The NBA free agency period is officially underway and teams can formally start tendering offers to prospective signees on Tuesday. With a recent trade that centered on further creating cap space, the Atlanta Hawks are in prime position to chase a big name free agent and one of the targets is Luol Deng, an unrestricted free agent (UFA) from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks traded for John Salmons and his expiring contract on Saturday giving away Lou Williams and the rights to international prospect Lucas Nogueira to the Toronto Raptors.
The move will result in a $5 million savings for the Hawks, which will fall to around $44M committed for the 2014-2015 season—a figure that will make the major players in free agency in this offseason. The NBA salary cap is projected to hover around the $63M.
Like other teams with potential to spend big in the FA market, the Hawks probable targets are the more recognizable names like Carmelo Anthony (UFA, New York Knicks) and LeBron James (UFA, Miami Heat). However, should those stars shun their invitation to join the Atlanta franchise, the Hawks have no problem settling for the likes of Deng, who is a known two-way player, effective as a small forward on both ends of the floor.
Deng earned over $14M in his final year with the Cavaliers, who acquired him in a midseason trade with the Chicago Bulls. The British national is poised to earn more as per the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rules but may have to settle for less with his history of injuries.
Still, Deng will command a contract near his previous salary and won’t go down the double-digit mark ($10M). With a starting unit of Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford, Deng’s skill set—both on offense and defense-- will fit in nicely with the Atlanta team that made a bit of noise in the recent NBA Playoffs.