Two Hawks max contracts? Only if one is Durant

Kevin Durant is the jewel of the 2016 NBA free agent class. (AP Photo)

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Kevin Durant is the jewel of the 2016 NBA free agent class. (AP Photo)

The Hawks need a superstar to be a real championship contender . They almost certainly will need to give Al Horford a max contract to re-sign him, and he's not a superstar player.

But AJC Hawks beat writer Chris Vivlamore reports that there may be a way for the Hawks to have it all :

However, there might be a parallel strategy where the Hawks are only $5 million away from another max player. That is easily gained in a (Jeff) Teague trade and one or two other moves. That would net the space for a (Kevin) Durant, (DeMar) DeRozan or perhaps a player such as Nicolas Batum. If Horford elects to leave for another team, the Hawks could sign two max players this summer.

Here's the problem with that scenario: Durant is the only player in the 2016 free agent class who clearly would make the Hawks a championship contender. (That's assuming LeBron James doesn't opt out.)

If the Hawks sign two max players this summer and one of them isn’t Durant, then it would make it more difficult to acquire a superstar in the future. And that's the only goal that matters. if a team doesn’t have a top 10 player (or potential top 10 player) it should be doing all it can to acquire one because that's the only realistic way to win a title.

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Horford is a very good all-around player who is a perfect fit for the Hawks. DeRozan also is very good though I don't see how a ball-dominant two-guard who can't shoot fits in pace-and-space. I think Batum would be a very good addition for the Hawks because he's the kind of versatile, dynamic scorer they sorely need in the heat of the playoffs , but at what cost?

None of those players is going to put the Hawks over the top. Durant is the only 2016 free agent who can do that. But things get more interesting when you consider 2017.

Writes Vivlamore:

"(The Hawks) have no guaranteed money on the books after next season. (Paul) Millsap has a player option, Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. are eligible for qualifying offers and there is a team option on Edy Tavares. All of that money would total about $21.5 million. That’s it.

The Hawks could start over with the ability to bring in three max players (which may include Horford)."

That's an intriguing possibility because the 2017 free agent figures to be loaded with superstars.

Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Blake Griffin can opt out. Durant and James both likely will sign deals that allow them to opt out next summer and cash in on a bigger contract when the salary cap increases with the influx of more TV money. Add in Kyle Lowry (player option) if you believe he will still has another level in his game at age 31 (I don’t).

Of course there is no guarantee any of those players will want to play for the Hawks. There will be several other teams trying to sign one or two of them. But the only thing the Hawks can do is be in position to sign a top 10 player and, when one becomes available, make their case.

The Hawks can't do anything to jeopardize joining the summer 2017 sweepstakes. They shouldn’t sign two max players this summer if one of them isn’t Durant. They shouldn’t sign any long-term deals that would complicate clearing the room to sign one of those top 10 players in 2017.