Don’t look for the Hawks to make an immediate free agent splash.
When the clock turns to 12:01 a.m. on Saturday — the official start of the NBA free agency period — the Hawks are unlikely to make a big move, according to general manager Travis Schlenk.
Schlenk said the team will take a wait-and-see approach to filling out the roster. While the priorities remain Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., the good player at a good salary mantra is still the philosophy.
“Free agency, you typically see deals at 12:01 (a.m.),” Schlenk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t anticipate us being a team with a deal at 12:01. We’ll see what the market dictates.”
Concerning Millsap and Hardaway, Schlenk would not indicate whether he has a price threshold that he’s willing to pay for each. Millsap is an unrestricted free agent. Hardaway is a restricted free agent and the Hawks have more flexibility regarding his contract.
“The one thing I’ve maintained is that we are going to be flexible and not sign bad deals,” said Schlenk, admitting he realizes he already sounds like a broken record already in his short tenure with the team. “That means different things for different guys.”
According to people familiar with the team’s situation, Millsap could receive interest from as many as eight teams. With the salary cap now projected at $99 million, Millsap is eligible for a maximum contract of five years for $201 million from the Hawks and four years, $149 million from another team. Schlenk has indicated the team won’t offer Millsap the maximum and that he may receive a better offer from another team.
Schlenk said where Millsap ends up, in Atlanta or elsewhere, will not affect the rest of the team’s efforts in free agency. In other words, the Millsap domino does not have to fall first.
“We are going to have our conversations with Paul,” Schlenk said. “He’s unrestricted. He could sign at 12:01. We’ve had conversations. Could (he sign immediately)? Sure. … Paul, we’ll sit down and talk to them. They will look at all their offers. I don’t know that he is in a huge hurry to move quickly. I don’t think something will happen at 12:01 but it might.”
Schlenk said the Hawks will sign a power forward in free agency, whether it’s Millsap or another available player.
The Hawks extended a qualifying offer to Hardaway this week to make him a restricted free agent. The move gives the team the ability to match any offer sheet Hardaway may sign with another team. The Hawks could also sign Hardaway to a new deal.
According to the new collective bargaining agreement, Hardaway could sign an offer sheet during the league’s moratorium period from July 1-6. Schlenk said he expects that Hardaway is not in a rush to make a decision.
“He is a priority for us, just like Paul,” Schlenk said of Hardaway. “I don’t see (a quick offer sheet signing) coming. It could happen. I think they’ll give us a heads up.”
The Hawks already have roster holes to fill and there could be more should Millsap and/or Hardaway depart. The current roster has eight players signed for next season in Kent Bazemore, Dennis Schroder, Malcolm Delaney, Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry, Mike Dunleavy, Miles Plumlee and Marco Belinelli. They also have to sign draft picks John Collins, Tyler Dorsey and Alpha Kaba, who is likely to return overseas.
The Hawks have other unrestricted free agents in Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, Mike Muscala and Jose Calderon.
“We are not going to be the first people out of the gate making deals at 12:01,” Schlenk said. “We are going to see where the market goes. There are going to be guys who end up on good deals. There are going to be guys who, you say, that’s not a good deal. We want to be that team where they say they got a good player at a good salary.”