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Atlanta Hawks trade deadline primer: Examining three broad scenarios

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline arrives on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 3:00 pm ET. Unlike most teams, the Atlanta Hawks already made an in-season deal, adding Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham in a swap for Allen Crabbe, but there will still be plenty of attention paid to the actions of the Travis Schlenk and company in the coming hours.

To that end, there are three (very) broad “lanes” that the Hawks can follow and we’ll glance at them in this space, beginning with the least inspiring and exciting of the trio.

Do nothing

As noted above, the Hawks already made a move in adding Teague to the mix. Backup point guard was one of the more glaring red flags on Atlanta’s roster and, between Brandon Goodwin’s play and multiple allusions to the potential of re-signing Teague, it would be a shock if Atlanta targeted another point guard before Feb. 6.

There are obviously places (cough, center, cough) where the Hawks could look to add and, in general, this is a roster that is malleable and able to do a number of things. Schlenk and the front office don’t have to do anything this week, though, and that is worth remembering amid the flurry of rumors that are likely to emerge.

After all, the summer is coming and the Hawks have plenty of flexibility when it arrives.

Work around the edges

At the moment, the Hawks have approximately $2.6 million in salary cap space. That may not seem like much but, considering Atlanta is the only team in the league that currently can bring cap space to the negotiating table, it could be a real factor. It is worth noting that the Hawks are currently carrying a full 15-man roster and until that changes, the team has a bit less flexibility than you might like. Still, there are players that could be offloaded in an emergency situation where Atlanta simply has to have a roster spot to make a deal work.

It is tough to come up with hypothetical scenarios in this exact lane but, if other teams are looking to shed salary for luxury tax and/or future-facing reasons, the Hawks might be in a position to extract an asset for the use of their cap space.

For example, the Oklahoma City Thunder could be looking to escape the luxury tax, given that they are (very) close to it. The Hawks, with their cap space, could potentially secure a small asset for taking a player of their hands and that construct applies to other teams as well.

As a note, the Hawks’ cap space, on its own, may have less value than you would think, even as the only team operating below the cap, because several teams have trade exceptions that could function in similar fashion. Atlanta does have more flexibility than some, though, and the fact that the Hawks aren’t concerned with making a playoff push this season opens up myriad possibilities.

Make a big swing

Obviously, this is the scenario that would be sexy and interesting. The Hawks have two massive salaries — $25.1 million for Chandler Parsons and $18.6 million for Evan Turner — that have been hypothetical salary-matching fodder for some time. Jeff Teague’s contract ($19.0 million) could also be useful in a pinch, especially since the Hawks are allowed to aggregate him in a deal after the way he was acquired from Minnesota.

With that as the backdrop, there have been myriad rumors about the Hawks and high-priced centers in Andre Drummond and Steven Adams. Both are still plausible if Atlanta is motivated, though it has to be noted that reports from mid-January pegged the Hawks as pulling back from negotiations with Detroit about Drummond. Both big men would help Atlanta now, though they have differing contract considerations. Adams is under contract (at a lofty price) for 2020-21, while Drummond has a player option that he is likely to decline, leaving him on the unrestricted free agent market.

Less than a week ago, another name surfaced with Houston Rockets center Clint Capela and there was even more smoke with a report on Sunday evening that the Hawks are “engaged” with the Rockets in discussions. Capela makes less money than Drummond and Adams, presenting salary-matching challenges, and the Rockets are at least theoretically attempting to challenge for the title this season. Still, there could be fire to associate with the smoke, and legitimate rumors should be examined as such.

Discussions about Adams, Capela and Drummond (as well as former Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon) have dominated the early trade rumor mill for the Hawks, but they could obviously pursue other avenues. Wins-loss record during the 2019-20 season is not the biggest consideration for a team that is well outside the playoff picture but, if the Hawks could identify a future-facing asset that is under contract for the long haul, it might make sense to pounce now and allow the core to continue jelling together.

Until the rumor mill churns a name or two to the surface, it is tough to gauge the potential availability of key pieces. In addition, some of the more intriguing names (Bogdan Bogdanovic, Davis Bertans, etc.) are always seemingly tied to teams trying to contend this season. Still, names like San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl have already surfaced and he would check a number of boxes as a pending restricted free agent that fills a need and fits Atlanta’s timeline.

It is no secret that the team’s long-term starting center probably isn’t on the roster, even if Bruno Fernando has the potential to grow into an intriguing piece. As such, centers will be at the forefront of the discussion but, with the Hawks entering the summer with at least $60 million in projected salary cap room and the likelihood of two first-round picks in the top 16, a lot of scenarios are on the table, even beyond the center spot.

Stay tuned.