Hawks offseason preview: Despite down year, future still looking bright

AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

Hawks offseason preview: Despite down year, future still looking bright

Hawks

Hawks offseason preview: Despite down year, future still looking bright

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The Atlanta Hawks came back down to Earth after a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The rest of the East got stronger and Atlanta’s defense stagnated them, keeping them from finishing above the play-in tournament. The Hawks are by all means a good team, but perhaps were playing over their heads last year in a weaker conference compared to this season. Still, they have a great foundation going forward and have a reasonable path to eventually contend with this group.

Atlanta will be entering the 2022 offseason with a relatively high payroll now that Trae Young‘s maximum extension is kicking in. Key decisions for them could include clearing up money to open up spending power, reshaping their core through trade, and potentially extending some of their starters.

Danilo Gallinari and their luxury tax crunch

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

One of Atlanta’s first orders of business is to make a decision on Danilo Gallinari. He has a $21.45 million salary that is only guaranteed for $5 million and becomes fully guaranteed if still on the roster past June 29. The Hawks will probably field trade offers in which Gallinari’s expiring salary could be used for salary matching. If they cannot find a trade for him by his guarantee date, there’s a strong possibility they will waive him.

The Hawks are projected to be $6.3 million over the luxury tax heading into the offseason with 10 players on the roster. Waiving Gallinari and incurring a $5 million dead cap hit would put them $10.2 million below the luxury tax. They could also waive and stretch him and incur a $1.7 million dead cap hit but then they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him once he clears waivers. This would put them $13.5 million below the luxury tax, which would open up the $10.35 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

Atlanta could become taxpayers as early as the 2023-24 season. That’s when DeAndre Hunter‘s next contract would kick in assuming they extend or re-sign him next season. Even if ownership has an appetite to pay the tax this upcoming season, it would make sense to avoid it if they can. This is mainly to delay the repeater tax that would be implemented if they pay the luxury tax in three out of four seasons.

Delon Wright and the mid-level exception

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

If the Hawks intend on avoiding the luxury tax next season, that may mean not bringing back Delon Wright or using the mid-level exception. Even if they completely get off Gallinari’s partial guarantee through a trade, they would be just $15.2 million below the luxury tax with 9 players. They would likely have enough flexibility to re-sign Wright or use the taxpayer MLE, but not both while avoiding the tax.

The Hawks could further decrease payroll to increase flexibility below the luxury tax to allow spending elsewhere. However, such moves could make them worse next season, especially since it would likely mean moving one of John Collins, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, or Kevin Huerter. If the Hawks were eventually to trade some of these players, it would make sense to do so in a consolidation trade for an upgrade.

In Atlanta’s case, they may be better off in the long term paying the luxury tax this season despite starting the repeater clock a year early. It’s going to be hard for them to improve the roster at all next year without going over the tax. The backup point guard position has been an issue for the Hawks ever since they drafted Young and now Wright has filled that role nicely. He’s been awesome defensively for them and has played in huge spot minutes defending the opponent’s top guards.

Provided that the Hawks re-sign Wright, they might be deep enough as a team to comfortably not use the MLE to add anyone else. The one hole they may want to address is the backup forward position once they presumably waive Gallinari, but Jalen Johnson will have an opportunity to take those minutes. If they do pursue a forward with it, they could pursue players like Otto Porter, Thaddeus Young, and Kyle Anderson, just to name a few.

Extension candidates

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned earlier, third-year forward De’Andre Hunter will become eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension during the offseason. The Hawks gave up a lot to trade up for him, a move and selection to some that was considered a reach at the time. He had a strong start to his sophomore season before a knee injury limited it to 23 games, and a wrist injury limited him last season to 52 games. Given his injury history, the Hawks may want to see him play one more season before committing to him. Hunter could head to restricted free agency in 2023 if both sides are far apart in negotiations.

Bogdan Bogdanovic is also extension-eligible throughout the offseason. He can extend for up to three years, $70 million, which would keep him under contract through 2026-27. He could also decline his 2023-24 player option and extend for four years, $96.8 million, which would also keep him under contract through 2026-27. Bogdanovic has been great for them, but they may hold off from adding too much more long-term money given their future luxury tax concerns.

2022-23 SALARY SITUATION

Guaranteed salaries: $138,828,387

Non-guaranteed salaries: $21,450,000

Total salary: $155,278,387

Luxury tax space: $6.3 million over the luxury tax ($9.7 million tax payment)

Exceptions:

Taxpayer Mid-level: $6,392,000

Bruno Fernando trade exception: $1,782,621 (expires on July 7, 2022)

Solomon Hill trade exception: $1,669,178 (expires on January 14, 2023)

Trae Young

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $36,600,000 (assuming he earns All-NBA honors)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $212,280,000 through 2026-27

Additional notes: Young has a 15 percent trade bonus that would be voided since he is already earning a maximum salary.

John Collins

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $23,500,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $102,000,000 through 2025-26

Additional notes: Collins has a player option worth $26.6 million in 2025-26.

Danilo Gallinari

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $21,450,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $5,000,000

Additional notes: Gallinari’s salary becomes fully guaranteed on June 29, 2022.

If the Hawks waive Gallinari, re-signing him to a $11.6 million salary would set off his entire $5 million dead cap hit.

Clint Capela

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $18,706,897

Remaining salary guaranteed: $61,088,177 through 2024-25

Additional notes: Capela has $2 million in annual incentives, $500,000 of which are considered likely.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $18,000,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $36,000,000 through 2023-24

Additional notes: Bogdanovic has a player option worth $18 million in 2023-24.

He is extension-eligible during the offseason for up to three years, $70 million.

He also has a 15 percent trade bonus worth $2.7 million if traded during the offseason.

Kevin Huerter

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $14,508,929

Remaining salary guaranteed: $65,000,000 through 2025-26

De'Andre Hunter

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $9,835,881

Remaining salary guaranteed: $9,835,881

Additional notes: Hunter is eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension through the day before the first day of the regular season.

Onyeka Okongwu

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $6,395,160

Remaining salary guaranteed: $14,504,223 through 2023-24 (assuming team option for 2023-24 gets picked up)

Jalen Johnson

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $2,792,640

Remaining salary guaranteed: $10,228,905 through 2024-25 (assuming team options on last two seasons are picked up)

Kevin Knox

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Cap hold: $17,537,934

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Additional notes: The Hawks can tender Knox a $7.2 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent.

Delon Wright

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $16,200,000

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

Additional Notes: Wright can still avoid free agency and extend with the Hawks by June 30, 2022 for up to four years, $55.6 million.

Lou Williams

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $9,500,000

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

Gorgui Dieng

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $4,800,000

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

Skylar Mays

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $2,011,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

Chaundee Brown

AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

Cap hold: $1,616,044

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

Sharife Cooper

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,616,044

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

2022 Pick No. 16

2022-23 salary: $3,488,880

Remaining salary guaranteed: $16,877,207 through 2025-26 (assuming team options on last two seasons are picked up)

Additional notes: HoopsHype and ForTheWin’s draft expert Bryan Kalbrosky has Tyty Washington Jr. as the 16th overall selection in his most recent mock draft. Kalbrosky also has Walker Kessler ranked as the 16th best prospect in his most recent big board.

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