ATLANTA — This draft is different for the Hawks.
The organization heads into Thursday night’s NBA draft with a semblance of roster stability. At the time of last year’s draft, the Hawks had just six players under contract, three of them non-guaranteed, as general manager Danny Ferry was amid a roster reconstruction. They had seven pending unrestricted free agents.
This year, the Hawks have 10 players under contract. They also have three restricted free agents who could receive qualifying offers by June 30. That would leave as few as two available roster spots.
“The stability of our roster is a positive,” Ferry said.
The Hawks hold picks No. 15 and 43 Thursday night. Their first-round pick is the first following the lottery selections in what is generally regarded as a deep draft.
The Hawks have Pero Antic, whose contract becomes guaranteed on July 15, DeMarre Carroll, Al Horford, John Jenkins, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Mike Muscala, Dennis Schroder, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams under contract next season. Gustavo Ayon, Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott are the restricted free agents and the Hawks would have the right to match any offer they receive. Qualifying offers will be made following the draft.
Elton Brand and Cartier Martin are the only unrestricted free agents this offseason.
Last year’s first-round pick, Lucas Nogueira, played in Spain and he could return to the Hawks. He is currently in Atlanta working out and will likely play in the Las Vegas Summer League next month. Last year’s other draft picks will be part of the team. Schroder has a guaranteed contract and Muscala has a partially guaranteed contract, meaning he cannot play overseas as he did for part of last season.
The Hawks currently have as much as $10 million in salary cap space. They won’t turn their full attention to free agency until after the draft.
“We have pretty good flexibility as we continue to grow with how we are playing and the ability to add depth to what we are doing,” Ferry said.
Another major consideration in the Hawks’ approach to this draft is the fact that coach Mike Budenholzer and his system have been in place for a full season. The Hawks have options in whether they choose to draft based on need, such as a wing defender or a shooter. Or they could choose the best available player on the board, given their need for depth.
“We are looking for, whether it’s the draft or free agency, are guys who are highly competitive, unselfish and talented,” Ferry said. “From a draft standpoint, absolutely those are the values that we’ll be looking to build off of because that is what we think works best in the program we are trying to build and the way we want to play.”
Despite an injury-plagued season that included the loss of Horford after only 29 games and a stretch of 20 losses in 26 games, the Hawks made the playoffs for the seventh straight season. Having a core group of players will help next season with any additions they make in the draft.
“We do have a lot of pieces and our core group is very strong,” Horford said.
The Hawks could be back to the drawing board for the 2015-16 season. After next year, only Horford, Teague and Korver are currently on the roster and will have guaranteed contracts. It will be the final year of Horford’s deal. The Hawks will have team options on Schroder and Jenkins and Muscala will be on a partial guaranteed contract.