NBA Roundtable

2009 Cap Space: Atlanta

In Free Agency, General NBA on February 27, 2009 at 6:00 am

Atlanta Hawks Salaries

Let’s start off by looking at who is currently on the Hawks books for next season.

Here are the contracts over five million dollars

  • Joe Johnson — $14.98mil
  • Josh Smith — $10.8mil
  • Speedy Claxton — $5.2mil

That is a total of just below $30 million. Both Speedy Claxton and Joe Johnson will be entering the final year of their contracts, while Josh Smith will have three more years past 2009/10 to go on his deal.

The rest of Atlanta’s contracts

  • Al Horford — $4.3mil
  • Mo Evans — $2.5mil
  • Acie Law — $2.22mil
  • Randolph Morris — $850k

That is a total of around $10 million.

The combined total of $40.865 million for the Hawks. This includes only seven players though, so there will be extra charges.

Other costs

  • The Hawks hold the rights to the 19th selection in the first round, which comes with a cap hold of $1.14mil
  • Their will be a cap charge of $1.9 for the four empty roster spots
  • Marvin Williams is the key factor in Atlanta’s summer.
    • If Marvin was counting against their cap, then a cap charge for one roster spot would be removed (minimum contract).
    • His qualifying offer is worth $7.36 million. So if Atlanta made that qualifying offer, and failed to reach an extension with Marvin, and Marvin then accepted the offer, that $7.36mil would be added to the Hawks cap. That would bring their cap up to $51 million
    • His cap holds would be — His final year’s contract is $5.3mil which is close to an average salary, not sure if that’s over or under which effects the multiplier, let’s assume it’s over. That would 250% of $5.3mil, which is $13.25. That would bring the Hawks cap up to about $57.4 million which would eliminate any cap space they had.
    • If the Hawks sign him to an extension he’ll likely command anywhere from $6-9 million per annum. That would bring the Hawks cap up to $49.5-52.5 million.

Any key Hawks free agents?

  • Mike Bibby
  • Zaza Pachulia
  • Flip Murray?

The Hawks have a minimum total of $43.9 million. But they are a lock to give qualifying offers to both Williams (another $13mil) and Childress which will eliminate all of their cap space.

The Cap

We don’t know where the cap will end up being.

  • If it holds steady, it’ll be at $58mil.
  • If it increases it could go up to $60mil but that is the most unlikely of the three possibilities.
  • If it decreases, then the cap could fall to say $56mil which is a figure which has been mentioned in some press stories. This is the most likely event, but holding steady is also a strong possibility.

Hawks Cap Space

Okay, let’s assume the Hawks do not make qualifying offers to either Marvin Williams or Josh Childress … seeing as either one of them would eliminate the Hawks cap space entirely.

The Hawks would have $14 million in cap space if the cap held steady. If the cap decreased to $56mil, they would have $12 million.

Of course, those figures are largely irrelevant because the Hawks are a lock for making those qualifying offers.

Hawks Free Agent Targets

The likely deciding factor in this Marvin Williams conundrum will be the Hawks play this postseason. If they make it out of the first round I’d be surprised if their front office broke up this young core.

For now, I’m going to consider Marvin Williams their top target. I’d also like to work under the assumption that he receives a contract worth $6-8mil per annum, bringing the Hawks cap up to $49.5-51.5mil, and leaving them with $4.5-8.5mil of cap space depending on what exactly Williams earns and where the cap falls based on likely possibilities.

Like the first paragraph, the decision about whether to retain Mike Bibby will likewise come down to playoff success and how well Bibby plays in the postseason. Mike Bibby had a disastrous showing the last time round, so the Hawks will want to see something from him this year. Bibby would likely command the MLE from several teams around the league, so the Hawks would have to match, or more likely, beat out those offers with say a $7mil a year offer in order to keep him.

Personally, I wouldn’t pay Mike Bibby, but I think Atlanta will if they’re successful in the postseason. That $7mil would take the Hawks up to $56.5-58.5 million after paying Marvin Williams, and would effectively end their cap space.

Are there other options …. Firstly, what are Atlanta likely thinking?

  • The Hawks will very likely want to keep Josh Smith and Al Horford. I think their front office is committed to the idea of them being their two big guys for the next 5-6 years, so they’re unlikely to sign any big men.
  • Joe Johnson is the other certainty but he can play either wing position at a comparable level, so that won’t effect that choice.
  • If the Hawks choose to let Mike Bibby walk, they’ll definitely want a point guard.

