The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Take care of your own
Teams get in trouble when they overanalyze their own free agents and go outside of what they already know.
Two of the top unrestricted free agents this summer are from Atlanta: wing Kent Bazemore and big man Al Horford.
Bazemore, who will turn 27 on the first day of free agency, will be coveted for many reasons. Bazemore is in the prime of his career and has shown the ability to start at shooting guard and perform at a high level.
The price tag for Atlanta will be steep, but the Hawks’ options are limited, especially with Tim Hardaway Jr. showing that he can’t handle starter duties, and wings Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha reduced to support roles.
Since signing his rookie extension in 2010, Al Horford has been playing with a below-market contract. That will change because Horford’s pay is expected to double from this past season, when he made $12 million.
But will the Hawks pony up?
They will have the advantage because of full Bird rights and the ability to offer a fifth year. Although Atlanta would be paying a steep salary on the back end of the deal when Horford will be in his mid-30s, Horford has proven to be durable over the past two seasons.
The cap hit for Horford and Bazemore will be big, but considering the cap will rise to $109 million in 2017-18 and the contracts of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha will be coming off the books then, the Hawks will still have future flexibility going forward.
The Jeff Teague question
Atlanta is at a crossroads at point guard.
In Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, the Hawks have two players under the age of 27 who have starter qualities and a combined salary of $10 million.
However, they will likely have to pick one going forward.
Is there a comfort level in handing over the keys to the backup in Schroder?
Schroder, 22, who has shown flashes of brilliance, still is a bit unproven. Coming off the bench is one thing, but running the first team is another.
Eligible for a rookie extension this summer, Schroder will be a restricted free agent next summer, giving Atlanta the ability to control the free-agency process.
Teague, 27, has shown the ability to run the team, but his future is unclear. Teague is still in his prime but is entering the last year of a $32 million contract he signed in 2013.
With Teague’s salary ($8 million in 2016-17) likely to double in 2017-18 and Schroder commanding starter money, the situation needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Fortunately for Atlanta, it is an enviable position to be in.
Retool but remain competitive
Atlanta has turned into San Antonio of the East, a team that consistently makes the postseason every year.
Unlike San Antonio, the Hawks season routinely ends in mid-May.
Although the ceiling of the current group appears to be the second round, the Hawks can’t hit the reset button and start from ground level.
The core group is built on veterans in their primes, and although Schroder’s youth has rubbed off on the roster, Atlanta’s missed opportunities in previous drafts means it doesn’t have enough youthful talent to start over.
What Atlanta decides with Horford and Bazemore will dictate which direction the Hawks go this summer.
If both players return, the Hawks return all 10 starters and backups from this past season. If Horford and Bazemore sign elsewhere, not only will cap space be created but also major holes at wing and center. Although Tiago Splitter was a starter with San Antonio, hip surgery in February knocked him out for the rest of the season.
The decline in Korver’s play should concern the Hawks. The 35-year-old has been in steady decline since last season, but until there is a resolution on their impending free agents, the wing position won’t be addressed immediately.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1 .Paul Millsap
2. Tiago Splitter
3. Jeff Teague
Eligible for extension/trade bonus
4. Kyle Korver
Eligible for extension
5. Thabo Sefolosha
6. Dennis Schroder
Eligible for rookie extension
7. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Eligible for rookie extension
8. Walter Tavares
9. Mike Scott
10. Mike Muscala
11. Lamar Patterson
FA cap holds
12. Al Horford
Full Bird rights
13. Kirk Hinrich
Full Bird rights
14. Kent Bazemore
Early Bird rights
15. Kris Humphries
16. Own pick at No. 21
FA cap holds
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
Atlanta heads into the summer with $6.6 million of cap space.
The likely scenario however is that it will be up to $12 million once the Kirk Hinrich cap hold is released.
The Hawks will have the flexibility to bring back both Horford and Bazemore. However, to do so the Hawks would need to leave the Horford cap hold on the books and use room to sign Kent Bazemore. Bazemore will have early Bird rights, and his projected salary will be more than the average salary that the Hawks will be limited with.
If both players leave, the Hawks could have $34 million in room. The cap space looks appealing, but in a summer of inflated contracts it would be a lot smarter for Atlanta to overpay to keep its own free agents.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: Own
Second round: Own and Washington’s pick
Atlanta has its own future first round picks.
2018: Own and has Minnesota’s pick (Nos. 15-30)
2019: Own and has Minnesota’s pick (Nos. 15-30)
2020: Own and has Minnesota’s pick (Nos. 15-30)
Key rights to: Marcus Eriksson (Second round, pick No. 50, 2015); Dimitrios Agravanis (Second round, pick No. 59, 2015)
PREVIOUS SUMMER AGENDAS: Nets | Pelicans | Timberwolves | Lakers | Knicks | Wizards | Bucks | 76ers | Nuggets | Kings | Bulls | Magic | Suns | Jazz | Grizzlies | Pistons | Mavs | Celtics | Rockets | Pacers
More NBA coverage from The Vertical: