talks with Atlanta, which likely have taken place over the last few days between the trade’s agreement and the actual execution of the five-player swap, as the no-trade clause built into his contract could have voided the entire thing had he not gotten what he wanted from the Hawks. Left with roughly $500,000 in cap space after the trade but before waiving Anthony, had general manager Travis Schlenk been able to open up a bit more room underneath the cap, he could have signed an undrafted rookie to a three- or four-year contract with substantial non-guarantees and a team option on the end, as other teams have done this offseason with the last bits of their remaining cap space. Instead, it seems as though Anthony will not be giving anything back and the Hawks were left with nothing but minimum contracts available, which they gave to Carter and Hamilton.
This pair are unlikely to see significant minutes on the court this season, as many 14th and 15th men don’t, but each guy serves his purpose on the squad and will be a key part of the locker room and practice environment as the Hawks continue to build their culture around a young team and an inexperienced head coach in Lloyd Pierce. Part of what attracted the Hawks to a coach like Pierce was his ability to grow his own culture with the team as they rebuild back toward the top of the Eastern Conference, much like Pierce’s old boss Brett Brown has been able to do in Philadelphia, and Carter in particular will have the opportunity to make an impact on that culture in the early stages of its development. While just a one-year deal, Hamilton has a chance to show what he can do in a low-pressure environment and perhaps secure a longer deal with the organization next summer or take his talents elsewhere with another year of experience under his belt.