Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said he’s open to trades that net the team draft picks or young NBA prospects. However, he said he doesn’t feel pressure to make a deal before Thursday’s deadline because the Hawks already have accumulated multiple draft picks and have few burdensome contracts on the books.
The Hawks, who entered Tuesday with the NBA’s worst winning percentage, could own as many as five first-round picks in the next two drafts.
“We are willing to use our (salary-cap) flexibility if we can get assets we want,” Schlenk said Tuesday. “But I feel like we’ve done enough early on (that) we have the flexibility to sit back and not take too much (salary) on because we have so many picks. We don’t feel pressure to do anything because of that, but if there is an opportunity that makes sense for us we are certainly going to take a hard look at it.”
The Hawks have received trade interest in guard Marco Belinelli and forward Ersan Ilyasova. Both players are attractive to teams looking to fortify their rosters for playoff runs because their contracts expire after this season and they have long track records as good shooters. (Ilyasova has the right to reject any trade because of his contract status.)
Teams also reportedly have inquired about Hawks veteran wing Kent Bazemore, a defensive specialist who is having a career-best season shooting 3-pointers. But Schlenk said Bazemore is a valuable player for the Hawks during their rebuild because of his leadership.
“The tricky part of going through this is you still want to have a culture of winning,” Schlenk said. “I give the coaches and players a lot of credit. We show up every night. We are not winning a lot of games but you can’t just show up and get a win (against the Hawks). Our guys compete every night.”
The Hawks (16-37) are 9-12 since Dec. 23 but still on track finish in the draft lottery. If they finish the season with the NBA’s worst record they would have the best odds to win the No. 1 pick and would be guaranteed to pick no later than fourth.
In addition to their own pick in the 2018 draft, the Hawks acquired 2018 lottery-protected first-round picks via previous trades with the Timberwolves (34-22 entering Tuesday) and Rockets (38-13). The Hawks also previously acquired a top-10 protected pick in the 2019 draft from the Cavaliers and a second-round pick in the 2019 draft from either the Timberwolves or Lakers, depending on where those teams finish in the standings next season.
Schlenk said his impression from discussions with other NBA executives is that there are more teams looking to “sell” than “buy” at the trade deadline. He said some of those teams may be taking a step back in part because they aren’t championship contenders, but mostly they are motivated to shed salaries.
Schlenk said the Hawks project that as many as 16 teams could pay the NBA’s luxury tax next season. Teams with total salaries above certain thresholds are required to pay a tax of at least 150 percent and as much as 475 percent for the dollar amounts above those limits.
Schlenk said one reason the Hawks decided to rebuild the roster last year was that they figured several teams would need to shed salary for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The Hawks predicted those circumstances would create chances for the team to acquire draft picks and young NBA players with potential.
“We saw this coming and decided this would be a good path to go down and hopefully be able to capitalize on it like we did this past summer,” Schlenk said.
Just seven Hawks players have guaranteed contracts for next season. They are Bazemore ($18.1 million), Dennis Schroder ($15.5 million), Miles Plumlee ($12.5 million), Taurean Prince ($2.5 million), John Collins ($2.3 million), DeAndre’ Bembry ($1.6 million) and Tyler Dorsey ($1.4 million).
Hawks veterans Dewayne Dedmon ($6.3 million) and Mike Muscala ($5 million) have player options for 2018-19. The Hawks also have $2.3 million in “dead” money on the 2018-19 salary cap because of their buyout of Jamal Crawford’s contract last summer after they acquired him in a trade.