Atlanta is not traditionally seen as a top free agent destination, at least one on the level of Los Angeles, New York, or Miami. Yet a couple of years ago, when they had cap space, the Hawks made a splash signing Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, who are still with the team and critical to the Hawks’ goal of getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals (at least).
Hawks primary owner Tony Ressler doesn’t understand why Atlanta can’t be a top free agent destination, he told Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.
“How could we not be a true free agent destination?” Ressler rhetorically asked. “We think, I would argue, our facilities are as good as any, our city is as good as any, our roster is as good as any, our investment, our dollars, our commitment to spend is as good as any. It makes no sense that historically this team has not been a top-tier free agent destination. And I think you have to earn that, and make clear that it’s a franchise committed to winning in every sense of the way.
“I personally think the signings we made, the extensions we made over the summer indicates something. I can tell you, I can’t speak for others, but John Collins had three tough years here where we really weren’t a good team. He signed a contract. Trae had two really tough years, Kevin had two really tough years. These are players that extended. All I’m saying is those extensions, I hope, send some kind of a message.”
There are generally two things that make a popular free agent destination. First is location and market size — Los Angeles and New York are always going to have a head start getting free agents. Miami — with no state taxes and the kind of nightlife a wealthy 20-something would gravitate toward — is on the list. Atlanta is a popular city with players — it has excellent wings — but it’s on a second tier.
The second thing that attracts free agents: Other elite players and the chance to win. Atlanta has that. With its young core of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela and Kevin Huerter — all locked down with long-term contracts — the Hawks made the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago and are poised to be a threat in the conference for years. That will draw other players, both elite and quality role players. Especially when combined with a city and life the players like.
Atlanta is going to be a popular free agent destination for years. What Hawks management does with that remains to be seen.