One of the biggest myths in basketball is that every team will strongly pursue Kevin Durant in free agency this summer.
Obviously, every team wants Durant. But many will decide their odds of landing him are too low to waste time on chasing him, potentially missing out on more realistic alternatives in the process. Of course, any team would change its strategy if Durant indicates interest, but that’s not happening for most teams.
So, it’s interesting when teams that don’t usually draw superstar free agents join the mix.
The Hawks, led by owner Tony Ressler, are expected to make a strong push for Durant.
Some NBA players seem to enjoy visiting Atlanta (or at least certain establishments there) a few times a year, and many even call it their offseason home. But that hasn’t translated into the Hawks landing elite free agents.
Could Durant change the trend?
First, Atlanta must figure out how to clear enough cap space.
If they renounce every free agent but Al Horford, the Hawks would be about $10 million shy of being able to offer Durant his max salary. Horford leaving would open enough cap space, but Atlanta would become far less appealing with Horford gone.
The Hawks will probably again shop Jeff Teague ($8 million), because they have a younger and cheaper alternative at point guard in Dennis Schröder. Schröder may or may not be ready to take over the starting job, but that call becomes much easier if shedding Teague opens the door for Durant signing.
Tiago Splitter ($8,550,000) and Mike Scott ($3,333,334 unguaranteed until July 10) would also be expendable. But even losing those two would weaken the Hawks, who – considering they’re competing with the Thunder, Warriors and Spurs for Durant – are already facing an uphill climb.
I don’t see Durant signing with the Hawks, but even getting a meeting could elevate their perception among other free agents and into the future. And if they get that meeting, they’d at least have a chance to beat the odds and sweep Durant off his feet.