Over the next few weeks, Peachtree Hoops’ Zach Hood will run through a ‘State of the Atlanta Hawks’ series. The series will break down the roster from both a basketball and asset building perspective in an effort to access where the franchise is amidst what could be up to a nine-month layoff for Atlanta and other teams outside of Orlando playoff bubble.
The Atlanta Hawks endured an unfortunate abrupt end to their 2019-20 campaign, an ultimately disappointing season where they won just 20 of 67 games. The COVID-19 NBA shutdown from March that seems like years ago within the scope of everything else going on in our country, is set to conclude later this month when 22 teams begin to ramp up activity in anticipation of meaningful basketball games being played.
With the Hawks being one of the eight teams that didn’t make the cut to resume the 2019-20 season, their focus can now fully move to the offseason. The Lloyd Pierce-driven 2021 playoff declaration from an early March practice now seems like a distant memory. With nine players under contract for next season, general manager Travis Schlenk will be looking to fill in the open spots with the right pieces to turn the club into a roster that features the depth and versatility they have lacked the past two seasons around young stars Trae Young and John Collins.
The biggest asset towards improving the franchise in a rapid manner is obviously the immense salary cap space the Hawks possess this fall. Depending on what pick the team lands in the lottery, Atlanta will presumably (barring trades) have around $47-50 million in space come mid-October when free agency opens up. Schlenk could use this money on the free agency market, or in a trade for established player(s).
Here’s a look at Atlanta’s cap sheet heading into the offseason period, courtesy of Early Bird Rights:
Here’s a look at the team’s draft capital over the next three offseasons:
- 2020 draft picks: No. 4* (pick to be determined by lottery), No. 52
- 2021 draft picks: Atlanta’s own 1st, Miami’s 2nd
- 2022 draft picks: Atlanta’s own 1st, Oklahoma City’s 1st (protected 1-14), Atlanta’s own 2nd (31-55)
The Hawks finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, giving them a 48.1% chance of picking in the top four, and a 12.5% chance of picking No. 1 overall in 2020, with a guarantee of picking in the top-8, and a 97.8% chance of picking in the top-7.
Here is a full breakdown of Atlanta’s lottery odds by slot:
- 1st: 12.5%
- 2nd: 12.2%
- 3rd: 11.9%
- 4th: 11.5%
- 5th: 7.2%
- 6th: 25.7%
- 7th: 16.7%
- 8th: 2.2%
Based on having the No. 4 pick, the Hawks would have $47.75 million in cap space this Fall per Early Bird Rights, with a potential John Collins extension — which would not kick in until the 2021-22 season — being a noteworthy caveat. That amount of space will leave general manager Travis Schlenk with an abundance of options to ponder on both the free agent as well as the trade market. With Collins, Young and Huerter all due for raises in the next two years, the club may choose a more prudent path than fans are expecting.
The most obvious path to adding premier talent is the draft. Where the Hawks fall in the lottery obviously has huge influence on the type of player they can get, especially in the 2020 class that most experts universally agree is lacking elite prospects at the top of the board. For Atlanta, they’d probably love to trade the pick considering the youth they already have in place. If the lottery works out for them and they have a shot at Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, holding the pick becomes more tempting.
Bringing in another young wing who will likely initially be a negative to compete for minutes with the existing wing core of Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish does not align with Pierce’s playoff proclamation. There are expectations now with Trae Young coming off an All-Star season, and Collins potentially primed to make his first All-Star game next year. The team is ready to win and taking a rookie likely does not contribute towards that goal this season.
While that may be against the philosophy of stacking up young talent like the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans have done over the past couple years, the Hawks may be at a point where they want to cash in on the value instead of taking a swing on a prospect like Devin Vassell or Issac Okoro.
Trading the pick for a reliable shooter or defensive presence could be more valuable to the existing core than developing a cheap role player through the draft. The Hawks had a major experience problem in 2019-20 nonetheless, and this offseason will become about adding experience to the roster at some point, whether it’s on draft night or shortly after.