Although Atlanta is one of the NBA’s largest markets, the Hawks haven’t typically been the sort of franchise stars flock to, like those based in Los Angles, New York, and Miami. Team owner Tony Ressler is hoping to change that, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes.
Since assuming control of the team, Ressler has renovated State Farm Arena, built a state-of-the-art practice facility, purchased a G League franchise, and – most recently – invested huge money in several important members of the team that made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals earlier this year.
Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, and Kevin Huerter have all received lucrative long-term deals in the last three months, and Ressler says he’ll have no issue with paying the luxury tax going forward as long as Atlanta continues to contend.
“How could we not be a true free agent destination?” Ressler rhetorically asked Kirschner. “We think, I would argue, our facilities are as good as any, our city is as good as any, our roster is as good as any, our investment, our dollars, our commitment to spend is as good as any. It makes no sense that historically this team has not been a top-tier free agent destination. And I think you have to earn that, and make clear that it’s a franchise committed to winning in every sense of the way.
“… One of the true objectives or genuine objectives of this ownership is to make sure that we win on a tie for great players, if we have to. That we attract great players, that we keep great players, and that players, frankly, look at Atlanta as a really great place to play. I think that takes a lot of work. Hopefully we’re pretty close.”
The Hawks operated as an over-the-cap team this offseason, but had significant cap space available for a few summers before that. In most cases, Atlanta opted to use that space to accommodate salary dumps and accumulate assets, but the club forayed into free agency in 2020, signing veterans like Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Rajon Rondo. Those players aren’t superstars, but Gallinari and Bogdanovic especially were a couple of the top available players on the open market.
The Hawks don’t project to have cap space again anytime soon, but if Ressler’s plan is successful, a higher caliber of player may be interested in joining the team on mid-level or minimum-salary money. That could be a factor in helping to push Atlanta over the top, though Ressler told Kirschner he believes that – even without further upgrades – the current roster is capable of winning a title.
“We expect to be contenders, man,” Ressler said. “We expect to be really good. We hope to be really good, and we’re going to see how it plays out.”