Ten consecutive seasons of playing in the postseason without reaching the NBA Finals turned the Atlanta Hawks into a team finishing with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
That's no coincidence, as the Hawks are in full rebuilding mode.
Now on the search for a new head coach, let's look ahead to the free agency, draft and trade decisions Atlanta will face this offseason.
More summer focus:?Click here for every team so far
Free agency in late June
While the Hawks will have money to spend on July 1, reshaping the roster begins on June 21 -- the night of the draft. GM Travis Schlenk has shown he's focused on a methodical rebuild centered on draft picks with controllable contracts.
Two of those players -- Taurean Prince (drafted under the old regime) and 2017 first-round pick John Collins -- are a blueprint for how Atlanta has and will continue to build. Including point guard Dennis Schroder, Atlanta has three starters still under age 24 making a combined $23 million next season.
Projected to have four draft picks in the top 35, including a potential franchise player in the lottery, Schlenk and his front office have a clear path to putting a competitive team together that has both upside and roster longevity.
Following the script from 2017
In July 2017, the Hawks had to choose between retaining All-Star Paul Millsap -- and likely contend for a playoff spot with a team that couldn't compete for a championship -- or let Millsap go and use salary-cap room to acquire assets and contracts that teams were looking to shed.
The Hawks chose the latter.
Then $37 million in cap space turned into a first-round pick (from Houston), two future second-round picks, $5.1 million in cash and $14 million in dead cap space ( Jamal Crawford and Richard Jefferson). The remaining room went to the short-term contracts of Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala.
Now seven trades later, the Hawks will be in a similar position this offseason, though without a Millsap-level decision. Expect them to take the same approach with their $16-23 million in cap space.
Because Atlanta is projected to have six players on rookie contracts, the window to use cap space is open for the foreseeable future. The Hawks can continue to let their own players develop and aim for Prince, Collins and their 2018 lottery pick to be a draw in 2020. By then, the Hawks could have a projected $70 million in room and still have half of their roster under contract.
Like the Crawford trade to help the Clippers clear room to sign Danilo Gallinari, there will be a team (such as the Lakers or Spurs) that needs to create room to sign a free agent. For Atlanta, acquiring a draft pick even if it means taking back a bad contract is more beneficial than signing a free agent, even if that player helps their win total increase from 22 to 27 games.
Under contract in 2018-19
Atlanta is one of a handful of rebuilding teams that project to have cap space this summer. Entering the summer, the Hawks will have $13.4 million in cap space if the current roster returns, including retaining all three first-round picks.
If Dedmon and Muscala opt out, Atlanta could have up to $30 million in room.
Dates to watch
The first decision for Atlanta is May 15, when $450K of the $1.3 million contract for reserve Tyler Cavanaugh becomes guaranteed. The undrafted Cavanaugh originally earned a two-way contract in early November, then signed a two-year pact right before Christmas. The remaining $800K of the contract will become guaranteed if he is not waived by July 7. The best option for Atlanta is to retain Cavanaugh past May 15, incur a small cap hit and decide after the June draft whether to keep him.
Immediately after the draft, Atlanta will also have to decide on backup point guard Isaiah Taylor. If Taylor is not waived by June 22, he will have $300K of his $1.5 million contract guaranteed. The remaining $1.2 million becomes guaranteed if he is not waived by July 27.
While Cavanaugh and Taylor face an uncertain future, Dedmon ($7.2 million) and Muscala ($5.0 million) have a June 29 deadline to opt out of their contracts for 2018-19. The decision for both should be easy. Because of leaguewide salary-cap restrictions, both players are unlikely to find a bigger payday with a new team.
Rarely does a 28-year-old player face the possibility of restricted free agency. After five seasons in Europe, backup guard Malcolm Delaney will have the restricted tag if Atlanta elects to extend him a one-year, $3.1 million qualifying offer by June 29.
Atlanta also has a June 29 date to tender qualifying offers to Andrew White and Josh Magette. Both players were signed to two-way contracts for one season.
The Hawks have received the maximum-allowed $5.1 million cash from previous deals this season.
They can agree to trade current or future picks the night of the draft for money (and assets) but cannot finalize such deals until July 6 ,? after the NBA calendar year switches over and the moratorium ends.
The free-agent focus
Combined with four draft picks (including one second-rounder), three non-guaranteed contracts and the player options of Dedmon and Muscala, Atlanta could have 15 players under contract when free agency starts. The Hawks can carry up to 20 players in the offseason.
Even so, the Hawks need a third point guard and a combo forward. While both positions certainly could be filled the night of the draft, Atlanta is the third-youngest team in the NBA, and it would be best to look at the free-agent market for insurance. Two names that fit: Washington's? Tim Frazier and OKC's Josh Huestis, each projected for the?minimum salary exception.
Both players would be considered placeholder signings -- players who fill short-term needs without hindering the development of their roster or sacrificing future flexibility.
Kent Bazemore and Miles Plumlee?are extension-eligible, though neither player will be in discussions for a new deal.
The draft assets
There is a reason the Hawks rank No. 1 for the draft category in our recent Future Power Rankings. Atlanta basically?has four first-round picks when you factor in a second-rounder projected to be in the early 30s.
Here's how ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have Atlanta picking in the 2018 draft:
- No. 4 (own):?Jaren Jackson Jr. | PF/C | Michigan State
- No. 19 (via Timberwolves): Keita Bates-Diop | PF | Ohio State
- No. 30 (via Rockets): Grayson Allen | SG | Duke
- No. 33 (own): Jontay Porter | C | Missouri
The Hawks own all their future first-round picks and have the Cavaliers' first in 2019, protected 1-10.