The Hawks made another offseason move to bolster the depth of their now-crowded frontcourt by claiming forward/center Gustavo Ayon off waivers Monday. The move likely means that first-round draft pick Lucas Nogueira will remain in Spain at least another season.
Ayon was waived by the Bucks last week before his $1.5 million salary became guaranteed. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Ayon appeared in 55 games last season for the Bucks and Magic and averaged 3.7 points and 3.6 rebounds.
“I’m excited for me, for my life, for my family,” Ayon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview from Mexico City. “I’m excited for the start of practice and to meet everybody.”
Ayon’s arrival indicates Nogueira will most likely play overseas next season to continue his development. The Hawks have added several other frontcourt players this summer, signing free agents Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Pero Antic and drafting centers Nogueira and Mike Muscala. Neither Nogueira nor Muscala have been signed.
It is also likely that Muscala, a second-round pick, will play either as an unassigned player in the NBA Development League or internationally with the Hawks retaining his rights.
Nogueira, who turned 20 this month, would have had to fight for playing time in a frontcourt that also includes Al Horford and Mike Scott (non-guaranteed contract). Brand and Ayon have guaranteed contracts next season and Millsap is signed for two seasons.
The decision facing the Hawks was whether it would have been better for Nogueira’s development to play major minutes overseas or play limited NBA minutes while the team oversaw a weight-training program in Atlanta. The decision was aided by the claiming of Ayon at a modest salary.
The 7-foot Nogueira showed promised using his height and reach while playing for the Hawks in the Las Vegas Summer League earlier this month. However, at 225 pounds, he was clearly out-muscled on the boards by fellow draftees and others trying to earn training camp invitations.
Nogueira, who averaged 6.4 points and 6 rebounds in five summer league games, said his preference was to play in the NBA.
“If I stay here, I’m happy,” he said this month. “But if I need to go back, I’m happy too because in Spain, everybody believes in me. I’ve lived … in Spain and I know my club and everybody knows me. I’m happy. I know I can improve my game in Spain.
“I improved so much this year from last year. Right now, the most important thing is my body. I can’t improve my body in Spain. I’m perfect to stay here because the most important thing is to improve my body.”
The Hawks have not officially announced where Nogueira or Muscala will play next season. The team would have to buy out Nogueira’s contract in Spain if he remains in the United States.
Ayon, 28, was acquired by the Bucks on Feb. 21 as part of the trade involving J.J. Redick. He came into the NBA in 2011-12 to play for the Hornets after professional stints in his native Mexico, Spain and Venezuela. Ayon is the third Mexican-born player in NBA history, following Horacio Llamas and Eduardo Najera.
Ayon is in Mexico City practicing with his national team for the upcoming FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, on Aug. 30-Sept. 11. He said he plans to come to Atlanta following the tournament in advance of training camp.
In 109 career games, including 29 starts, Ayon has averages of 4.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 16.7 minutes.
“Gustavo has a high basketball IQ and is a hard-nosed player,” general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement. “He gives us quality depth at the power forward and center positions.”
Note: The Hawks have not released their exhibition schedule. However, from various media reports, a portion of the schedule will include a road game at the Heat on Oct. 7, the preseason opener, and a game against the Bobcats in Asheville, N.C. on Oct. 8.
How the Hawks currently shape up and the team’s salary cap situation:
Al Horford $12,000,000
Paul Millsap $9,500,000
Jeff Teague $8,000,000
Kyle Korver $6,760,563
Lou Williams $5,225,000
Elton Brand $4,000,000
DeShawn Stevenson $2,240,450*
Gustavo Ayon $1,500,000
Lucas Nogueira $1,419,200**
Dennis Schroder $1,348,200
John Jenkins $1,258,800
Jared Cunningham $1,208,400
Pero Antic $1,200,000
Shelvin Mack $884,293*
Mike Scott $788,872*
Jeremy Tyler $100,000***
Salary cap: $58,679,000
The data does not include DeMarre Carroll’s $2.5 million salary as the deal has been agreed to but not officially signed. Second-round draft pick Mike Muscala is also unsigned.
* - Non-guaranteed contract
** - Slotted salary cap hold for draft position
*** - Salary of waived player that counts against salary cap