It was a magical run.
From not making the playoffs three straight years to a mid-season coaching change to a run all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, it was a special run by these Atlanta Hawks.
That doesn’t mean they are just going to run it back over the next couple of years — in fact, it’s a “pretty good bet” they will not bring back everyone they and fans want. Owner Tony Ressler said as much speaking to the media this week, via Chris Kirschner at The Athletic.
“It’s complicated, of course, because what we’re trying to convince people is we’re building something, but let’s not kid ourselves, our job is to run a good business,” Ressler said. “What we are trying to achieve is literally keeping our best players, as you could imagine, trying to make clear that we’re going to have to spend a lot more than we have this season. We fully expect that. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep every single player that we want to keep. Pretty good bet, pretty good assumption we will not. But I do think we have several years that we should be able to build some real stability. If the question is are we scared of the tax, are we scared of going into the tax? I’m scared of paying the tax and not being a good team, yes, that I’m scared of, but if we have to go into the tax to be a great team for a period of time, so be it.”
It’s good to see an owner being honest rather than giving comfy platitudes in public then making hard decisions behind closed doors.
The Hawks did take the interim tag off Nate McMillan, which was a smart move, but doesn’t impact the luxury tax.
Atlanta is headed toward being a tax team. Last summer, they spent a lot of money on Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, and that was after trading for Clint Capela. But this is also a roster with a lot of young players on soon-to-expire rookie contracts, and it’s going to get expensive.
Trae Young is up for a max extension this summer, and that’s a no-brainer. Pay the man his money.
Is John Collins a max player? He is a restricted free agent who wants max money and going to draw interest from other teams (Miami, Dallas). He averaged 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds a game last season, and willingly stepped back a little in his role to provide Bogdan Bogdanovic more touches and opportunities. Collins is a great fit… but a max player? If a team with cap space comes in and offers Collins four-years, $120 million, would the Hawks match? It makes sense to, even if the plan is to trade him later, because the Hawks would not have the cap space to replace him with anyone near as good. But it gets expensive.
And not far away Cam Redish and De'Andre Hunter will have to be paid.
This is what Ressler is referring to. It’s going to get expensive to keep this Hawks roster on the court. They may not be able to.
General manager Travis Schlenk has made smart picks and clever moves all along, but he will have to get a lot more creative with the tax looming.