While NBA free agents cannot officially sign contracts until July 7, rumors are swirling around the Atlanta Hawks and their potential acquisitions for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. Even though the official signing day is not until July 7, the Hawks, and every other NBA team, can begin negotiating with free agents on July 1. The Hawks are not a top destination this year for free agents, but the latest report believes that they are going to attempt to sign Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant or Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard.
As reported by ESPN, the Hawks are attempting to persuade Durant to agree to a meeting with them.
“Sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks, like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, have been working to try to persuade Durant and his representatives to have a face-to-face recruiting meeting after free agency starts at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, even though their chances appear dim.”
While LeBron James is viewed as this year’s top free agent, he has already stated that he is going to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That makes Durant the No. 1 available free agent this year. After losing to the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, it is more than likely that Durant returns to Oklahoma City. The Thunder were unsuccessful last year in defeating the Warriors, but they proved that they are more than capable of competing with them.
Along with Russell Westbrook, Durant has a solid team in Oklahoma City. Regardless of the potential, there is still a very real chance that Durant takes his talents elsewhere. Besides Oklahoma City, the teams with the best chance of signing Durant are the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. While Durant was originally not expected to take a meeting with the New York Knicks, he has spoken to Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and is apparently considering sitting down with them, as ESPN reports.
Since Durant is softening his stance on not meeting with the Knicks, there is a chance that he could consider talking to the Hawks. Durant is also expected to meet with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Clippers. Since Durant’s top priority is to find a team that has a chance to win a championship, this year and for the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that Durant is a member of the Hawks on July 7.
If the Hawks cannot sign Durant, they are apparently going to focus their energy on Howard. While Howard has been a disappointment over the past few seasons, he is still only 30-years-old. Injuries have slowed him down over the years and his play has declined, but he still has the potential to be a productive player. Since Howard is from Atlanta, there is a chance that he could decide to return home and sign with the Hawks.
As ESPN reports, the plan would be to have Howard play with Al Horford, a player that the Hawks still have to re-sign.
“If the Hawks are unable to thrust themselves into the Durant bidding, sources say that one countermove Atlanta is weighing strongly is the free-agent pursuit of Atlanta native Dwight Howard to play alongside Horford in the front court.”
Regarding Durant, many experts believe that he could even sign a two-year deal with a player option for the second year with the Thunder and go back into free agency next season. If Durant decides to do that, the Hawks could have a better chance at luring him to Atlanta next summer. While the Hawks are unlikely to be a championship contender this season, a lot can change over the course of a year, and they could be a more attractive destination for Durant and other free agents.
With the official NBA free agency signing period less than two weeks away, rumors will continue to connect the Atlanta Hawks to some of the league’s top free agents. While Kevin Durant is most likely the Hawks’ top target, it is much more likely that Dwight Howard takes his talents to Atlanta.
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