Atlanta Hawks 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft
The Atlanta Hawks are in a good position to be a major player in the 2014 free-agency period, but there might not be a rush to overpay for talent.
As we saw last season, the Hawks are pretty good at finding values during this time of year. General manager Danny Ferry pulled off one of the biggest steals of recent memory by signing Paul Millsap to a two-year deal worth $19 million last year, and there's a chance he finds a way to get a great value again.
The Hawks have already been fairly busy this offseason, trading Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira for John Salmons, who only has $1 million guaranteed on this year's deal. That moved helped clear up some cap space, and the Hawks filled a need on the wing with some of the savings.
Here's Sam Amick of USA Today with Atlanta's first signing:
Thabo Sefolosha, a 5½-year starting shooting guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, will sign a three-year contract worth $12 million with the Atlanta Hawks, a person with knowledge of the agreement told USA TODAY Sports.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the contract, which cannot be signed until July 10 because of the NBA's free agency moratorium.
While the signing of Sefolosha might take Atlanta out of the race for some of the bigger max guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, there are still some nice talents out there for them to target.
Here's the free-agency big board for the Atlanta Hawks for the 2014 offseason.
Despite adding another wing with starting experience in Thabo Sefolosha, the Hawks could probably use a legitimate starting small forward to make their offense more explosive and solidify their defense. DeMarre Carroll is a nice hustle player, but he's probably better suited for a prominent bench role.
Enter unrestricted free-agent forward Luol Deng, who could conceivably slot into Atlanta's remaining cap space for a contract starting around $11 million a season or so.
Before Sefolosha was acquired, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports indicated that Deng could be a target of Atlanta's in free agency, tweeting "One strong candidate for that $15M-plus of fresh salary cap space in Atlanta, league sources tell Yahoo: Free agent forward Luol Deng."
With a starting frontcourt of Deng, Paul Millsap and Al Horford, Atlanta would be fantastic on both ends up front and a legitimate contender to emerge from the Eastern Conference. Kyle Korver would provide the spacing and three-point shooting, and Jeff Teague's ability to get in the paint would set up opportunities for Deng and others.
Although he's not a great perimeter shooter and prefers to take mid-range jumpers, Deng is a smart player who knows how to cut off the ball and defend individually and in systems. He'd certainly be a big upgrade, and so long as everyone could stay healthy, this would be one of the best starting lineups in basketball.
Even though the Hawks seem set with Paul Millsap and Al Horford at the 4 and 5, signing a young potential franchise building block might be smart, given Millsap's expiring contract.
Getting Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe would provide Atlanta with plenty of trade ammunition, but it might be difficult to pull off. It seems unlikely that Detroit would just let Monroe walk in restricted free agency, even if Atlanta cleared space to give Monroe something close to his max.
With that in mind, a sign-and-trade would probably make the most sense here, even if Atlanta doesn't have any big contracts to really offer up in exchange.
Still, a passing big man who can play out of either post is likely appealing to head coach Mike Budenholzer, as that was a staple of San Antonio's offense while he was an assistant there.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders with more on Atlanta's interest tweeted that "The Atlanta Hawks contacted Greg Monroe tonight, according to source close to the situation. ATL's interest in Monroe is very real."
This would be a tricky fit, but if the Hawks have something lined up for either Millsap or Horford in a trade or would be willing to deal either to Detroit, keep an eye out for them as a potential suitor.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young may not be the kind of team player or defender the Hawks might be looking for, but he'd fill an important role as a bench scorer that can create his own shot and space the floor.
After trading their scoring sixth man in Lou Williams, the Hawks may look to Young to fill the void. According to ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin, "Nick Young heard from Atlanta along with the Lakers, as well as 'several other teams registering interest,' according to his agent, Mark Bartelstein."
Young's reputation as a chucker is deserved, but he did score rather efficiently for the Lakers last season. In a more rigidly defined offense, Young might sink or swim, but he's not lacking ability. When he heats up, he's incredibly difficult to defend on the perimeter.
After opting out of his player option for the minimum, Young will surely get a pay raise somewhere, especially given some of the other signings for free-agent wings.
On a short-term deal, the upside might be worth it for Atlanta, as their current wings all lack the ability to create for themselves. With good defenders like Thabo Sefolosha and DeMarre Carroll next to him, Young's damage on the defensive end can be stomached a bit, even if it's help rotations where he probably suffers the most.
Again, though, for a deal similar to the one Sefolosha signed, this could be a good fit.
Kent Bazemore, believe it or not, has been one of the most popular free agents on the market thus far, generating interest from the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks, according to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy (h/t Zach Links at HoopsRumors.com).
With so many suitors for Bazemore, it seems unlikely that he'll come cheap in free agency. That could rule some teams out, but Atlanta has cap space to utilize, especially if some of the bigger targets come off the board.
Bazemore is a really strong defender and a good athlete. Although he's most known for his bench antics, there's some real potential for him to grow into a strong wing player over time if he keeps working hard.
He might not be the type of spot-up shooter Atlanta may covet on the wing, but adding another player that can lock down opposing backcourts, provide pressure and be a good influence on the team certainly can't hurt. Patty Mills was once just a towel-waver as well, after all.
If the market cools down a bit and Bazemore is still out there after some of the big targets have signed elsewhere, Atlanta would be a good fit.
Depending on what happens with restricted free-agent forward Mike Scott and unrestricted veteran free agent Elton Brand, the Atlanta Hawks may need some addition frontcourt help.
Although first-round draft pick Adreian Payne will likely take up a good chunk of minutes and stretch 5 Mike Muscala may need some playing time, Ekpe Udoh could step in and fill a role that Atlanta needs.
Although he's a very limited inside scorer and rebounder for a big man, Udoh is a superb rim protector who uses his length to bother tons of shots. Atlanta has draft two lanky shot-blockers under Danny Ferry, but with Lucas Nogueira traded to the Toronto Raptors and Walter Tavares likely a few years away, Udoh can plug the gap and provide additional insurance behind Al Horford at the 5.
Udoh's primary strength is shot-blocking, for certain, but he can also operate out of the high post a bit and pass as well. He hasn't had the chance to do much of that in his NBA career, but perhaps some of that Spurs magic Budenholzer has will allow him to be a useful offensive player instead of a one-trick pony. There are some skills there.
Udoh obviously won't be a first target, but when it comes time to fill the roster, he could be a nice depth addition with potential at a cheap price.