Majority owner Tony Ressler instructed the Hawks’ front office to pursue numerous free agents last month, leading to the team’s big spending spree, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details.
Following a three-year rebuild, Ressler told GM Travis Schlenk in a meeting prior to free agency to use all of the team’s cap space to fortify a young roster with quality veterans. The meeting also included coach Lloyd Pierce, assistant GM Landry Fields, and assistant coach and former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan.
“I said this to Travis: What’s the point of having all of this cap space if you don’t use it? That’s like looking at a fancy toy that you could never get your hands on. … We used every bit of that cap space,” Ressler said. “He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and I’m here with great confidence.”
The front office provided Ressler with a list of veteran players who would be good fits with their returning players, and the Hawks ended up getting several of their top targets, according to Kirschner.
The Hawks added Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn in free agency. Bogdanovic received the biggest deal, a four-year, $72MM offer sheet the Kings didn’t match. Gallinari (three-year, $61MM contract) was acquired in a sign-and-trade with Oklahoma City, while Rondo and Dunn signed two-year deals.
Ressler told Schlenk to flaunt the team’s ability to sign multiple free agents.
“I think Travis wanted everyone to know he had the most cap space in the NBA, and he (darn) well expected to use it. I think that was the message he sent when free agency began,” he said. “I didn’t know if he was going to be able to use it, but to his credit and really the entire basketball ops’ credit, they used it.”
Ressler drew the line on Monday when the team didn’t reach a rookie scale extension agreement with one of those quality young players, John Collins. However, Ressler does expect major improvement after spending all that capital.
“The objective is not, emphatically, to be the eighth seed in the playoffs and pound our chest and say, ‘Mission accomplished,’” Ressler said. “There’s a plan here, and this is clearly one step in the plan, which is to get appreciably better off a shortened 20-win season.”