So what would be their options?

  • Firstly, here’s a link to a full 2009 free agency list so that you can search for names you think the Hawks may be interested in.
  • Point Guards — Andre Miller, Ramon Sessions (restricted free agent), Raymond Felton (restricted free agent)
  • Wings — Ron Artest, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, Linas Kleiza (restricted free agent, Hedo Turkoglu, Trevor Ariza
  • I don’t think the Hawks will be interested in older guards like Jason Kidd or Allen Iverson.

I think the two restricted free agent point guards look the best buys for Atlanta. They’re young enough to be important figures in their future, and good enough to help now.

If the Hawks let go of Marvin Williams I think Shawn Marion and Ron Artest would be the two best available players, and likely available for contracts only slightly above what Marvin would demand

Are these better options?

I think signing a younger point guard is preferable to re-signing Bibby, and yes I think those two young restricted free agents would be good signings if Atlanta could pry them away.

As for the small forward spot? That’s a harder call, because …

  • Williams is the only Hawks youngster to show substantial improvement this season, and is clearly still improving. He’s already their best perimeter defender also, and gives the Hawks very good flexibility with his athleticism and versatility.
  • Williams’ contract could veer in a big way in either direction, and either make this an easy decision or a very difficult one.
  • How much faith the Hawks brass has in it’s young core will be a pivotal factor. I think they have a lot of faith in it, although oddly enough, I also think they’ve lost faith in it this season — just my impression based on pretty much nothing at all. I wouldn’t have much faith in their core myself, and would openly consider changes, but I’m not sure their front office is ready for that. The Hawks postseason will be a huge factor.
  • Two other keys will be how hard Toronto and Houston try to keep Marion and Artest. If they offer say close to $10mil per annum, then maybe it’s not worth making that acquisition. If they don’t show much interest, and those players are available for $7.5-8.5mil then they could be excellent signings.

I think the small forward slot has too many variables to say which one would be a better play for the Hawks. We’ll know more closer to the time. There’s a possibility it could be better.

The $11.7-13.7 million of cap space that the Hawks could create by parting with Williams and Bibby, is their anyone available worth that money?

  • At a first glance it looks like only Carlos Boozer is worth that, and with the Hawks already having Smith and Horford around I don’t think they’ll be interested in Boozer. Therefore, the Hawks are unlikely to go this route, and will instead make their offer for Williams and have less cap space to play with.

What about another option, not spending the money and instead holding that money over until 2010?

  • It’s an option and it might be better because the free agent market will have more talent in it, and thus give the Hawks more and better options.
  • Financially, the Hawks would be in a similar position once they’ve signed Joe Johnson and Al Horford to extensions. That would be after they’ve let Bibby and Marvin walk, while not signing any long term replacements. The Hawks would have a solid core, but would likely prove incapable of adding any top tier free agent and would also likely run an increased risk of losing Joe Johnson.
  • It would be a big decision, with big risk, but it could work out well for Atlanta. Something to be consider …. although I highly doubt their management would do such a thing.

EDIT … Ah Damn it … Josh Childress

I forgot another big factor in Atlanta’s offseason — Josh Childress.

Technically, he’s still a restricted free agent for the Hawks should Atlanta make him another qualifying offer this summer and should he opt out of his contract with Olympiakos.

I’m not certain what Childress’ plans are, but I’ve heard/read rumblings of him opting out of his contract and trying to return to the NBA this summer.

Childress would be in a similar situation to Marvin Williams as a player coming off of his rookie contract. So we have the following to consider once again:

  • Qualifying offer — not sure what that figure is, a little under $5mil I think
  • Cap holds — 300% of his final year’s pay, which was $3.63mil, so that comes out to $10.89mil
  • Expected cost of the extension — Around the MLE, so $5-6mil per annum
  • Actual cost of the contract extension

The Hawks, like with Williams, could choose not to make a qualifying offer and thus make Childress an unrestricted free agent but that’s highly unlikely.

So Childress’ and Williams’ status as restricted free agents will very likely remove the Atlanta Hawks from the free agent market place. In order to become players, the Hawks would need to part with at least one of these two players, then also let Bibby and Zaza walk, then reach a quick contract with one of Childress/Williams if they choose to keep one … and then they’ll have some money to spend on an average or slightly above average contract depending on where the cap falls.

In other words, I don’t expect the Hawks to be players in this free agent market place. Too many tough decisions that need to be made quickly. They’ll fumble the ball and be in the same position as most teams above the cap.

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