“Well, it’s a long-term play for sure,” Fields said. “We’ve got a lot of really good, talented players right now. And tonight is a part of that plan. It’s about getting players that fit the system and the character that we’re trying to build with long term, and they got to be talented.
“And so right now we harp a lot on development, and getting with coach Quin Snyder and the rest of our front office and the coaches that we’ve hired, that as a huge focal point and emphasis for us. So the plan is absolutely yeah, we want to win championships here. And we’ve got to do that in a number of different ways. You do that through trades. You do that through free agency, and then you do that through the draft. And you do that through in terms of development. So tonight was about picking players that we believe we can grow with and then developing them over time into those players that are going to bring us the championships that we are seeking after.”
The Hawks ended the regular season 41-41 in a season that marked plenty of up-and-down performances. They drew notice last season for remaining one game within .500 after Jan. 22.
Despite that, the Hawks chose to look at the positive steps they took forward, particularly after they made their change at coach. They downed the Heat in the play-in tournament, earning the seventh seed in the playoffs where they pushed the Celtics to a Game 6.
“Well, it was good to have a reference point before Quin came and seeing kind of where we were at, and understanding that there’s still components of that, that you do have to take into account,” Fields said after the team’s loss to the Celtics in Game 6. “You do have to balance that out. But then you also see the progression that guys make, and you’re somewhere in between at that point.”
But after underperforming in two consecutive regular seasons and two early exits from the playoffs, the Hawks still have a lot to consider to avoid the same issue for a third consecutive year.
The roster still needs refinement as the team navigates free agency. It has some constraints as the team already is in the luxury tax with 10 players on guaranteed deals. Those players with guaranteed money do not include this year’s draft picks.
The Hawks also have four players with nonguaranteed deals, two of which — Garrison Mathews and Bruno Fernando — they will need to make a decision before June 29.
Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. ET June 30, when teams can begin to officially negotiate with prospective free agents.
Here is how the Hawks’ roster looks heading into free agency.
PG: Trae Young, Kobe Bufkin, *Vit Krejci
SG: Dejounte Murray, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Donovan Williams (two-way player), *Garrison Mathews, *Tyrese Martin
SF: De’Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey, AJ Griffin, Seth Lundy
PF: John Collins, Jalen Johnson, Mouhamed Gueye
C: Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, *Bruno Fernando
*Players listed with asterisks are under nonguaranteed contracts.
Though the Hawks’ financial situation offers some constraints for the decisions they make moving forward, the team can alleviate some of that pressure with some deals. Ahead of the draft, Capela, Collins and Hunter frequently were tied to potential trades.
The team owes each of the frontcourt players between $20-$25 million next season, but it also values their skill sets.
Following the draft, Fields said the team has done some early work on some things, and said the team would have to see when asked if the financial situation makes it difficult to improve the roster.
“Right now, I think there’s a lot of optionality perhaps with the future, but I wouldn’t consider it something that’s necessarily difficult,” Fields said. “I think that I don’t know if that’s the right word I would use for it. I think that we have things that we can look at in time, but also part of this is about development and improving our roster that way.”