Less than 24 hours after making a significant move to acquire Clint Capela as the team’s center of the present and future, the Atlanta Hawks pulled the trigger on another interesting transaction. This time, Travis Schlenk and company acquired old friend Dewayne Dedmon, along with a pair of second-round draft picks, in exchange for Alex Len and Jabari Parker.
With that in mind, let’s dive in to the ramifications of the move, which are layered in nature.
In two seasons with the Hawks, Dewayne Dedmon was a tremendously useful player, acting as a rare “3-and-D” center and fitting well within Atlanta’s culture and on-court scheme. The 30-year-old appeared in 126 games, making 98 starts, and Dedmon converted 37.2 percent of his three-point attempts. His raw production — 10.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game — was never earth-shattering, but Dedmon was a quality starting option, and his play in Atlanta earned him a lucrative, three-year pact from the Sacramento Kings prior to the 2019-20 season.
With that said, Dedmon struggled violently in his new home, to the point where he fell out of the rotation entirely at times and (publicly) requested a trade to escape. In 34 games, Dedmon appeared in only 15.9 minutes per contest, shooting 40.4 percent from the floor and a ghastly 19.7 percent from three-point distance.
It should be noted that the sample size (71 attempts) on Dedmon’s three-point drought is quite small, leaving hope that his true baseline is much closer to the numbers he compiled in Atlanta. However, Dedmon’s performance left plenty to be desired in Sacramento, and the Hawks are clearly banking on something of a bounce-back as he returns to familiar surroundings.
The trade package
In order to acquire Dedmon, the Hawks had to cobble together eight figures worth of salary, and that ended with Len and Parker heading to Sacramento. Len performed at an encouraging level this season, recovering from a (very) slow start and acting as Atlanta’s best center when healthy. The 26-year-old is battling a hip injury that has kept him off the floor since Jan. 24, however, and he was not under contract beyond the 2019-20 campaign.
As for Parker, the returns were largely positive in the early going, with the 24-year-old arriving on a two-year, $13 million deal that features a player option for the 2020-21 campaign. Offensively, Parker provided a scoring punch, averaging 15.0 points in 26.2 minutes per game, but his three-point stroke betrayed him (27 percent) and Parker’s defense has never been ground-breaking in a positive direction.
Atlanta does acquire a pair of second-round picks in the deal, though the selections (2020 from Houston and 2021 from Miami) do not profile as exceedingly valuable. The Hawks were without second-round choices in both drafts, though, which could have been part of the calculus.
When evaluating this deal for the Hawks, salary cap ramifications are enormously important to consider, including the fact that Atlanta from having approximately $3.7 million in active salary cap room for 2019-20 to only having about $1.1 million. That $1.1 million figure is less than the veteran minimum, heavily restricting the team’s flexibility before the trade deadline. Player-wise, Len was an expiring contract and, while there was a chance he could have been retained, nothing was guaranteed in that way. Parker’s player option, though, is a significant part of the evaluation.
Parker could opt out of the $6.5 million he was owed but, from Atlanta’s perspective, it was probably wise to assume that the veteran forward would be exercising that option after the shoulder issues that prompted him to miss extended time. As such, the Hawks would be weighing whether they viewed Parker at $6.5 million for 2020-21 as a positive asset. There are competing thoughts about that evaluation but, in making this trade, it does feel as if Atlanta may not have been thrilled about the prospects of Parker making that salary next season.
Dedmon is also tricky when discussing his contract. His strong play in Atlanta earned him a big payday, with the big man owed $13.3 million for 2019-20 and $13.3 million again in 2020-21. That is a high price to pay for what amounts to a backup center (more on that in a moment), but Dedmon’s third year, also for $13.3 million, is guaranteed for only $1 million in 2021-22.
In the end, it might be wise to examine the deal as the Hawks taking on almost $7 million in extra salary for next season, with Atlanta receiving two (fringe) picks to do so. The Hawks will still project to have $49 million in salary cap room, though that is a fluid figure that includes a projection for the team’s own first-round draft pick. Taking on that extra money isn’t great business on its own, but the Hawks likely view Dedmon as a better player (and fit) than Parker, which helps to balance the scales a bit.
With Capela on board and John Collins fully capable of stretching to the center spot when needed, Dedmon is returning to a vastly different situation in the frontcourt than the one he left alongside Len in 2018-19. In short, the Hawks have committed to Capela in a significant way, leaving Dedmon as a clear backup upon arrival, even if he does bring a coveted voice in the locker room that the Hawks have been seeking.
Paying $13.3 million for a backup center in 2020-21 is not a fantastic idea in a vacuum, and the Hawks are likely quite aware of that. With that out of the way, Dedmon has always been a (very) strong fit with Collins, with the veteran center stretching to the three-point line on on offense and allowing Collins to flourish as the primary pick-and-roll option and interior threat. Defensively, that pairing also works well, with Collins functioning better as a weak-side defender at the power forward position, and Dedmon serving as a capable rim protector at center.
With Capela slated for 30-plus minutes on a per-game basis, Dedmon’s role still projects to be quite small, and the Hawks likely will assign a stretch (or two) to Collins at center against most units. That leaves a lofty allocation of resources for what amounts to a pure supporting piece but, again, if Dedmon is able to recapture the magic he found in Atlanta the first time around, the price isn’t as exorbitant.
In fact, the Hawks are quite clearly “buying low” on Dedmon and, with Capela potentially sidelined for a bit with a well-documented heel issue, Atlanta could have the opportunity to showcase Dedmon on the market. That likely isn’t the explicit plan but, if Dedmon is able to rebuild some of his lost value from his Sacramento stint, the Hawks could reassess in the form of a deal this summer when Capela is fully established.
The Capela transaction, from a value standpoint, was a clear win for the Hawks and there is justified excitement surrounding his addition. Given the lofty salary cap figure for Dedmon, skepticism is warranted but, when considering the overall calculus, Atlanta’s investment is perfectly reasonable.
If Dedmon’s woeful performance in Sacramento is his new baseline, the deal will not look pretty for the Hawks. If the veteran is able to find his old form — or even something approaching it — in Atlanta, the Hawks shouldn’t regret the trade and could even find unexpected value in the near future.