Offseason Preview: Southeast Division
Over the next several days, I’m going to go division-by-division through the league and lay out what decisions need to be made and what’s at stake for each NBA team this offseason. We began over the weekend with the Atlantic Division, continued yesterday with the Central, and move on today to the Southeast. We will finish up throughout the rest of this week with the Pacific, Northwest, and Southwest.
Without further ado…
Key Potential FA: Aaron Holiday
Big Decisions: Decide whether to be a basketball team or merely Trae Young’s team, Decide whether to compete or lighten Tony Ressler’s financial burden
At long last, the Hawks have traded John Collins. But after all the rigamarole and hemming and hawing and leaks and rumors, Atlanta basically gave him away, receiving only Rudy Gay and a future second-round pick to send him to the Utah Jazz. Naturally, the Hawks are already in spin mode:
The trade creates a $25.3 million trade exception for the Hawks -- the largest in the NBA. Atlanta has a year to potentially use the exception to take on a player's contract.
Consider me skeptical that they use said trade exception for anything significant. It was reported earlier in the week that management was given an edict to get the payroll under the luxury tax line, and there has already been reporting in the wake of the Collins trade that Atlanta will look to shed more salary. So, that exception exists, but the idea of the Hawks using it on an expensive player seems unlikely. (And it’s not like a star-caliber contributor would fit into a $25.3 million exception anyway. And exceptions cannot be combined with additional salary to take in a player making more money. An acquisition’s entire salary either fits inside the exception or it doesn’t.)
As for who might be sent out the door in another cost-cutting move, the obvious candidates include Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Less obvious would be Dejounte Murray and way less obvious would be Trae Young. I can’t see either of the latter two happening this summer, but it would not at all surprise if any of Capela, Hunter, or Bogdanovic were playing elsewhere next year. (Capela makes the most sense, because the Hawks have a starting-center-quality backup in Onyeka Okongwu. But then again, who is giving up anything of significance for a ~league-average starting center?)
Beyond those financial considerations, there is the question of whether Quin Snyder cab reshape the team’s on-court product in his image. The Hawks over the past few seasons have been defined by Trae Young, sometimes for better but sometimes for worse. Snyder’s preferred style of play has little in common with what Young has often gravitated toward, but even acquiring another point guard to play alongside him last season couldn’t nudge Young in the direction of doing, well, basically anything when the ball was not in his hands. The best case scenario is that Snyder figures out a way to get Young fully engaged and on the move, and weaponizes his shooting and gravity and prodigious passing ability to turn him into the consistent-top-10-offense engine his most ardent believers think he can and should be. Whether that comes to pass remains to be seen, though it figures to be made less likely if the Hawks are intent on shedding talent for salary reasons.