Summer agenda: Hawks' offseason hinges on Paul Millsap's free agency

Bobby Marks
The Vertical
Paul Millsap has played 11 NBA seasons. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

Previous teams in the series: Nets and Suns | Timberwolves and 76ers | Magic and Kings | Hornets and Pelicans | Knicks and Nuggets | Lakers and Heat | Mavericks and Pistons | Pacers and Blazers

ATLANTA HAWKS

Offseason focus

Roster crossroads

There is a fine line between good and great in the NBA.

Ten straight playoff seasons, including making the East finals in 2015, prove Atlanta has been a good team.

Heading into the offseason, the Hawks are facing a moment of truth.

They can stay the course and continue to be a middle-of-the-pack playoff team, or take a step back with a focus on young players such as Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince.

Continuity, however, will come at a cost.

Returning the same roster, including free agents Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., would likely push the payroll to $120 million-plus and possibly make Atlanta a luxury-tax team.

The 32-year-old Millsap, the top power forward in free agency, is projected to earn a salary in the range of $30 million annually.

Hardaway Jr., a restricted free agent, is one of the top shooting guards available.

The cost-efficient approach that includes retooling would be sound if this were last summer.

But with $100 million still owed to Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore, the decision to not bring back Millsap or Hardaway Jr. doesn’t necessarily make sense with where the roster stands now.

The high cost at shooting guard

Atlanta could pay a substantial price for a shooting guard for two consecutive summers.

A year after signing Bazemore to a four-year, $70 million contract, Atlanta now has a decision to make on Hardaway Jr.

At the time, it seemed as if the Bazemore signing signaled Atlanta had its starting shooting guard.

However, with the emergence of Hardaway Jr., Bazemore’s role was reduced to coming off the bench by the end of the season. Atlanta could end up paying starting salary money for two shooting guards.

Dwight Howard’s role

Atlanta learned a valuable playoff lesson about cap space and the center position.

Though centers have value during the regular season, they become marginalized in the playoffs when teams often go small.

Howard, signed to a $70 million contract last summer, was reduced to a role player as the Wizards went small in their first-round series win over Atlanta.

Howard posted career playoff lows in minutes, points, rebounds and blocks, and played a combined two minutes in the fourth quarters of Games 5 and 6.

Now with $23.5 million and $23.8 million cap hits the next two years, the Howard signing will be scrutinized when it comes to the potential high cost of keeping the Hawks together.

Dwight Howard’s role greatly diminished in the postseason. (AP)

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed                                 2017-18                               Insider info
Dwight Howard                       $23,500,000
Kent Bazemore                        $16,910,113
Dennis Schroder                     $15,500,000
Malcolm Delaney                     $2,500,000
Taurean Prince                         $2,421,600
DeAndre’ Bembry                     $1,567,200

Non/partial 2017-18             Guarantee date
Mike Dunleavy                          $5,175,000                  July 1/$1.6 million guaranteed
Ryan Kelly                                 $1,577,230

FA cap hold                                 2017-18                                    FA status
Paul Millsap                             $30,108,500                   Bird/Projected to opt out
Ersan Ilyasova                         $12,600,000                                     Bird
Thabo Sefolosha                      $7,315,000                                      Bird
Tim Hardaway Jr.                      $5,704,013                             Restricted Bird
Kris Humphries                        $5,200,000                                 Early Bird
Jose Calderon                           $1,471,382                                  Non-Bird
Mike Muscala                            $1,471,382                                      Bird

First-round cap hold                 2017-18
No. 19                                        $1,936,920

Salary table                                   2017
Guaranteed salary                  $64,061,413
Non-guaranteed                     $5,089,730
Free-agent cap hold               $65,807,197
Salaries: cap                          $134,958,340
Salaries: tax                             $69,151,143
Salary cap                              $101,000,000
Luxury tax                              $121,000,000
Cap space                      None ($33,958,340 over)
Luxury-tax room                     $51,848,857

Projected cap space

The focus for Atlanta will be on its own free agents.

Millsap and Hardaway Jr. have $35 million in combined free-agent cap holds, which have the Hawks over the salary cap.

Atlanta could get under the cap, but that would come at the expense of both players as well as free agent Ersan Ilyasova.

June draft picks

Atlanta has its own first-round pick.

From the 2012 trade of Joe Johnson to Brooklyn, Atlanta has the No. 31 pick from the Nets.

The Hawks’ second-round pick was traded to Philadelphia as part of the Ilyasova acquisition in February.

Future draft picks

The Hawks own their future first-round picks.

The Hawks have the Timberwolves’ first-round pick, lottery protected for 2018, ’19 and ’20. If they do not receive a first in any of those years, the pick will turn into 2020 and ’21 second-round picks.

Atlanta also has the Cavaliers’ first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-10 in 2019 and ’20.

If they do not receive a first in either year, the pick will turn into 2021 and ’22 second-rounders.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Offseason focus

Russell Westbrook can be a free agent in 2018. (AP)

Russell Westbrook’s future

The renegotiation last August between Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City was a win-win for both sides.

