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Atlanta Hawks free agency preview: Casting a wide net

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

NBA free agency officially begins at 6:00 pm ET on Friday, Nov. 20, with less than 48 hours between the upcoming chaos and the different frenzy of the 2020 NBA Draft. Though speculation involving the Atlanta Hawks and specific players has been rampant for days, the rumblings should become louder in the near future. To that end, it is time to wade through some of the names on the market during the 2020 cycle, recognizing that the Hawks currently possess the most salary cap space ($43.6 million) in the entire league.

Below is a wide-ranging list of potential options, though it is important to note that not every player on this list would be recommended by the writer of this post. Still, the Hawks could see things differently and, if nothing else, it is good to know what the options are.

The available players are split into categories (and by alphabetical order from there) and we’re casting a wide net.

Editor’s note: This piece was published before Dewayne Dedmon was traded to Detroit for Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas. Atlanta could be back in the market for another big man as a result.

Big-name veterans

This one speaks for itself. The Hawks have already been linked to three of these four players, and Atlanta’s ability to sign players for more than the mid-level exception brings potential leverage for agents during the process. There are other “famous” veterans hitting the market, but these guys have juice.

  • Danilo Gallinari — The chatter is loud on this potential pairing, with the Hawks operating as one of the only teams that can pay Gallinari what he commands without a sign-and-trade. The fit isn’t ideal with Gallinari on the defensive end as a primary power forward, but he is a potent offensive player that would help Atlanta.
  • Gordon Hayward — Like Gallinari, the rumor mill is churning on Hayward but, unlike Gallinari, Hayward is weighing a $34.2 million player option that adds another layer. In my view, Hayward is the best player on this list, at least from Atlanta’s perspective, but the cost could be quite high.
  • Rajon Rondo — Another player linked to Atlanta! Rondo was quite good for the Lakers during the 2020 playoffs, and everyone knows the Hawks need a backup point guard. Does he want to sign with an up-and-coming team? Do the Hawks want to pay him after a few shaky regular seasons in a row? We’ll see.
  • Fred VanVleet — VanVleet almost didn’t make the list, simply because he’s a point guard. However, the Hawks do have a pile of money and, given VanVleet’s abilities as a shooter and physical defender, it isn’t impossible to see a partnership with Trae Young. It does seem unlikely, but there you go.

Potentially expensive role players

This is the sweet spot for Atlanta in a lot of ways, at least when it comes to the pre-free agency buzz. The Hawks are in a position to provide playing time to players at several positions and, with a relatively weak free agent crop, some of these guys are going to get paid. Furthermore, they would all fit, to varying degrees.

  • Davis Bertans — The Hawks have been rumored for Bertans for a while and he would drastically help the team’s shooting. Defensive questions abound, but Atlanta is certainly in the market for a long-range sniper.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic — Despite a reported sign-and-trade to the Bucks, all indications are that Bogdanovic could be back on the market. It is crucial to note that he is a restricted free agent, adding more potential challenges, but Bogdanovic is a potent secondary creator who can shoot and provide some offensive punch on the perimeter.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — The local product could make sense back in Atlanta, with several speculating that the Hawks could be the logical landing spot if he leaves the Lakers. Los Angeles needs him, though, and could be willing to pay up for his services.
  • Jordan Clarkson — Clarkson isn’t a great defensive fit in Atlanta, but he was actually quite effective for Utah this year. He’s a combo guard who can handle the ball, score effectively and give the Hawks an element of on-ball creation they currently lack outside of Young.
  • Jae Crowder — Veteran-laden, title-contending teams seem to be the front-runners for Crowder, headlined by the incumbent in Miami. He’s still a valuable 3-and-D role player, though, and the Hawks could come calling if the price was right.
  • Jerami Grant — Another player linked to the Hawks! Grant is more of a defense-first fit than some of the other high-profile free agents, and the Nuggets will definitely be bidding to keep him. Still, Atlanta could use another combo forward who can defend, shoot a little bit and provide two-way play.
  • Joe Harris — There is at least some buzz that the Hawks have interest and, dating back to the summer, he’s a name that has been on the radar. Harris is one of the best shooters available, which is his primary appeal, and he’s also a solid defender. Brooklyn needs him, too, but the Nets did acquire Landry Shamet on draft night.
  • Derrick Jones Jr. — Jones Jr.’s price point could be lower than most guys in this category, and it also helps that he is (by far) the youngest option here. At the same time, he is the least proven of the bunch, with questions about his jumper. Jones Jr. can really defend, though, and he is a high-flyer on the offensive end.
  • Marcus Morris — Morris is similar to Crowder in that he may not be a target, but could be if the market is barren. He’s a functional two-way player with playoff appeal.

