Exactly one year ago, we examined the roster for the Atlanta Hawks through the prism of FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO model. In short, we’re back to do that once again for 2019-20 and, as a refresher, Nate Silver and the crew at FiveThirtyEight use their CARMELO model to evaluate every NBA player, with salary projections included. The data is publicly available (as you can see with the link above), and it looks to the past and future to gather interesting information, including valuable projections for incoming rookies.
For our purposes, we’ll glance at the current Hawks roster, comparing actual salary to what CARMELO lays out for projected salary “worth” over the body of that player’s contract. CARMELO ignores the salary cap entirely, so that is worth noting, but this provides food for thought from a noted statistical model.
At the moment, the Hawks employ only 13 players on a full-time basis (sorry, Charlie Brown) and they are included below.
- Actual - $2.6 million for 2019-20
- CARMELO - $0.0 million for 2019-20
The system doesn’t love Bembry, who is evaluated as a (sharply) negative player in each of his first three seasons. CARMELO does see a five-year market value of more than $11 million for Bembry but, from a Hawks perspective, he is only under contract for one more season with the potential for restricted free agency next summer.
- Actual - $6.82 million for next two seasons (team option for 2020-21)
- CARMELO - $61.3 million for next two seasons ($28.4 million for 2019-20)
For the second straight season, CARMELO views Collins as Atlanta’s best prospect. The system assigned a $20.6 million value to Collins’ contributions as a sophomore and, considering he missed extended time at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, that is a big endorsement. As you may expect, Collins’ defense isn’t the reason for the optimism but, in the same breath, CARMELO views him as a slight positive on that end moving forward and that would be a big win for the Hawks.
- Actual - $18.5 million for 2019-20
- CARMELO - $4.3 million for 2019-20
Everyone knew that Crabbe was overpaid when the Hawks acquired him and Atlanta was properly compensated for that reality. The veteran shooting guard is still useful, though, providing floor-spacing and overall competence on the second unit.
- Actual - $4.7 million for next three seasons
- CARMELO - $2.6 million for next three seasons ($-800,000 for 2019-20)
Hawks fans are already in love with Fernando but FiveThirtyEight isn’t quite on board yet. It isn’t a shock to see a negative value projection for his rookie season, simply because most rookies struggle and that is doubly true for second-round picks. The bigger question is that CARMELO doesn’t see Fernando ever becoming a particularly useful offensive player, which would hold back his overall growth.
- Actual - $9.65 million for next three seasons (team options for 2020-21 and 2021-22)
- CARMELO - $60.4 million for next three seasons ($12.9 million for 2019-20)
Huerter is a darling of CARMELO, garnering the “future All-Star” distinction with a five-year projection of $118.2 million. That begins in earnest with a very solid $12.9 million projection for his second season and that rockets into the high-20’s for his fourth season and beyond. Huerter’s offensive talent is undeniable and, if he can hold up on the other end, Atlanta will be in great shape.
- Actual - $32.1 million for next four seasons (team options for 2021-22 and 2022-23)
- CARMELO - $19.4 million for next four seasons ($-3.4 million for 2019-20)
This is perhaps the most controversial evaluation on the list, with the No. 4 overall pick projected as a sharp negative during his rookie season and only a modest positive after that. Hunter does have a projected five-year value of more than $30 million but, in short, the ROI wouldn’t be great on a top-five pick performing to that level. It is worth noting that Hunter has never been an analytical darling, largely because his steal and block numbers were low in college, but Hawks fans aren’t going to like this.
- Actual - $2.3 million for 2019-20
- CARMELO - $2.0 million for 2019-20
The Hawks acquired Jones as part of the Omari Spellman trade return and, as you can see, he projects to be a solid third center for the 2019-20 season. That is basically all you can ask for considering the modest investment, but the biggest thing for Jones will be staying healthy and available.
- Actual - $4.16 million for 2019-20
- CARMELO - $7.3 million for 2019-20
Many criticized the Hawks for “overpaying” for Len on a two-year deal last summer. In short order, those criticisms evaporated and Len is again projected as a quality value for the 2019-20 season. He isn’t a perfect starting center but Len is a solid rotation piece, and his development as a perimeter shooter has been important.
- Actual - $13 million for next two seasons (with a player option); $6.5 million for 2019-20
- CARMELO - $14.8 million for next two seasons; $6.8 million for 2019-20
There are myriad questions with Parker, ranging from health after two knee surgeries to defensive woes in his past. Still, the system thinks Atlanta’s two-year investment in the former No. 2 overall pick was a reasonable one and virtually everyone agrees there is upside if Parker can stabilize his weaknesses.
- Actual - $25.1 million for the 2019-20 season
- CARMELO - $-400,000 for the 2019-20 season
Parsons joins Crabbe and Turner as wildly overpaid but he sets a new standard with a negative evaluation compared to a $25.1 million salary. For what it’s worth, Parsons is better than that if he’s healthy, but that’s a big “if.”
- Actual - $19.3 million for next four seasons (team options for 2021-22 and 2022-23)
- CARMELO - $8.2 million for next four seasons ($-5.2 million for 2019-20)
You’re not misreading the 2019-20 projection for Reddish, and FiveThirtyEight sees him as more than a $5 million negative for his rookie campaign. Most rookies are bad and there is no reason to panic, but it is a jarring number to see. Without knowing all of the specifics of the model, it is merely a guess to say that the system doesn’t like Reddish much based on his woeful college numbers but, more optimistically, his performance is projected to improve down the line.
- Actual - $18.6 million for the 2019-20 season
- CARMELO - $1.3 million for the 2019-20 season
Much like Crabbe, the revelation that Turner is set to be overpaid is not a revelation at all. FiveThirtyEight is pretty harsh on his immediate value, though, and Turner is a strange player to monitor with his shooting woes and projected role as the team’s backup point guard. For comparison’s sake, CARMELO sees Kent Bazemore as a $4 million player, whereas Turner lands at $1.3 million for the upcoming campaign.
- Actual - $21.2 million for next three seasons (team options for 2020-21 and 2021-22)
- CARMELO - $68.4 million for next three seasons ($16.3 million for 2019-20)
CARMELO projects Young as a future All-Star and that comes as no surprise given the lofty heights he reached as a rookie. In the near term, the system sees Collins as a better prospect but Young’s offensive projection is obscene and his overall evaluation is only limited by a rough defensive estimate. All of that sounds familiar but, at the very least, Young looks like a fantastic centerpiece for the future.
At the end of the day, projections are just projections but, if nothing else, we can use them to start arguments.