Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thinking Out Loud About the Roster and the Luxury Tax

The season starts in less than two weeks. It hasn't sunk in yet.

I have the Hawks at $69,249,116 plus Keith Benson's rookie deal (terms still undisclosed). The Hawks have 13 guys under contract. By position:

PG: Jeff Teague/Kirk Hinrich (injured)
SG: Joe Johnson/Pape Sy*
SF: Marvin Williams/Tracy McGrady
PF: Josh Smith/Vladimir Radmanovic/Magnum Rolle/Keith Benson
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia/Jason Collins

With only one healthy point guard on the roster, just 12 healthy players total, and at least one rookie who would likely best be served with some playing time in the D-League, and the luxury tax line expected to be around $70.3 million, that appears to present a serious problem. Almost like the Hawks cannot sign a free agent with two or more years of NBA experience without going over the tax line.

Though I'm confident the luxury tax line is an issue for management, it needn't be an absolute concern at this point in time. Presuming the new CBA calculates the luxury tax the same way as the last CBA, the Hawks would only need to get under the tax line before their last game of the season.

Therefore, the Hawks could take advantage of Magnum Rolle's unguaranteed deal either before or during the season, replace him with a player making the two-year veteran minimum and only add roughly $55,500 to their wage bill. Sign a rookie free agent to a partially guaranteed deal to be the 14th player (13th until Kirk Hinrich returns), cut him before his contract become fully guaranteed for the season, stagger the use of 10-day contracts, maybe make a trade at the deadline that sends out more salary than is received, and the Hawks can, fairly comfortably, go over the luxury tax line in December in order to build temporary depth (in numbers if not in quality). Depending on when Hinrich returns vis-a-vis the deadline for contracts to become fully guaranteed, the Hawks could even buy some D-League time for Keith Benson in the middle of the season depending on who they (hypothetically) sign and how they stagger those 10-day contracts.

I admit that such speculation lacks the frisson of how to clear up enough cap room to make a run at Dwight Howard and one of Chris Paul or Deron Williams in the Summer of 2012 scenarios but, as a five-year vet (by choice) of this particular beat, one learns to play the hand dealt.

*For good or for ill (and I'm a serious Pape Sy playing time booster at this point, separate post on that pending), Pape Sy transcends positional designations.


Unknown said...

Can you tell us a little more about Keith Benson. it seems like he was unwanted in Europe so any chance he can do anything at all for the hawks?

Bret LaGree said...

Unknown --

Benson was a good but not great player on a good mid-major team in a low mid-major conference.

I wrote about him briefly when he was drafted. As an NBA prospect, as a second-round NBA prospect, he's unremarkable. Which isn't the same thing as him being hopeless.

He didn't get much of a shot in Europe but part of that was due to him not measuring up to Dinamo Sassari's recent memories of Othello Hunter.

I'd love to see Benson get some time in the D-League. He would almost assuredly be overwhelmed if thrown immediately into NBA play. Which means he almost assuredly won't and shouldn't play for the Hawks immediately. Some D-League experience would both aid his development and aid in evaluating his potential.