When the Atlanta Hawks were finished shopping in free agency and making trade deals it looked like they had acquired so many quality players that General Manager Travis Schlenk had something up his sleeve, like perhaps a multi-player swap for a superstar to go with All-Star guard Trae Young.
The Hawks, per rules, had to spend most of their $43 million cap space. It could be that with not much money in the market, the Hawks had no choice but to make deals; they had to spend the money on the free agents, so they dove in. After all, they signed Danilio Gallinari at $19.5 million a season with the understanding he would be coming off the bench. Who does that but a team loaded with bucks?
The Hawks certainly had to have anxious moments as they chased guard Bogdan Bogdanovic with a fistful of cash. If the Sacramento Kings had matched the Atlanta offer for Bogdanovic what player was left out there the Hawks could have spent $72 million money on for four years?
The Hawks have acquired enough top-tier players through free agency and trades they could make a deal. Look at the top 12 guys. This is a deep team. So, perhaps, Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce make a keen evaluation of the young core, and the veterans, and then skim the cream off the top, package the rest, and make a deal?
Schlenk, as a general manager of a pro franchise, and in order to keep his job, has to think about deals that make his club better. Collins, veteran wing Tony Snell, and one of the first-round picks might be enticing after Dec. 11, which is the first day Snell can be dealt.
“One of the things I really like about where we are is with the veteran guys we have, with the younger guys we have — we have a lot of guys on our roster that other teams value, so we always want to keep ourselves in position if there is a star player that comes available — we’re in position to go and try acquire them,” he said. “We’re in a nice situation there because we do have a lot of young talent that people value, and now we have good veterans that we can use to match salary. We’re going to continue to look to be aggressive as we build this team out.”
The sweetest deal would be for Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he is likely to sign his supermax deal with the Bucks before December 21. The Bucks would not have surrendered three future first-round picks and multiple pick swaps to New Orleans for Jrue Holiday without some assurances Giannis was signable.
Is Collins trade bait? He lost some leverage in his hunt for the contract he wants when the Hawks acquired a Stretch-4 in Gallinari. He and Collins play the same position. The Hawks told Gallinari he would come off the bench, so it appears Atlanta has no intention of dealing Collins, which is logical. How many 20-point, 10-rebound players are out there? After three seasons and the Hawks rounding a corner, Collins has to be a part of the breakthrough, doesn’t he?
Collins said Tuesday that he and the Hawks are working on a deal, but there is always the chance they cannot come to terms.
For his part, Collins seems to want to stick around Atlanta after his fourth season in 2020-21.
“Definitely, you know every time I come into the gym…that’s the first thing on my mind,” Collins said of his contract talks. “Obviously, my agents and the Hawks are working every day to try to try to get to a deal, an agreement, so I’m trying to stay optimistic, trying to stay positive.”
The more prudent strategy in the era of Covid-19 is for the Hawks to hold tight and hold on because this is going to be one bumpy ride with the pandemic. The Hawks’ roster of 12 deep is going to be precious in the Covid-19 season.
If a player tests positive, or gets exposed to the virus, they could be made to sit 12 days, as per the NBA’s set of protocols for the 2020-21 season.
Think about what that means for the first two or three months of the season, or the entire season if the rollout of the vaccine hits a bump, or two. An NBA team like the Hawks trying to get over the hump and into the playoffs cannot be without two starters and key reserves. Depth has become key. The Hawks are really in good shape, if there is an outbreak.
“We should feel comfortable missing a beat or missing a guy, and we probably are going to in this year,” Pierce said. “We’re going to miss people at times, but I don’t think that undermines or undercuts our expectations to get into the postseason. I don’t think that undermines our expectations to be as competitive as we can.”
No one expects billionaire owners of the NBA to wait in line for the vaccine for their employees—the players—but what if the NBA gets pushed back to February for vaccines?
The Hawks, with a roster of one great player, four really good players, and seven good players are in better shape than most teams. They can withstand a pummeling from the virus. The NBA survived in 2020 because it was in a Florida bubble, but that will not be the case when the season starts Dec. 21. Hotels, elevators, careless teammates, and glad-handing fans await.
Schlenk would be wise to hold on to this depth and get the Hawks into the playoffs with a second unit that will make the second quarter as fun to watch as the first quarter.