Free agent swingman Luol Deng doesn't plan to start visiting teams until next week, but USA Today's Sam Amick says the Atlanta Hawks got the opportunity to make an early pitch on Thursday, when he was scheduled to meet with coach Mike Budenholzer.
It's unclear if the meeting even went through, but the Hawks are clearly interested in the former longtime Bull and short-term Cav. With roughly $11.5 million in available salary cap space once the free agency moratorium lifts on July 10, could Atlanta be Deng's next home?
Why it could happen
After clearing cap space by trading Lou Williams and Lucas Nogueira to Toronto, the Hawks should be legitimate players on the free agent market this month. They have money to spend and holes to fill, with small forward being arguably the most glaring spot.
That's why Deng makes some sense, as he's a veteran wing who can make some contributions on both ends of the floor. Compared to DeMarre Carroll, who primarily started at small forward for Atlanta last season, it's likely Deng would be a significant upgrade.
Money shouldn't be an issue, either, as the Hawks could easily fit Deng's salary into their cap. While spending has been higher than expected this summer, it's hard to imagine anyone offering Deng a first-year salary well above $10 million after an inconsistent season split between Chicago and Cleveland.
So there's a pretty reasonable fit, and the Hawks have money to burn. It's not exactly the most ambitious plan, as other guys will surely have more upside, but could be a solid move if the money's right.
Why it won't happen
The Hawks have enough money that they should be able to pursue some pretty intriguing options this summer. Deng, while still highly respected as a veteran, doesn't really represent a major, fortune-changing addition for pretty much any team, including Atlanta.
So the Hawks could have some bigger plans up their sleeves, and it's not like they're the only suitor for Deng, anyways. Numerous teams will be interested, likely at a variety of price points, and it remains to be seen whether Atlanta will ultimately be the top bidder, particularly after already signing Thabo Sefolosha to a three-year deal.
The opportunity to start in a lineup featuring Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap could certainly appeal to Deng, but it's hard to predict the wing market when guys like LeBron and 'Melo are still mulling their options. This wouldn't be a complicated deal, since the Hawks can sign Deng outright via cap space, but it could take a bit.
Likelihood it happens
The Hawks make a lot of sense for Deng, but it's hard to imagine he'll sign before hearing pitches from other teams. Atlanta already made one move this week by landing Sefolosha, and could be angling to make another rather than wait for Deng to figure things out. Amick also says Deng wants $12 million annually, which could also price him out of the Hawks' preferred range. So yes, there's a possible fit, but also a lot going on here. 4 out of 10.