The restricted guys

We did cheat and include Bogdanovic in the group above but, at the time of this post, he is a restricted free agent. Elsewhere, there are a few guys that aren’t as high-profile, but these player received qualifying offers from their incumbent teams. That means that the process isn’t as clear-cut as simply signing these players, with the Hawks having to navigate the potential for offer sheets to be matched.

  • Malik Beasley — With Anthony Edwards now in Minnesota, the Wolves may not be as eager to match an offer sheet with Beasley as previously expected. He’s a local product with offensive upside, but Beasley also has some off-court issues to monitor.
  • Torrey Craig — Craig isn’t a great offensive player, and he’s (very) old for a restricted free agent. He can play defense, though, and he’s a rotation-caliber wing.
  • De’Anthony Melton — This article from Andrew Kelly explains everything in detail, but Melton makes a ton of sense.
  • Dario Saric — It seems as if Phoenix will be bringing Saric back after the way they executed the Chris Paul trade. If not, the Hawks could swoop in.
  • Denzel Valentine — It was a surprise when Chicago gave Valentine a qualifying offer, and that could indicate they’d match anything reasonable. Valentine has issues staying healthy, but he is a skilled player dating back to Michigan State.

Defense isn’t optional

The Hawks invested in defense by selecting Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu in the last two draft classes. Still, Atlanta might want to add some more help in this specific area, and there are some specialists available.

  • Jevon Carter — Carter is point guard-sized at 6’1, but he plays hard on defense and provides pressure on the ball. For good measure, he knocked down more than 40 percent of his three-pointers this season, even if he doesn’t help much on the ball.
  • Kris Dunn — Dunn was one of the best defensive guards in the NBA this season, and Chicago letting him hit the market wasn’t a given. He does struggle on offense, and that matters, but Dunn is so good on defense that he’s worth an investment. That might be even more true in Atlanta.
  • Shaq Harrison — Harrison and Dunn played together in Chicago. Dunn is better defensively and will cost more, but Harrison would be a nice alternative in a lot of ways. He also might be a little bit better on offense than the public perception indicates.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — The former No. 2 pick is definitely a specialist, but Kidd-Gilchrist re-emerged during the playoffs.... at least as a potential depth piece.

Potentially valuable supporting pieces

This is a group that has players of all shapes and sizes. Older veterans? Yep, there are some of those. Potential bargains that are young enough to fit Atlanta’s long-term timeline? Perhaps. It’s good to be open-minded.