Westbrook earned an extra $10 million this season and the Thunder gained an extra year of security for 2017-18.

Westbrook now has the option to enter free agency in 2018, when he would reach 10 years of service with a max contract starting at 35 percent ($35.7 million) of the cap.

This year served as a recruiting tool to sell the on-court product and upside of the Thunder’s young roster to Westbrook.

While the Thunder cannot renegotiate his current contract, they can extend it by using the Designated Player Veteran Extension.

Because Westbrook renegotiated before the new CBA and met the DPVE criteria (All-NBA honors), the league deemed him eligible this summer to sign a five-year extension worth 35 percent of the salary cap starting in 2018-19.

The total value of the extension would be $207 million, $54 million more than if Westbrook signed with another team as a free agent.

The Westbrook extension represents long-term security in case of injury, but unlike the renegotiation last summer does not give him an advantage financially.

By July 2018, Westbrook would reach 10 years of service and be eligible to sign a max contract for 35 percent of the salary cap, the same amount if he were to sign an extension this summer.

If Westbrook decides to pass on an extension, general manager Sam Presti will be faced with two decisions.

He can trust the relationship the organization has built with its franchise point guard with the belief that the on-court product continues to improve and Westbrook signs long term in 2018.

Or Oklahoma City can maximize Westbrook’s trade value and look for a suitor during the summer.

However, as expiring contracts have proven, creating a market presents a challenge because there is a reluctance from teams to trade key assets for a possible one-year rental.

An eye on the luxury tax

A common misconception is that Oklahoma City is reluctant to pay the luxury tax.

However, the Thunder have paid the tax in 2014-15 and ’15-16.

Barring a trade, Oklahoma City likely will be in the luxury tax once again next season.

The Thunder currently are $9 million below the tax and have two key free agents in Andre Roberson (restricted) and veteran Taj Gibson.

Roberson’s projected salary will push the team over the $121 million tax threshold, with the financial penalty increasing if Gibson returns.

Oklahoma City could be a repeater tax team in 2018-19 based on the Thunder potentially being a tax team in four out of five seasons (2013-14, ’14-15, ’17-18 and ’18-19).

Finding perspective with the roster

In many ways, the Thunder resembled a team of college seniors on the court.

Unlike a college program that loses those seniors and faces a complete overhaul, Oklahoma City mostly returns a playoff team that features one of the league’s youngest rosters.

The Thunder will have to continue to develop their young talent and make subtle moves to improve.

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed                                  2017-18                                Insider info
Russell Westbrook                     $28,530,608                            DPVE eligible
Steven Adams                            $22,471,910                             Trade bonus
Victor Oladipo                           $21,000,000
Enes Kanter                                $17,884,176                             Trade bonus
Alex Abrines                                $5,725,000
Kyle Singler                                 $4,666,500
Doug McDermott                         $3,294,994                    Rookie extension eligible
Domantas Sabonis                     $2,550,000
Josh Huestis                                 $1,471,382

Non/partial                                    2017-18                             Guarantee date
Semaj Christon                             $1,312,611                                   July 9
Jerami Grant                                 $1,577,230     Team option/Non-guaranteed if exercised

FA cap hold                                    2017-18                                 FA status
Taj Gibson                                   $13,425,000                                   Bird
Nick Collison                                $7,125,000                                    Bird
Andre Roberson                           $5,457,680                           Restricted Bird
Norris Cole                                    $1,471,382                               Non-Bird

First-round cap hold                    2017-18
No. 21                                          $1,785,000

Dead cap space                           2017-218
Ronnie Price                                 $2,442,455

Salary table                                     2017
Guaranteed salaries                 $107,594,570
Dead money                               $2,442,455
Non-guaranteed                         $2,889,841
Free-agent cap holds                $29,264,062
Salaries: cap                              $142,190,928
Salaries: tax                               $112,926,866
Salary cap                                  $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                  $121,000,000
Cap Space                          None ($41,190,928 over)
Tax Room                                     $8,073,134

Projected cap space

Oklahoma City will not have cap space when free agency begins.

The Thunder have almost $113 million in committed salaries and are $8 million below the luxury tax.

To stay away from being hard capped, Oklahoma City will only have the $5.2 million tax exception to use.

June draft picks

Oklahoma City has its own first-round pick.

Future draft picks

As part of the Enes Kanter trade, Oklahoma City owes Utah a first-round pick starting in 2018.

The pick is lottery-protected and will carry over to 2019 and 2020 with protection in the top 14 if not conveyed in 2018.

If the Jazz do not receive a pick in any of those years, the Thunder will send second-round picks to Utah in 2020 and ’21.

As part of acquiring Jerami Grant, the Thunder will send Philadelphia a first-round pick two years after the conditions to Utah are met.

The pick is protected Nos. 1-20 and will turn into a second-rounder if not conveyed.

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