The Atlanta Hawks entered the season hiatus with a 20-47, which is the fourth-worst record in the league. The 2019-20 season had some growing pains early on that raised questions if this team would need another year to develop, but a second-half improvement might have a little further along the line than they even expected. With Trae Young, John Collins, and a solid, underrated supporting cast, the Hawks could look to take a step closer to a playoff berth next season.
CURRENT 2020-21 PAYROLL
The Hawks are entering the 2020-21 offseason with $57.9 million dedicated to nine players. If they get the fourth pick in the draft, they are projected to generate $48.4 million in cap space. That projection could decrease by as much as $3 million if they jump in the lottery.
Brandon Goodwin is partially guaranteed for $100,000 with an August 1st guarantee date. De’Andre Bembry, Skal Labissiere, and Damian Jones are all entering restricted free agency. The Hawks will have to decide whether to tender offer sheets to them.
Ahead of the trade deadline, the Hawks were looking at $70 million in cap space for this offseason. After acquiring Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon, they are now looking at just under $50 million in maximum cap space. That still is a lot of cap space and it is the most currently out of any other team. It’s possible the Hawks roll some over into the season like they did in 2019-20. This would allow them to aggregate any mid-season acquisitions into larger trades.
With three centers already under contract, they’ll probably address backup point guard and their wing depth with their cap space. Look for the Hawks to re-sign Jeff Teague to a long-term deal. With regards to wings, they ideally want to sign players who can contribute to winning now while still leaving minutes for their young wings. They can make a big offer to a player like Danilo Gallinari, but he would take away significant minutes from DeAndre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish. It might make more sense for them to pursue role players like Evan Fournier, Jae Crowder, or Jordan Clarkson who don’t need to start and should provide plenty of relief for the starters.
The Hawks should also pursue a versatile forward who can play the backup four. Jerami Grant would be an excellent backup for Collins who could also play small-ball center. The Hawks could also opt for a shooter like Davis Bertans. Both players will be highly pursued, and with the Hawks having the most cap space, it would make sense for them to sign one of these impactful forwards.
JOHN COLLINS’ FUTURE
John Collins continues to progress each season with career highs all across the board. He is one of three players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season, along with Giannis Antetokpounmpo and Nikola Jokic. He has improved to a level that not even the Hawks would admit they saw coming this soon when they first drafted him three years ago. He is now extension-eligible and will likely receive maximum offer sheets if he takes another step next season and hits restricted free agency in 2021.
Based on the current $125 million salary cap projection for the 2021-22 season, a maximum contract would start Collins with a $31.25 million salary. That would allow him to sign for a maximum of $181.25 million over five years with the Hawks. A maximum offer sheet with another team would run for $134.4 million over four years. It is tough to say if he would get offered a full maximum offer sheet by another team, but his price tag will likely be driven up with other big men such as Rudy Gobert, Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Steven Adams also free agents in 2021.
If Collins demands a maximum extension, Atlanta is probably better off allowing him to test the market first. Not necessarily to try to get a discount on him but because he has a relatively low cap hold of $12,411,906 in the 2021 offseason. If the Hawks want to have significant cap space in 2021, they would have more cap space if they allow Collins to enter restricted free agency. Extending him would likely have his 2021-22 cap hit be at least twice as much as the $12.4 million cap hold.
If the Hawks do not want to make such a big commitment to Collins, this offseason would be a perfect time to trade him. Entering his age-23 season in 2020-21, his value is at its peak. The Hawks could receive multiple first-round picks, young players, and veterans who can help the Hawks win now. The Hawks are in a great place whether they extend Collins or get a haul for him.
Head coach Lloyd Pierce is entering the last year of his three-year contract. When Pierce was first hired, the Hawks were just entering the rebuilding process, a period where winning isn’t a priority. With Young becoming one of the best offensive players in the league, and the mid-season acquisitions to bolster the roster, expectations have increased rapidly. It doesn’t help Pierce’s case that players on the team were frustrated with the team’s underperformance. With him being on an expiring contract, the Hawks must decide whether to extend him or move on from him.
The Hawks will have their lottery pick and a late second-round pick via Houston in the 2020 draft. In a draft class without a clear consensus top player as of yet, the Hawks should select the best player available. Without a definite answer at shooting guard or small forward, the Hawks could take another shot at a wing player who could be a starter in the NBA.