The Hawks are determined to make the playoffs and are expected to be buyers heading into next week’s trade deadline, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Atlanta has won five straight games since firing head coach Lloyd Pierce and has moved up to eighth in a crowded Eastern playoff race. With Kris Dunn and De’Andre Hunter possibly back soon from injuries, the Hawks are hoping to add more talent to break their three-year postseason drought.
Trade rumors continue to circulate around forward John Collins, who is on track to become a restricted free agent this summer. Although Collins has been a full-time starter the past three seasons, Atlanta wasn’t able to work out an extension with him during the offseason and is reportedly wary of giving him a max contract.
Apart from Collins, there are concerns that the Hawks don’t have enough assets to make a significant move, with an Eastern Conference executive telling Bontemps, “I think they’d like to buy, but not sure there’s a lot to buy or what they buy it with. (Kevin) Huerter and picks, I guess, is the package, but what is that buying you?”
Bontemps offers a few more items related to the trade deadline:
- The Bulls‘ decision to take two recent lottery picks out of their starting lineup is considered a sign that they’re focused on the playoffs rather than the future. Veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young have replaced Coby White and Wendell Carter for a Chicago team that’s in ninth place at 17-20. The Bulls also face a decision on Lauri Markkanen, who is moving toward restricted free agency, where he might get an offer sheet that Chicago is unwilling to match. “I think they’d trade Markkanen if they get a good offer, but I don’t think they’re likely to trade him,” an East executive said. “I don’t think they do anything unless they get something they love.”
- The Kings will consider offers for Harrison Barnes, whom Bontemps sees as a good fit for the Celtics or Heat. However, Barnes’ team-friendly contract, which declines over the next two seasons, could be a factor in convincing Sacramento to keep him.
- The Pelicans would like to clear out their backcourt veterans to create more playing time for young guards Kira Lewis and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. J.J. Redick and Eric Bledsoe will both be available, but they may be too expensive to bring much of a return. Redick, who underwent treatment for a sore heel last week, has a $13MM expiring contract and is being viewed as a buyout candidate, according to Bontemps. Bledsoe is under contract for another year at more than $18MM and didn’t perform well in the playoffs the past two seasons.
- Rival executives are split on what the Magic will do with Aaron Gordon, but many expect Evan Fournier to be traded. “I think they’ll rent Fournier to someone, but that’s it,” an East executive said. “Nobody has given me any indication they’re going to move (Nikola) Vucevic, or even have a discussion for him, unless they get a huge return.”