More than 50 hours have passed since NBA Free Agency began and a lot has transpired across the league. LeBron James chose the Los Angeles Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins (stunningly) selected the Golden State Warriors, and players like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Paul George made waves by simply staying home.
However, the Atlanta Hawks haven’t been in the news to this point, with the exception of a lone rumor concerning interest in Zach LaVine and, of course, wild overreactions to one game of Summer League basketball. Obviously, silence at this early juncture is a lot less entertaining and/or fun than chaos would be, and a quick glance at some of the other NBA fan bases is reminder of that.
With that said, the quiet approach happens to be the right one.
It would be easy to argue on behalf of free agent pursuits, especially with younger players. Julius Randle, who recently agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, would have made sense with Atlanta’s timeline, and the same could be said for Fred VanVleet or Aaron Gordon. Of players still available, Jabari Parker, Clint Capela and the aforementioned LaVine would fit from an age perspective, even if on-court questions might override any level of interest.
Still, the plan was always for the Hawks to take it slow (something Travis Schlenk emphasized after the NBA Draft) and that appears to be what is transpiring. Atlanta is in a rare position at the moment in that the Hawks actually have sizable salary cap flexibility and that makes the team a perfect partner for teams (headlined by the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder) looking to shed salary for luxury tax reasons.
There is nothing “sexy” about taking a sub-par contract in exchange for a future-facing asset but, considering Atlanta’s long-term approach, a move like that continues to be the approach that makes the most sense. Is there something to potentially avoiding long-term money? Perhaps, but the Hawks aren’t currently set up to make a huge run at free agents in 2019 (at least with Kent Bazemore, Miles Plumlee and Dennis Schroder on the roster) and, considering what projects to be another rocky season, top-tier players aren’t likely to favor Atlanta in a market that will have a number of options.
At some point in the next couple of weeks, the Hawks could pull off a trade to take Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler, Luol Deng, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Singler or any number of (very) available players into cap space and, if they do so, Schlenk will further stock the cupboard with yet another asset. Until then, the rumor mill may not churn at rapid speed with regard to the Hawks and, even if that isn’t the most entertaining thing (or the best thing for web traffic in this space), the patience required to execute this lengthy rebuild likely dictates relative silence.
There is, of course, the possibility that a signing or two occurs in the near future and, because of Atlanta’s cap space, nothing can be ruled out. Still, there is no reason to “worry” about the quiet nature of early July, simply because that was always the expectation.