While the NBA Draft is the focal point of Wednesday night, this year’s condensed offseason means that teams must have an eye on the opening of free agency on Friday as well.
There aren’t a number of teams with cap space this offseason, which, coupled with a lack of stars at the top of this free agent class, means there’s not been as much anticipation for free agency as in years past around the league. That said, there are still players looking to get paid and for the few teams with ample cap room, that means opportunity to really retool a roster.
No team is in better position to do that than the Atlanta Hawks, a team with $43.6 million in space and needs pretty much all over the floor as they look to upgrade to playoff contender in Trae Young’s third season. At the same time, given their massive amounts of space, the Hawks are also ripe for being used as leverage in rumors, because every free agent is going to want other teams they have the option of going somewhere that will pay them handsomely.
With that in mind, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported on Wednesday that Atlanta is considered to be in “pole position” for the services of two of the most prominent free agents this offseason: Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo.
There is a growing belief among rival teams that Atlanta will be in pole position for Danilo Gallinari and Rajon Rondo when free agency begins later this week, league sources say
As @NYTSports reported on Oct. 28, Rondo is also poised to receive strong interest from the Clippers
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 18, 2020
Gallinari would be a snug fit in Atlanta, which could desperately use more quality offensive players around young and the veteran power forward would certainly fit the bill. However, he said earlier this offseason he would potentially take a pay cut to play for a winner, and while the Hawks are a young team many believe to be on a rise, they will not be a title contender with or without Gallinari. That said, with so many contenders only able to offer the mid-level exception in the $9 million annually range, the Hawks could very well make an offer the sharpshooting forward simply can’t refuse.
The Hawks also need a secondary ball-handler and/or a major upgrade at the backup point guard spot behind Young, and it seems they believe Rondo could be the fit there. While the Hawks certainly believe this upcoming season is playoffs or bust, the Rondo signing in particular is a bit more of a head-scratcher compared to Gallinari. The veteran point guard showed in the playoffs the level he can take his game to and help a team win come the postseason, but his performance in the regular season for the Lakers was less than stellar and the Hawks are a team in need of help winning regular season games at the moment, not playoff games just yet.
In any case, expect the Hawks to be very active from now through the weekend, and we’ll learn in a few days exactly how seriously the top free agents are taking Atlanta as an organization ready to go to the next level.