Millsap stays, Carroll leaves Hawks in free-agency frenzy (updated)

The NBA free-agency period moves fast — and the Hawks were involved in a whirlwind of activity on the first day.

To recap Wednesday:

  • Paul Millsap stayed after he agreed to a three-year, $59 million deal with the Hawks.
  • DeMarre Carroll left after he agreed to a four-year, $60 million deal with the Raptors.
  • Tiago Splitter arrived after the he was acquired in a trade with the Spurs.

Of their own unrestricted free agents, the Hawks had to choose between Millsap and Carroll. Millsap met with the Magic just after midnight. He had offers from both teams in the neighborhood of $20 million per season, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Millsap, 30, will make $18.8 million next season, $19.646 million in 2016-17 and $20.492 million in his option year of 2017-18, for a total salary of $58.938 million. He could opt out and again be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017.

With the writing on the wall, Carroll met with the Raptors for two hours Wednesday morning. He left with an agreement on a contract far more than Carroll has made in his career. He cancelled scheduled meetings with the Pistons and Suns and broke the news via social media.

“I just felt like this was the best opportunity,” Carroll told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution minutes after his announcement. “They are a playoff team and they said they can’t get past the first round. They feel like having me, the way I performed last year in the playoffs, will help them get past the first round. It’s a great opportunity for me. I really excited to play alongside DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.”

Carroll, 28, played two seasons in Atlanta for $5 million, including $2.4 million last season. He has made $8 million in his six-year career. He will become the highest-paid Raptor, at $15 million per season.

“It was a difficult situation,” Carroll said. “Atlanta was close to my heart for two years.”

The Hawks are in need of a starting small forward to replace Carroll, who averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in 143 games in his two seasons. Thabo Sefolosha, who is recovering from a broken right fibula and ligament damage, and Kent Bazemore are on the roster. The Hawks also have newly acquired Tim Hardaway Jr.

Carroll added grit to the Hawks and was their best defensive player. Before arriving in Atlanta two years ago, he apologized in advance for fans sitting in the front rows in case he dove on them in a quest for a loose ball. He earned his nickname Junkyard Dog and became a fan favorite. Carroll priced himself out of the Hawks’ market with his stellar performance in the Hawks’ postseason run.

The Hawks agreed to acquire Splitter, according to a person familiar with the situation. The details are being finalized, but no current members of the Hawks’ roster will be included in the deal. Splitter, a 6-foot-11, 232-pound forward/center, played five seasons with the Spurs. He averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 19.8 minutes last season. Splitter has two years remaining on his contract and will make $8.5 million next season and $8.25 million the following season.

Mike Budenholzer coached Splitter as an assistant coach with the Spurs before taking over the Hawks two years ago. The addition gives the Hawks depth behind Al Horford and Mike Muscala at center. The Hawks lost restricted free-agent center Pero Antic, who will return to Europe. Horford will enter the final year of his deal with the Hawks and will make $12 million.

According to one person familiar with the Millsap negotiations, both sides worked collaboratively to find common ground in working out the details of the new contract.

Millsap is expected to remain at power forward even with the arrival of Splitter. Such a position move was not discussed as part of the negotiations and not anticipated. However, Millsap would be open to playing where needed. He did play some small forward at times last season.

The restructuring of the Hawks’ roster are the first moves with Budenholzer serving as president of basketball operations and head coach and Wes Wilcox serving as general manager. The promotions of both were announced by the team Tuesday on the eve of the free-agent frenzy.

The Hawks entered free agency with about $24.6 million in salary-cap space. More moves are likely, including as part of the Splitter deal, as the Hawks rework a roster that won a franchise-record 60 games last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

The salary cap is projected to be $67.1 million next season but could reportedly rise. There will be a significant jump in the salary cap the following season with the league’s new TV contract.