The end for the Atlanta Hawks came in the second round of the playoffs, for the second year in a row via sweep to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They won 48 games, 12 fewer than a year ago but that was expected, and still finished in the top four in the East to have home-court advantage in the first round. But their lack of a true closer caught up to them in the semifinals when three of those losses easily could’ve been victories.
The Wizards will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open. Their goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.
They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.
These are the Hawks’ best free agents available, in order of best fit:
Kent Bazemore: As a starter for the first time, the guard/forward averaged career-highs of 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. He’s unrestricted and only made $2 million. Bazemore will get a significant pay hike but exactly how much will he be worth? After starting 68 games, it’s unlikely he’d want a backup role nor would it make sense to pay him $10 million-plus if he were open to the idea.
Al Horford: The forward-center is coming off a season that paid him $12 million and will be looking for a bigger payday. Horford (15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds) has played a lot as an undersized center and has been an All-Star four times. This season he developed three-point range and played more facing the basket. That makes him a matchup problem but the Wizards already have Markieff Morris to play power forward and he costs half as much because of his more cap-friendly $8 million. Horford will be 30.
Kris Humphries: It would seem absurd to re-acquire Humphries, who is unrestricted after making $4.3 million. But the coaching situation is different with Scott Brooks as coach and hustle players are always needed. As long as he’s not forced into a “stretch” role he can be of value and Humphries, 31, will come relatively cheap to fill out a 15-man roster provided he doesn’t have a home and the Wizards strike out luring young, more athletic bigs.