NBA AM: Teams Have To Listen To Trade Ideas

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Teams Have To Listen

It is interesting to hear the language used to describe a specific teams’ trade position. For example, a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported that the Atlanta Hawks were “listening to trade pitches” on several of their pending free agents, namely Paul Millsap, Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver.

First and most notably, unless you are the Golden State Warriors or the Cleveland Cavaliers, shouldn’t every team be listening?

This is the trade season, and every team is talking about what they can do to improve. That’s simply the nature of the business. Listening to trade ideas is no indication of willingness to consummate anything, it’s simply listening.

For Hawks fans, there are no secrets around Millsap’s situation. Over his entire career, he’s had to let someone else set his market value. He did so in 2009 when he signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with Portland that was ultimately matched by the Utah Jazz. In 2013, he again let the market set his value signing a two-year deal with the Hawks. In 2015, he flirted with the Orlando Magic before ultimately signing the three-year, $58.9 million deal he is currently playing under. This summer, he’ll have the option to decline a $21.472 million player option year and hit the market again.

The Hawks know this, it is likely why they briefly entertained trade scenarios around Millsap this summer. It’s a key reason why they are listening now. Millsap is going to reset the clock on his contract while he’s still playing at a very high level. For the Hawks, that likely means more contract years more so than any huge jump in contract value. The question facing the Hawks is, do they want to invest three or four more years into a player who turns 32 in February?

Sources close to this situation said recently that the Hawks wouldn’t do anything with their players on the cheap. They would want real value in exchange, and that value has to help the team improve this season. So, the idea of shipping an ending contract and a draft pick to the Hawks does not seem overly appealing to Atlanta.

The Hawks did a similar exercise last year close to the deadline with Al Horford, whom they lost in free agency for nothing in return. That experience likely makes listening on Millsap more serious, but Hawks sources cautioned that moving Millsap is not something they feel they have to do, especially with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place and a little more certainty about what the future looks like economically.

Millsap will be eligible for the top level of the salary system, a whopping 35 percent of the salary cap – with the cap expected to come in around $103 million. The Hawks do have the advantage of being able to exceed the salary cap and go all the way to max to keep Millsap if they were so inclined. Unlike Horford, who was a virtual lock to get maximum money in free agency, a starting salary of $36.05 million does not seem as likely for Millsap – unless it is Atlanta paying the price to keep him.

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