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Deciphering the salary cap for the Atlanta Hawks before free agency

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The last update I provided for the Atlanta Hawks 2019 offseason was back in March after the buyout season had ended and before final standings. At the time, we had to grapple with not knowing what picks the Hawks would receive in trying to determine how much cap space the team would have going into the offseason. We did know that the team would be able to maneuver to between $37 million and $47 million in cap space and were also certain that the team would open the 2019 off-season under the cap, the latter of which hasn’t changed. The team will be under the cap and only have the Room Mid-Level Exception available to them on July 1st.

The amount of cap space Atlanta would have available became more clear on May 14, when it was determined they would have the No. 8 and No. 10 draft picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. However, the amount of cap space they would have in July began to dwindle after it was reported that Atlanta would be taking on the contracts of Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill although there was a slight increase in cap space after the Kent Bazemore-for-Evan Turner trade. These trades also create some interesting decisions on how to execute them and the status of their current free agents. All of this will be laid out with the one caveat that always looms in the background: we are assuming a $109 million Salary Cap but we won’t know this for sure until June 30.

Transactions

The recently announced and completed transaction of Kent Bazemore ($19,269,662) for Evan Turner ($18,606,556) will actually free up $663,106 in cap space for the 2019 off-season. Beyond that, we have at least two transactions we need to consider before talking about the current cap sheet:

  • Taurean Prince ($3,481,986) to Brooklyn for Allen Crabbe ($18,500,000) and the No. 17 Draft Pick ($0 for trade, but a $2,961,120 cap hold)
  • The No. 8 Draft Pick ($4,855,680 cap hold) and No. 17 Draft Pick ($2,961,120 cap hold) for No. 4 Draft Pick ($7,059,480 cap hold) and Solomon Hill ($12,758,781)

Unsigned first-round draft picks do not count towards salary in a trade for salary matching purposes. Only after a draft pick is signed do they count for salary, but a team must wait 30 days to trade the player (see: Lakers situation). However, first-round draft picks do take up a cap hold and thus eat away at a team’s potential cap space. Because of this, Atlanta is not sending out nearly enough salary to complete either of these trades after using up their cap space and their draft picks are also eating up their cap space. Both of these transactions must be completed by taking Crabbe and Hill into cap space.

That said, here is what Atlanta’s cap sheet will look like on July 6th as currently constructed (h/t Jeff Siegel/Early Bird Rights):

Ignoring free agent cap holds for the moment, Atlanta has $95,339,491 in Team Salary on their books across 13 contracts. Jaylen Adams only has $100,000 of his contract guaranteed, so if Atlanta wants to waive him to free up $1,316,852 in cap space they can (roster charges only come in to play when there are fewer than 12 contracts). I am going to assume Adams stays on the roster for the time being.

With the conservative estimate of $109 million for the Salary Cap, that leaves Atlanta with around $13.66 million in cap space if they renounce all of their free agents. The team doesn’t have to renounce all of the free agents, just enough so that the free agents’ cap holds total fewer than $13.66 million.

What this effectively means is that Justin Anderson will not be receiving a Qualifying Offer (becoming an unrestricted free agent) and his cap hold will be renounced. The team will thus be left with a cap hold for Dewayne Dedmon of $9,360,000 and a cap hold for Vince Carter of $1,618,486. That leaves the team with about $2.68 million in cap space. However, for practical purposes, Vince Carter’s cap hold is useless because it only allows the team to give him a 20% raise off of his minimum contract and frankly that is not going to be a sticking point in negotiations. So Atlanta is going to have about $4.3 million in cap space by keeping Dewayne Dedmon’s cap hold.

Dewayne Dedmon

Atlanta will have Early Bird rights on Dedmon, which allows the team to give him a contract with a starting salary of up to 175% of his previous season’s salary. He made $7,200,000 last year which will allow Atlanta to offer a contract starting at $12,600,000 versus his cap hold of $9,360,000 which would actually allow Atlanta to sign Dedmon after using up all of their cap space. The team could eschew Early Bird rights and re-sign Dedmon with their cap space, but that would appear to be about $13.66 million at the moment (or $14.98 million after waiving Adams).

The competition for signing him will assuredly start at the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception -- which should be about $5.7 million. It is also highly likely that there will be a team offering the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception -- around $9.3 million. Anything above the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception is where the market for Dedmon gets unclear.

The Early Bird rights will be advantageous for re-signing him, but the team is also clearly angling for multiple max space slots in the 2020 offseason and is therefore unlikely to offer Dewayne a multi-year deal. He might be looking at a one-year deal from Atlanta, possibly for up to his $12.6 million Early Bird maximum. The one caveat here though is that a one-year deal for Dewayne will result in him having veto power over any trade.

Alternatively, Dewayne might be seeking a sign-and-trade from Atlanta. This would be necessary for him to earn more than the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception from a team that is over the cap. Atlanta might engage in this as a favor for Dewayne and/or to receive some extra assets from a team. It is likely safe to say that Atlanta would not be willing to take on salary that extends beyond the 2019-20 season.

Expanding These Trades?

The elephant in the room for the off-season is how Atlanta may or may not be involved in the Lakers’ pursuit of additional cap space. David Lord put together an excellent overview of the situation from the Lakers perspective, but I’ll give us the Cliff’s Notes version and how it affects Atlanta:

  • If the Lakers get a “yes” from a max or near max free agent, they can first use up their cap space to sign the free agent. Then, they will aggregate current salaries on their roster in order to receive Anthony Davis in a trade as an over-the-cap team.
  • To receive Anthony Davis in a trade over-the-cap, the Lakers need to send out at least $21,594,416 in salaries if Anthony Davis waives his trade kicker, or $24,845,577 if he does not waive it. A difference of $3,251,161, but we should anticipate Anthony Davis will not waive his trade kicker.
  • Currently, the Lakers are sending out $17,918,965 in salaries. They need to add on somewhere between $3,675,451 and $6,926,612.
  • Contracts on the books would be Mo Wagner ($2,063,520), Kyle Kuzma ($1,974,600), Isaac Bonga ($1,416,852) and Jemerrio Jones (counts as guaranteed portion, could be up to $1,416,852). That totals $6,871,824 and gets close to Anthony Davis keeping most of his trade kicker.
  • Before the trade, there is $74,287,127 on the Lakers cap sheet over 9 roster spots. Add in the three roster charges of about $900K each and they are roughly at $77 million. Giving them about $32 million in cap space.

All this to say, if Anthony Davis is willing to reduce his trade bonus then there could be a situation where Wagner/Kuzma/Bonga/Jones are up for grabs and could be routed to Atlanta. But this is a big if and shouldn’t be viewed as likely.

Which is to say, unless the Salary Cap skyrockets past $114 million, we aren’t likely to see these trades expanded.