NBA free agency could be delayed (again) in the near future, with multiple reports indicating that discussions continue between the NBA and the NBPA on the financial state of the league. However, the Atlanta Hawks will enter the off-season with the most salary cap space in the NBA and, in addition to a wildly intriguing lottery pick to ponder, Travis Schlenk and the front office will be keeping an eye on a wide-ranging landscape of free agents.
With that in mind, the Hawks will likely be associated with several high-profile free agents in the coming days, especially when acknowledging Atlanta’s place as a team with cap flexibility. On Wednesday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington added a name to the discussion, reporting that the Hawks are among the teams “expected to pursue” free agent forward Davis Bertans.
Hughes also includes the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns along with the Hawks, but he takes things a step further with Atlanta, saying the Hawks are “shaping up to be particularly aggressive.” It is (very) crucial to note that it is early in the process and whispers will likely emerge on a number of fronts. Still, this is an interesting scenario for both team and player.
Bertans opted out of Washington’s trip to the NBA’s bubble but, before the league’s hiatus, he enjoyed a breakout offensive season. The 6’10 forward converted 42.4 percent of his three-point attempts and averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game. Perhaps more impressively, Bertans launched from beyond the arc at obscene volume, attempting 13.9 three-pointers per 100 possessions and genuinely bending defenses as a marksman with his size and shooting versatility.
Quite obviously, the Hawks could use a player with Bertans’ offensive gravity and, on that end of the floor, the fit would seem to be strong. However, there are concerns with a potential pursuit of Bertans on Atlanta’s side.
First, the cost may be prohibitive. While Bertans did break out in a notable way in 2019-20, he will be 28 years old before next season begins, and numerous teams are expected to pursue his services. From there, Washington is keen on keeping Bertans in the fold, as evidenced by the decision not to market him in trades before February’s deadline. The Wizards also have Bertans’ bird rights, and they may not be shy in extending a lucrative offer, leaving other teams to potentially overpay to lure him away from the nation’s capital.
Finally, Bertans is a tremendous offensive force but, to put it bluntly, the defensive fit in Atlanta would be troubling. Bertans is essentially a power forward on the defensive end of the floor, making his fit already tenuous for the Hawks with John Collins occupying that position on a primary basis. In addition, Bertans is a below-average defensive player and, while he could potentially function at the small forward spot in a pinch, the Hawks would be giving up defensive capability in an attempt to bludgeon opponents with offensive spacing and firepower.
It is certainly possible that the Hawks could pursue Bertans, as he is one of the more interesting free agents on the market in 2020. Still, Atlanta might have a tough time justifying a lucrative investment in Bertans with what they already have on the roster, especially if, as expected, the free agent forward commands a starter-level payday on the open market.