Hawks quiet at trade deadline with eye on deals this summer

Feb 08, 2018
The Hawks traded Luke Babbitt to the Heat.

The Hawks didn’t add any players or draft picks before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. General manager Travis Schlenk said he examined the league landscape and determined that he should be able to make better deals this summer than the ones he passed on this week. 

“We are in a position where we don’t have to do a deal we are not comfortable with,” Schlenk said.

The Hawks sent reserve forward Luke Babbitt to the Heat for Okaro White and traded a 2019 second-round draft pick to the Wizards for guard Sheldon Mac and cash. The Hawks subsequently waived White and Mac, both who were out injured, leaving their roster at 14 players. 

The Hawks held veteran guard Marco Belinelli out of Tuesday’s game in anticipation of a trade. Belinelli didn’t travel with the team to Orlando for its game Thursday. 

Schlenk said he couldn’t find a trade that would allow the Hawks to maintain their financial flexibility. The team was seeking draft picks or promising young players on the trade market.

“We think (salary) cap space will be very valuable this summer, especially based on the way the deadline went,” he said. “It’s more important to maintain cap space next summer.” 

The Hawks are projected to be one of a few NBA teams to have significant salary cap space next summer. They can use that space to absorb salaries in trades from teams looking to shed money. Schlenk has said the Hawks predict that as many as 16 teams will be subject to the luxury tax next season, meaning there could be several teams looking to make cost-saving deals. 

The Hawks could seek to buy out the contracts of Belinelli or Ersan Ilyasova, though Schlenk said it’s “too soon to say” if that will happen. Both players are eligible to become free agents next summer. 

Ilyasova said Thursday that a buyout is “not what I’m looking for.” 

“As long as we are playing to win, I’m good with” staying with the Hawks, Ilyasova said. 

After Tuesday’s game, Ilyasova said he had invoked his contractual right to reject trades the Hawks presented to him and was fine with finishing the season with the team. By refusing a trade, Ilyasova is eligible for a potentially much larger free-agent contract this summer. In addition, he starts at power forward for the Hawks and likely would have had a smaller role with the playoff-bound teams that pursued him in a trade. 

By swapping Babbitt for White the Hawks saved more than $100,000. The 2019 second-round pick the Hawks sent to the Wizards is protected, and thus unlikely ever to be exchanged. The Wizards made the move to open a roster spot and reduce their luxury-tax bill. 

Babbitt’s departure won’t have much on-court impact for the Hawks. He started 11 games while Ilyasova was out with an injury in November, but played in only nine of the past 23 games. Babbitt signed a one-year contract with the Hawks last summer after he played 68 games for the Heat in 2016-17.