Unless another NBA team finds a way to clear a massive amount of cap room, the only way Chris Paul and Dwight Howard will be able to play on the same team next season is if both decide to sign with the Atlanta Hawks.
However, in order for the Hawks to make their dream a reality, Paul and Howard will either have to accept less than the maximum or the team will have to make some moves to create cap relief.
Currently, Atlanta has six players under contract for next season, but only three are guaranteed with Al Horford ($12 million), Lou Williams ($5.23 million) and John Jenkins (1.26 million) commanding a total of $18.5 million.
With recent projections for the 2013-14 NBA season salary cap increasing to $58.5 million, the Hawks will have roughly $40 million in cap room to spend, but the price to sign both Paul and Howard at the maximum would cost the team nearly $34.4 million.
Hypothetically, if Atlanta chose to go that route without making any moves, the team would have around $5.6 million in cap room left to add the ten remaining players they need to their roster. Aside from a “room exception” of $2.65 million (which can be split up), the rest of the team would consist of minimum salary players.
The problem for the Hawks though, is they have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft and if they were to sign those picks, it would put them over the cap.
To avoid going over, the Hawks would have to trade Williams and Jenkins or Williams and one of this year’s first-round picks to another team without taking any salary back in return.
The starting lineup of Paul, Howard, Horford and either a first-round pick or Jenkins would definitely matchup well with the Miami Heat current weaknesses, but the Hawks would be left with little money to spend on perimeter shooters and defenders.
It’s going to be a tough offseason for Hawks general manager Danny Ferry. But if Paul and Howard are serious about their interest in playing together, perhaps Ferry can convince them to take a little less money, so he can fill the roster with better players.