The season ends abruptly and fans immediately engage in the annual tradition of wishing their team had different players (if they wait that long). But before you start dreaming about the Hawks adding quality free agents, it’s best to take a sober (somber?) look at their payroll and circumstances.
This summer looks a lot like last summer for the Hawks: They have no cap space, lots of roster spots to fill and not much room under the luxury-tax line to do it.
The Hawks have approximately $61 million in guarantees committed to six players. The salary cap this season is about $58 million and the luxury tax threshold is about $70 million. Each of those figures could increase next season (they can’t decrease) but unless there’s a massive increase in BRI the Hawks won’t have any cap space and won’t gain much additional wiggle room under the tax threshold.
I don’t have to tell you the Hawks are unlikely to spend above the tax line again next season. They tried to avoid doing so this year but the run of injuries forced their hand. The Hawks sold a draft pick to help offset the tax bill. Their payroll is at least 75 percent of their revenues and they are skeptical the new CBA will provide much significant relief through revenue sharing.
Those circumstances don’t suggest a franchise looking to take another luxury-tax hit. Assuming the tax threshold remains at about the same level, that leaves the Hawks roughly $9 million to sign a minimum of seven players to get to 13 on the roster. The player they select with the No. 23 overall draft pick (assuming they keep it) will eat up another $1.2 million or so (assuming the prospect signs for 120 percent above scale, which is standard). That would leave the Hawks $7.8 million under the tax line to sign at least six players.
The mid-level exception for non-taxpayers will be $5 million again next season. If the Hawks use all of that on one player, they’d be left with about $2.8 million under the tax line to add at least six additional players. That’s obviously not feasible even before you consider that a player who signs for the full mid-level commands a multi-year contract, adding future payroll just when the Hawks have a chance to clear some cap space after next season.
So in regards to free agency the Hawks are looking at trying to again build a roster with minimum-salaried veterans and/or young players and probably needing a couple of those players to accept non-guaranteed deals. And this time the Hawks don’t have Kirk Hinrich under contract and so need even more of those kinds of free agents to fill key roles.
Hinrich’s $8 million comes off the books along with roughly $5.6 million in cap salaries from the seven minimum-salaried vets plus Ivan Johnson’s rookie salary*. But Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Jeff Teague all get raises.
*The Hawks can claim salary-matching rights for Ivan by extending him a one-year qualifying offer of about $960,00 by June 30.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat