Hey everyone, I’d like to introduce you guys to one of ATL All Day’s new writers, Drew Wilburn. I’ve known Drew (through twitter) for a while now and I’m super excited to have him join the team. Here’s a little bit about him before you check out his Atlanta Hawks Free Ageny Preview piece:
Drew Wilburn is a marketing and accounting double major at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and he has been following sports in depth for years. He has been a Tennessee fan for all his life after growing up close to Knoxville, but he has adopted many Atlanta teams since moving to the area. Formerly studying to pursue a career in sports business, Drew has applied work in many of his courses to analyzing a variety of facets within sports business, and he is looking forward to bringing these insights to the readers of ATL All Day. Drew spends his free time watching sports and movies, listening to music, and hanging out with friends and family. Feel free to follow Drew on Twitter @drew_wilburn.
With the 2013 NBA Draft complete, free agency is looming in the immediate future for the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks, of course, have already made a head coaching change and are transitioning from Larry Drew as coach to former top Spurs assistant, Mike Budenholzer. Given that GM Danny Ferry is in his first full offseason with the Hawks and there are only three players under contract for the coming year, the Hawks are expected to be major players in free agency.
Chris Paul has decided to re-up with the Clippers after the addition of Doc Rivers as head coach, and Dwight Howard is meeting with Houston and Dallas representatives before he meets with folks from Atlanta. My recommendation is to not get your hopes up. What does this mean for the Hawks in free agency?
Starting in house, the Hawks will definitely return Al Horford, Lou Williams, and John Jenkins unless a surprise trade happens. I felt that it was almost 100% certain that Josh Smith and his terrible shot selection would not be back. I still believe that the chances of him returning are fairly slim; however, there are multiple reports saying that he will be meeting with the Hawks. It looks like we can’t quite breathe easy just yet.
The Hawks have the rights to Jeff Teague as a restricted free agent, giving the Hawks the right to match any offer sheet he receives. It was thought that he would be brought back, but Larry Drew, who is now the Milwaukee head coach, has gotten Bucks management to pursue Teague. While the Hawks would like to bring him back, they may decide to go in a different direction with first round pick Dennis Schroeder in the fold and a deep class of free agent point guards where someone may be found at a lower cost.
Zaza Pachulia is a key player off the bench who plays scrappy ball and will make the tough effort plays, which are qualities that fit the “Spurs East” mold. I believe the Hawks would like to have him come back, but there are reports that the Portland Trailblazers have expressed interest in signing him.
Kyle Korver is one of the best three point shooters in the game, and both parties have expressed mutual interest in having him return to Atlanta; however, it has recently been reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein that it is almost certain that he will be going to the Brooklyn Nets.
I believe that the Hawks would love to have all of these players back, but returns for these players are uncertain as their prices may become too high. Here are some players the Hawks may target from the outside to bring to Atlanta with around $37 million to spend after draft picks are signed. This leaves the Hawks with plenty of options as they look to fill out the roster.
The Hawks will definitely need help at the wing, and some potential targets may include Andre Iguodola, Tony Allen, J.J. Redick, and Gary Neal.
Iguodola would be the most expensive of the group, probably costing around $11 or $12 million dollars. He is on the wrong side of thirty and declining, but he can still put up 13-15 PPG and has a solid all-around game while providing veteran leadership. The other players could be had for around $5 or $6 million with Neal having a slightly cheaper price than the rest.
Tony Allen is a player who could be a liability offensively, but he really brings it on defense, which could be a quality the new regime will appreciate. J.J. Redick is primarily known as a shooter who will spread the floor, but he has an underrated all-around game, as well. The prospect of adding Neal comes from the Spurs connection, but he isn’t expected to be a primary target if he is targeted at all. The decision they make on who to bring in will most definitely be made with consideration with what salaries they may want to use for other positions, particularly at center.
The Hawks should have a few targets at center, the most prized player being Dwight Howard. Assuming he cannot be had however, there are other players the Hawks will likely target after the biggest domino falls. These include Andrew Bynum, Tiago Splitter, Al Jefferson, and Nikola Pekovic. The Hawks did draft Lucas Noguiera in the first round, but he is expected to stay in Europe for another couple of seasons. This leaves the Hawks with an immediate need at center so that Al Horford can play his more natural position of power forward.
Bynum is considered to be the best center in free agency who is not named Dwight Howard, but his injury history could make teams leery. This could either drive down his price or place him beyond what the Hawks would be willing to pay and commit to him. The Hawks could also pursue either Splitter or Al Jefferson, but there are concerns with overpaying them, as well. Splitter is expected to cost around $7 million, but he is a restricted free agent to whom the Spurs have already made a qualifying offer. This means the Hawks may have to spend a bit more than he is worth, or they probably will not be able to sign him.
Al Jefferson is coming off a contract that ran 5 years for $65 million, and at 28 years old he will not be looking to take a pay cut. He has shown the ability to score in the post and crash the boards, averaging 17.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG last season. His game is limited; however, as his scoring is mostly isolated in the post without displaying much passing ability all while being a bit lethargic defensively. Pekovic has a powerful post game that could compliment Al Horford really well, but he is a restricted free agent who should cost at least $12 million and likely more to pry away from Minnesota. It clearly appears that the Hawks will be taking some kind of risk to sign a post player who can be a difference maker for the team.
The best route for the Hawks may be to pursue Bynum and hope to sign him for around $13 million/ year due to the injury risk while hopefully putting some sort of language in the contract to be able to recoup some money if he cannot play due to his pre-existing injury problems. This would leave the Hawks with around $25 million to spend before going over the cap, which would leave plenty of room to sign Andre Iguodola. After his signing, there would probably be around $16 million left to fill out the rest of the roster with another point guard, some shooters, and a few more players to come off the bench.
Will these big signings happen? Who knows, but don’t be surprised if at least a few of these names mentioned ended up with the Hawks to start the season when all is said and done. In the meantime, grab a sweet tea and relax: we’re about to be in for one whirlwind of a ride.