Adding Pascal Siakam would give Hawks their Big Three

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives to the basket as Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) defends during the first half in Toronto on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives to the basket as Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) defends during the first half in Toronto on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Hawks already are very good offensively. Add Pascal Siakam alongside Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, and they’d reach another level with three high-level playmakers and scorers. Siakam also would inject the Hawks with some much-needed defensive grit.

Those are the principal reasons why the Hawks have been trying to pry Siakam from the Raptors for weeks. As things stand now, the 2023-24 roster is worse than it was in 2022-23. Acquiring Siakam would make the Hawks better, with some caveats.

One of them is the same as for all trades: What would the Hawks have to give up to land Siakam? The bigger obstacle is that Siakam apparently wants to stay in Toronto.

Siakam has one season left on his contract. Long-time NBA writer Marc Stein reported that Siakam isn’t keen on signing an extension with a new team if he’s traded. Siakam can’t veto a trade, but it obviously would be risky for the Hawks to acquire him if he’s not happy. Siakam could stick around for one half-hearted season before hitting the free-agent market.

It’s especially risky for the Hawks to acquire a short-term player while sending away good prospects with relatively cheap contracts. Those are needed for the payroll to stay under the luxury-tax line. The Hawks would have to send out about $30 million in salaries to make a Siakam trade work while avoiding the tax.

Forward De’Andre Hunter is an obvious candidate to go. He’s a similar player to Siakam, not nearly as good now but younger, so he fits with Toronto. Put any of the trio of promising young Hawks in a deal with – Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson, A.J. Griffin – and it becomes more costly. That’s especially true if Siakam ends up being a short-term rental.

Okongwu already has shown he can handle a bigger role. Johnson and Griffin have exciting potential. All three players are making below-market salaries with their rookie-scale contracts. Okongwu won’t get a big pay raise until 2024-25 at the earliest. It will be 2026-27 for Griffin and 2025-26 for Johnson.

You have to give up something valuable to get a player like Siakam. Maybe the Hawks take a chance and part with one of their good young players plus draft picks as part of a deal. I wouldn’t fault them for it. They’ve maxed out with the current group and need a bona fide star to break out of their rut.

Siakam is that kind of player. He flourished once the Raptors made him the “point forward” for their offense. Siakam has been an All-Star and All-NBA twice in the past four seasons. He averaged at least 20 points and seven rebounds in each of those years and more than five assists in the past two.

Siakam is solid shooting off the catch, very good scoring at the rim and a slick passer. He can play on the wing or in the front court. Siakam has been good in Toronto’s aggressive defensive scheme. The Hawks would benefit from his intensity, length and versatility at that end.

Siakam’s offensive efficiency hasn’t been great. I think that would change with the Hawks. Everyone who plays with Young gets easier shots. There would be some questions about whether Young, Murray and Siakam could mesh because they all like having the ball. Really, it all comes down to whether Young will defer more often.

Young must do so if the Hawks are going to be a contender. Siakam would have to make a big adjustment with the Hawks, too. Maybe the Hawks persuade him that a reduced role would be good for his longevity. Siakam will be 30 years old next season and he’s led the league in minutes played per game for two consecutive years.

The Hawks also can sell Siakam on being what the player they need to break through in the East. Siakam won the 2019 NBA championship with the Raptors. Kawhi Leonard left soon after that, and the Raptors haven’t been the same. They lost in the first round of the 2022 playoffs and were one-and-done in last season’s play-in tournament.

The Hawks appear to be all-in on acquiring Siakam. He would be their first major acquisition of the summer. The Hawks have made a series of cost-cutting trades, but have yet to parlay that flexibility into tangible improvements to the roster.

The Hawks sent John Collins to Utah and, through subsequent deals, ended up with Patty Mills. That’s a net negative. Collins had a down season offensively in 2022-23. He was still a solid, switchable defender while starting 71 games at power forward. Mills was a good role player for a decade in San Antonio, but fell off while playing for the Nets the past two seasons.

If a trade for Siakam doesn’t happen for the Hawks, there are some decent wing players still available on the free-agent market. Danny Green is the best among them. He’s the prototype “3-and-D” wing. The downsides with Green is he’s 36 years old and didn’t look good after returning from ACL surgery in February. Also available are defensive specialists Derrick Jones Jr. (decent offense) and Justice Winslow (bad offense).

None of those players are on Siakam’s level. He’s a star. He’s the kind of big, skilled and versatile wing that all teams covet. That’s why the Hawks want Siakam. The Pacers reportedly are pursuing him, too. If the Hawks get Siakam, then they’d finally have their Big Three.