  • Kent Bazemore — A reunion in Atlanta may not be likely, but Bazemore found his stride in Sacramento. He shot 38 percent from three with the Kings and made a two-way impact.
  • Sterling Brown — The Bucks may not have the money to bring Brown back. He’s not special, but he could provide wing depth and is reasonably young.
  • Alec Burks — If the Hawks eschew a traditional backup point guard, Burks could certainly run the team on the second unit. He’s more of a scorer, but he recaptured some of his on-ball equity last season, harkening back to his Utah days.
  • Jared Dudley — Picture what Vince Carter gave the Hawks in the recent past. That would be the idea with Dudley as a guy who wouldn’t project to be in the rotation, but could be useful on and off the court.
  • Damyean Dotson — Dotson isn’t a prominent name, but he has potential two-way equity and he’s only 26. It may not be a bad idea to take a shot on him in a non-Knicks setting.
  • Wayne Ellington — Shooting!
  • Bryn Forbes — Defense would be an issue if you tried to play Forbes and Young together. However, Atlanta wants shooting and Forbes is a great shooter.
  • Taj Gibson — The Hawks probably don’t need another big, but Gibson is now available (if he clears waivers) after the Knicks moved on from his non-guaranteed deal. He’s a renowned veteran who can defend.
  • Treveon Graham — Graham finished the 2019-20 season with the Hawks and there is familiarity there. He isn’t flashy, but he defends and would provide a veteran option should injuries arise.
  • Mo Harkless — Harkless is a ready-made role player that can defend multiple positions and would be able to add to the young core of wings.
  • Justin Holiday — A former Hawk, Holiday is a starting-caliber 3-and-D option that really thrived with the Pacers last season. He may have offers from contenders, but a reunion wouldn’t be wild to consider.
  • Rodney Hood — It was a surprise when Hood opted out of guaranteed money coming off an Achilles injury. That could be seen as a sign that he is close to returning, however, and he is a proven shot creator.
  • Josh Jackson — Jackson is a former top-five pick that fell totally off the radar and is now climbing back. It may not work, but he’s young and has impressive pedigree. It’s worth exploring at the right price.
  • Paul Millsap — No longer the All-Star he was in Atlanta, Millsap could still help virtually any team defensively. This fit seems even less likely after the investment in Okongwu, but he has to be on the list.
  • E’Twaun Moore — As a 3-and-D shooting guard, Moore would fit nicely. He’s on the older side, but has always been an underrated role player that would now come cheap.
  • Austin Rivers — Rivers isn’t fantastic, but he can create shots and defend reasonably as a combo guard.
  • Glenn Robinson III — Robinson III was notably good in 2019-20, and he has converted 38 percent of his threes over the last five seasons. Contenders may want to take a shot on him for a modest cost, but he’s just 26 and would bolster Atlanta’s wing group.
  • Garrett Temple — The Nets declined a team option on Temple, who would be great for any number of teams. He’s a high-IQ player who can defend, move the ball and function in multiple situations. It seems like the contenders would be at the front of the line, but he’d help the Hawks.

Cheaper backup point guard options

Everyone knows the Hawks are in need of a backup point guard. It’s been a dominant story for months (and months... and months...) but, if they don’t land a player via other means, there are a few options at varying prices.

  • DJ Augustin — Augustin is overqualified for the role the Hawks have available, simply because he can’t really play with Young from a size/defense perspective. Still, he’d be a high-end backup and would help Atlanta immensely when Young left the floor.
  • Chris Chiozza With Brooklyn investing in the present and Kyrie Irving back, maybe Chiozza could sneak away. He was quite competent last year, and is younger than most of the other options.
  • Quinn Cook — Cook is more of a shooter than a point guard, but the Lakers let him go and there is familiarity with him in Atlanta.
  • Matthew Dellavedova — Hawks fans really don’t like him, but Delly would be cheap. That’s all I’ve got.
  • Reggie Jackson — Jackson’s market will be interesting. He can definitely serve as a reasonable backup option as a shot creator, but is he willing to simply slot into that small role in Atlanta for a marginal cost?
  • Emmanuel Mudiay — Mudiay has always been talented, but his production hasn’t quite lived up to the billing.
  • Shabazz Napier — I really like this fit. Atlanta might not go with a pure, traditional backup point guard, but Napier could give them 15 minutes a night of competent play at a cheap price. It does make sense.
  • Elfrid Payton — The Knicks chose to move on from Payton on Thursday (though he is on waivers, which is worth noting), and he would be a strong backup point guard option. Ideally, Atlanta would find a player that is a better shooter than Payton, but beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Jeff Teague — It doesn’t seem like Teague and the Hawks are married to one another, but there is familiarity and he could plug a hole.
  • Brad Wanamaker — Boston declined to tender a qualifying offer, which could open the door. Wanamaker is older than you might think, but he is a quality defender that played well for the Celtics. It wouldn’t be sexy, but he’d be a snug fit.

The Hawks are going to make some noise in the coming days, with only 11 players on the roster (including Skylar Mays and Brandon Goodwin) and several spots to fill. They could (and perhaps will) add players not included on this list, via trade or otherwise, but Peachtree Hoops will have you covered throughout.

Stay tuned.