For teams not involved in the 2019 NBA Finals, the NBA Draft is the next major event on the league calendar. With that in mind, most of the activity for the Atlanta Hawks (and most franchises) is focused on that process but, just days after the draft commences on June 20, the free-for-all of free agency begins in earnest.
To that end, Shams Charania of The Athletic shared some interesting reporting on Tuesday afternoon, and it centers on the potential of Dewayne Dedmon returning to Atlanta. Charania brings word that the Hawks have “interest in potentially re-signing” the free agent big man and he notes that the structure could be a “balloon one-year deal” or a “shorter-term contract” modeled after the previous two-year pact with Dedmon that expires at the end of June.
On the surface, this is anything but shocking. Dedmon experienced a career renaissance in Atlanta, stretching the floor as a three-point shooter and establishing himself as a legitimate starting center. Beyond that, the Hawks do not have a full-fledged starter waiting in the wings (with all respect to Alex Len, who played well last season) and Dedmon’s two-way fit within the team’s scheme remains snug.
In contrast, Dedmon could be looking for a significant payday this summer, particularly given that he will turn 30 in August. After all, he just enjoyed the best two-year stretch of his career by a significant margin and, as such, Dedmon would be justified in aiming to capitalize on his new-found level of play.
Without Dedmon’s salary cap hold on the books, the Hawks would enter the off-season with more than $43 million in space. If the team wanted to pay Dedmon more than the $9.4 million (in year one) for which he would be on the books as a cap hold, it would make sense to keep that number and use Dedmon’s Early Bird rights in order to maximize the remaining ~$35 million in salary cap room. This would cap them at $12.6 million in first-year salary for Dedmon, but that might be enough to get it done. If the Hawks and Dedmon come to an agreement on an amount larger than $12.6 million, then they’d have use to cap space to sign that deal, significantly cutting into their available space for other moves. If the two sides came to a pact at less than $9.4 million in the first season, the Hawks would have no reason to wait from a salary cap standpoint.
For reference, a one-year deal in any form would give the center an implicit no-trade clause throughout the 2019-20 season, something that has come back to bite the Hawks in the recent past. In 2017-18, Atlanta lost out on the opportunity to get some value for Ersan Ilyasova in a trade because of his no-trade clause, then bought him out and watched him walk to the Philadelphia 76ers without compensation.
Elsewhere, Charania also reports that Atlanta “could be a destination for contract dumps” over the summer, foreshadowing what both Travis Schlenk and Lloyd Pierce have said concerning the team’s aversion to “skipping steps.” In short, that would lead to the Hawks taking on poor salary in exchange for future-facing assets, indicating that the team will continue its slow-burn approach to rebuilding. If that was the plan, the need for “max cap space” would be diminished, further illustrating the potential path for Dedmon’s return.
The Hawks could invest a top-10 draft selection in a center like Jaxson Hayes or Goga Bitadze and, if that transpired, Atlanta’s “need” for another big-ticket big man may diminish. If that does not occur, however, the franchise will likely be in search for at least one more quality option in the frontcourt and, given the way Dedmon performed over two seasons, it stands to reason that both sides could be interested in a reunion.