Following a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the Hawks face a few financial decisions that will shape the future of the franchise. Team owner Tony Ressler provided some insight into Atlanta’s mindset during an end-of-season news conference, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.
Trae Young appears to be a lock for a full max extension that will pay him at least $168MM over five years, beginning with the 2022/23 season. Kirschner notes that Young’s contract will likely include language that would increase the value if he earns All-NBA or MVP honors.
The more difficult decision involves John Collins, a restricted free agent who turned down a $90MM extension last offseason. Kirschner identifies the Spurs as a “perfect fit” for Collins and points to the Heat and Mavericks as other potential suitors, which could result in a contract that will be difficult for Atlanta to match.
“Our job is to come to a fair agreement with John. That’s our objective. There should be no question,” Ressler said. “He’s a really good player and maybe more importantly, a really good person. So the idea of having both is important to this franchise. That’s my view. The idea of being smart for both of us, to come to a reasonable place, that’s the objective, and there should be no confusion. I think as (general manager) Travis (Schlenk) said, which I think is amazing, a lot of players that don’t agree to a contract going into this season, play in a certain way. John played as an amazing teammate trying to win games and doing whatever he could do to win games. John’s a really good guy and a really good teammate. I hope he is an Atlanta Hawk.”
Ressler touched on a few other subjects during the session with the media:
On whether the Hawks should now be considered title contenders:
“I personally think if we were completely healthy, I think we could have done more. I’m just going to say that. Come on, (Bogdan Bogdanovic) for a good chunk of the series was on one leg. Trae could not walk. … These are young men in their early 20s that could barely walk and were asked to play on one of the most difficult stages in the NBA. That’s pretty remarkable. Some of them had terrible injuries and they still tried to play, and some still played. … I think we have enough. I think we have some extraordinary talent that could be even better with each season. I absolutely believe we have enough to win a championship is the simple answer. But, hey, our job is to always try to be better.”
On his willingness to pay the luxury tax:
“What we are trying to achieve is literally keeping our best players, as you could imagine, trying to make clear that we’re going to have to spend a lot more than we have this season. We fully expect that. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to keep every single player that we want to keep. Pretty good bet, pretty good assumption we will not. But I do think we have several years that we should be able to build some real stability. If the question is are we scared of the tax, are we scared of going into the tax? I’m scared of paying the tax and not being a good team, yes, that I’m scared of, but if we have to go into the tax to be a great team for a period of time, so be it.”
On Atlanta’s fans embracing the team:
“I don’t want to make jokes about this, but four or five years ago, you could come to a playoff game and you could see more jerseys of a visiting player. Those days are over. When you see our fan base, when you see the jerseys they’re wearing, when you see the cheering going on, it’s very clear it’s for this team, this city and this franchise. We couldn’t be more proud of that.”