The acquisition of Evan Turner may be the final big move the Atlanta Hawks make in their offseason and free agency hasn’t even started yet. Backup point guard was the team’s clearest need after the draft, as the only point guard behind Trae Young on the roster was Jaylen Adams, who hasn’t yet displayed the requisite skill set to man that position full-time. Turner’s play-making will push him into the backup point guard role on a bench unit that’s going to be very interesting to watch, depending on how head coach Lloyd Pierce runs his rotation.
Lineups with Turner at the 1 offensively and the 4 defensively could be a (very) poor man’s version of what the Philadelphia 76ers, Pierce’s former employer, execute with Ben Simmons. Simmons is the team’s primary play-maker whenever he’s on the floor but doesn’t always defend opposing point guards; his size creates all sorts of match-up problems for Philadelphia’s opponents. Turner’s similar size and skill set, though much more muted compared to Simmons, could give Atlanta an opportunity to mimic some of the same advantages the 76ers enjoy.
Turner’s arrival solidifies the backup point guard spot in an unconventional way, but the team may still want to sign a traditional point guard to either play with or instead of Turner in certain alignments. Ideally, that player could defend opposing point guards and knock down shots off the ball, as Turner’s lack of ability to shoot from outside is going to be a considerable negative for the Hawks’ offense. Then again, given what the coaching staff was able to do with Dewayne Dedmon and Alex Len, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see Turner figure out the outside jumper and at least become respectable from that distance.
Speaking of Dedmon, he seems to be the turning point for the remainder of the Hawks’ offseason. If he’s interested in returning to the Hawks, he’ll likely be the 15th and final player on the regular season roster, adding to Adams and second-round pick Bruno Fernando among the players who aren’t already signed to a fully guaranteed contract for 2019-20. Where his market is and what kind of money it would take to re-sign him is a topic for another time, but should Atlanta come to an agreement with Dedmon, it would likely preclude them from investing substantial resources in another point guard. In theory, the team could also move on from Adams, who is only guaranteed for $100,000 of his $1.4 million contract for next season, and replace him with another point guard, whether using cap space or their $4.8 million Room Exception.
There are a handful of names on this year’s free agent market who would be very good fits with this Atlanta roster, both in a potential backcourt with Turner and even in a starting lineup with Young. Names like Tomas Satoransky and Malcolm Brogdon are restricted free agents who have a ton of versatility to their game on both ends of the floor and could play a number of roles, whether next to Turner or Young. Both players are restricted free agents and therefore may need a bit of extra money to pry them away from their incumbent teams, though the market for Satoransky and Brogdon couldn’t be more different.
Satoransky is looking at backup money on the market this year – if he gets eight figures in annual money, that would be a surprise. He’s a solid backup point guard capable of doing a lot of things on the floor, though his shooting would be somewhat difficult to pair with Turner. He’s a solid shooter when he’s willing to take them, but the very low volume in his three years in the NBA is a worry.
Brogdon, on the other hand, is going to be looking at starter-level money or more. If a team truly wants to get out of Milwaukee’s match range, they may have to come with an offer of more than $80 million over four years, which would be a hefty price to pay for the Hawks, even with the hometown element (Brogdon is a graduate of Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross). Creating that level of cap space would require an extra move, which could be stretching Miles Plumlee’s $12.5 million or Solomon Hill’s $12.8 million, but if they stretch those guys to get that cap space and Brogdon’s offer sheet is matched by Milwaukee, they can’t “un-stretch” them to bring them back. It would be a significant risk to go that route, particularly considering how well Atlanta’s books line up with respect to their expiring contracts and the club’s relative unwillingness to spend big in free agency over the last two years.
Players who maybe fit one role or the other (either fit with Young or fit with Turner) are going to come a lot cheaper than Brogdon. Guys like Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers, and Tyus Jones would be interesting additions to the team at the backup guard spot. Curry and Cook are high-level shooters but not necessarily guys to whom you want to give the ball on an every-possession basis, even as a backup, but their fit next to Turner would be ideal. Curry, in particular, bring a bit more defensive acumen to the table. Rivers would fill the other role as someone who could handle the ball in non-Turner lineups and has the ability to play next to Young; his defensive fortitude and versatility would make him a strong signing.
Jones is the one player who doesn’t quite fit either archetype and would perhaps be the worst fit of the group, as he doesn’t have the outside shooting to play with Turner and doesn’t have the size or defensive versatility to play next to Young in the backcourt. Going after Jones would be more of a value play if his market dries up quickly and the Minnesota Timberwolves, his incumbent team, look elsewhere at the backup point guard spot. Jones would also represent the type of free agent they could sign to a multi-year contract and play at the backup point guard spot after Turner leaves the team next summer in free agency.
Young, Turner, and Adams is a fine trio at the position and there’s a clear hierarchy there, with Young playing the lion’s share of the minutes, Turner in a backup role, and Adams in more of an emergency role. Adams’ own shooting talent makes him an interesting fit with Turner if the Hawks want to get him more minutes, but it’s not a necessity and would hurt the team’s defense in those lineups. One of the advantages of playing Turner at the backup point guard spot is that they would have a pretty strong defensive group and putting Adams out there with Turner would dampen that somewhat.
Given that they already have Turner and have gone out of their way to ensure the message is out there that he’s their backup point guard going into the season, it appears unlikely that the Hawks will go with another point guard with what remains of their cap space or their Room Exception.