Heading into an offseason with 12 guaranteed roster spots to fill, the Atlanta Hawks top priority will be to find an offensive threat to replace their leading scorer Josh Smith, who will officially become a free agent on July 1.
There have been rumors that the Hawks covet Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, but it remains to be seen whether either free agent shares the same interest. Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are able to pay their impending free agent a larger maximum contract, but the Hawks have the flexibility to sign both.
If the Hawks are unable to sign either of the prized free agents, the Hawks will have to shift their focus to second-tier free agents Smith, Andre Iguodala and Monta Ellis.
Iguodala is the most attractive free agent of the group because of his ability to play defense and fill every category, but new Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly has been in discussion with his agent and recently called resigning Iguodala, the team’s “No. 1 priority.”
The best scorer and perimeter player aside from Paul on the market is Ellis, but he comes with character concerns and his struggles as a defender could cause the Hawks to hesitate. The Golden State Warriors struggled while Ellis was on their team, but made the playoffs once they traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished in eighth place this season.
Aside from Ellis’ offensive skills, the Hawks could also see signing him as a way to lure Howard. There was recently a report that the All-Star center is close with Ellis and may try to team up with him, if he can’t find a spot with Paul.
The price to sign Ellis remains unknown, but it is worth noting he chose not to exercise an $11 million option for next season and turned down a two-year $24 million extension. Ellis averaged 19.2 points and six assists per game this past season.