The Atlanta Hawks have gotten off to a solid start to the season and have been one of the more exciting teams in the NBA. This comes after making a blockbuster deal to acquire all-star Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs and pair him with all-star Trae Young.
The results thus far have largely been positive, despite initial questions about how the two would fit together. Still, the team has an 11-7 record and is fourth in the East. That’s normally a perfectly respectable place to be in a highly competitive conference, but the Atlanta Hawks are spending like they are a contender.
Murray is likely expecting a $200 million contract after next season, and Young and John Collins have expensive yearly raises. Factor in recent comments by Hawks owner Anthony Ressler, and it looks like the team will certainly try to shed a lot of salary this season.
A fire sale might be on the horizon for the Atlanta Hawks.
Collins is reportedly on the trading block for like the dozenth time, and their team may finally move him to avoid paying the luxury tax. Avoiding paying the luxury tax appears to be a top priority for the Hawks. In fact, it was probably the reason why they traded Kevin Huerter to the Sacramento Kings, only to see him have a career season this year.
Collins is having his worst season since his rookie year, which is poor timing and makes moving him for significant assets harder, especially with three years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. Still, several teams have shown interest in him, and they may get him at a discount with his value lower than in previous seasons, making him a strong possibility to be moved.
Collins isn’t the only trade option for the Atlanta Hawks, however; Bogdan Bogdanovic or Clint Capela could also be moved. Actually, Bogdanovic has already seen his name appear in trade rumors involving the Phoenix Suns.
Multiple players are at risk of being traded.
In a rumored trade, the Suns would swap Dario Saric and Jae Crowder for Bogdanovic. With both Crowder and Saric being unrestricted free agents next season, the Hawks could save up to $18 million and stay under the luxury tax. Meanwhile, Capela is one of the better starting centers in the NBA and is making a reasonable $18 million this season.
Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, but with Young making $44 million on average for the next four seasons and Murray soon to be paid similarly, they may decide on a cheaper option. Onyeka Okongwu was the sixth pick in the 2020 NBA draft and is likely the heir apparent at center for that reason.
With two years remaining on his rookie contract for the low price of $14.5 million, they could try to trade Capela for a couple of cheaper rotation players and/or multiple draft picks to help replace the three they dealt to the Spurs. That would pave the way for Okongwu to be promoted to the starting lineup, but Atlanta would likely take a step back as he adjusts to his new role. On the other hand, it could help their depth, and their bench could use an upgrade.
Overall, it seems all but certain that the Atlanta Hawks will make a trade this season to avoid paying the luxury tax. With Collins, Capela, and Bogdanovic as possible trade options, it’s possible that at least one of them will be on the move.