- Ivan Johnson ($762,195)
Free Agents (Cap Holds)
- Kirk Hinrich ($12,000,000)
- Jason Collins ($854,389)
- Erick Dampier ($854,389)
- Willie Green ($854,389)
- Tracy McGrady ($854,389)
- Jannero Pargo ($854,389)
- Vladimir Radmanovic ($854,389)
- Jerry Stackhouse ($854,389)
- (Hilton Armstrong – $854,389)
- (Randolph Morris – $854,389)
- (Josh Powell – $854,389)
- (Etan Thomas – $854,389)
- 1st Round (23rd overall)
- 2nd Round (43rd overall)
- Guaranteed Salary: $60,921,972
- Non-Guaranteed Salary, Cap Holds: $22,160,474
- Total (not including draft picks): $83,082,446
2011/12 was another productive season for Joe Johnson, who averaged over 18 PPG for the seventh straight year and bested his career rates by averaging 18.4 PER and .454/.388/.849 shooting. Unfortunately for Johnson, despite his play on the court, he's still best known for signing one of the most exorbitant contracts in NBA history, one that could handicap the Hawks this summer and in the future.
Johnson's cap figure, which increases to nearly $20MM in 2012/13, isn't the only thing hampering the Hawks' financial flexibility. Teammates Al Horford and Josh Smith will also be making $12MM+, and Marvin Williams is earning $8MM+ himself. Add it all up and the Hawks have committed $60MM+ to six players for next year.
This season, the Hawks dealt with their lack of cap flexibility by signing a plethora of players to minimum-salary deals — Tracy McGrady, Erick Dampier, and Jerry Stackhouse were among the eight players earning minimum salaries for Atlanta in 2011/12. However, relying on the same strategy again likely won't get the team anywhere. For the past few years, the Hawks have been good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to seriously contend for the East, and a shake-up is needed if the team hopes to make its way into the top tier of the conference.
Fortunately for the Hawks, the amnesty provision is still a possibility. Unfortunately, the club has so many potential amnesty candidates that they might be best served to hang onto it for now. While a player like Williams looks like a reasonable candidate this season, it might be a mistake for the Hawks to wipe his relatively modest contract off the books and leave themselves defenseless if Horford's or Johnson's deals eventually take a turn for the worse. Assuming Horford is fully healthy, both guys are still productive contributors for now, but each have four years and plenty of money left on their contracts ($48MM for Horford, $89MM+ for Johnson). Having the opportunity to amnesty one of those veterans if they suffer from injuries or declining production later in their deals could be more valuable to Atlanta than lesser immediate savings.
If they don't use the amnesty clause to create cap space, the Hawks could turn to the trade market. Williams may still have a little value to a team interested in a former second overall pick on an expiring contract, though Atlanta likely wouldn't get anything of use in return. The Hawks' more intriguing trade candidate is Smith, who has hoped to be moved for some time. A perennial candidate for All-Star consideration, Smith should be a valuable asset, though considering he's still in Atlanta, it seems the Hawks have yet to find a suitable offer. In my view, the club's best option could be trying to deal Smith in a package for a lottery pick, without taking on much salary in return. A team like the Blazers might be a logical trade partner.
If the Hawks are interested in really blowing things up, making a play for Dwight Howard makes some sense as well. A package that includes Smith and Horford could interest the Magic, and if the Hawks acquired Howard and failed to re-sign him, at least it would give the club some flexibility to regain cap room and rebuild around Johnson.
Atlanta's other asset of note comes in the form of its first-round draft pick. While the Hawks don't pick until 23rd overall, this year's deep class of prospects means that pick could turn into something worthwhile, whether it's a guard like Tony Wroten, a big like Fab Melo, or a wing like Quincy Miller.
The Hawks may not be major players on the free agent market this summer, but it wouldn't be a surprise to hear the team mentioned in a handful of trade rumors. Something has to change if the Hawks are going to turn into a legit Eastern Conference contender, and the trade market seems to present the best opportunity for Atlanta to make significant changes this offseason.