It’s a reunion! Seven months after Dewayne Dedmon left the Atlanta Hawks and signed a three-year, $40 million deal with the Sacramento Kings, he’s back in Atlanta. The Hawks agreed to send Alex Len and Jabari Parker to Sacramento in exchange for Dedmon and a pair of lowly second-round picks – Houston’s in 2020 and Miami’s in 2021.
Dedmon had his breakout years with the Hawks in 2017-18 and 2018-19, which is what led to Sacramento convincing themselves he was the answer for them at the center position. On paper, it was all supposed to work perfectly – De’Aaron Fox running double ball screen action with Marvin Bagley rolling to the rim and Dedmon spacing to the top of the key. It was that same play, with Trae Young and John Collins in the Fox and Bagley roles, that was the basis for a lot of what the Hawks did offensively last season – the three of them on the court together produced a 112.85 offensive rating, which is right around a top-10 offense league-wide these days.
That idea fell apart nearly immediately. Bagley got hurt early in the year, Richaun Holmes took over Dedmon’s starting spot, and Dedmon publicly asked for a move away from the Kings. Fox, Bagley, and Dedmon played just nine minutes together for Sacramento. Dedmon’s shot has mostly abandoned him this season; after hitting a combined 133-for-358 in two years with the Hawks, he’s made just 14 of the 71 attempts he’s taken this season.
Dedmon remains a solid defender capable of playing in multiple schemes – he can hedge and trap aggressively or hang back in the paint in pick-and-roll defense. Even in what has been a particularly poor offensive season for him, he provided the Kings with valuable back-line defense and graded out very well in the impact metrics on that end of the floor.
It’s not hard to see what role Dedmon will play for the Hawks – he’ll slide right back into the role he vacated last summer. His fit with Young and Collins is already a known quantity, provided he can actually start the put the ball in the basket a little more often than he did in Sacramento. He’s the pop to Collins’ roll when the two of them play together and can defend the 5 while Collins does his thing at the 4.
How the Dedmon acquisition plays into the Capela trade is interesting. The Hawks sent out a first-round pick to have Capela as their entrenched starting center; are they going to pay Dedmon $13 million to be their backup 5 next year? Are they going to play him with Capela and hope that his shooting provides enough spacing to make it work? Dedmon isn’t necessarily overmatched at the 4; he’s quick enough to run around on the perimeter in certain matchups. That’s a combination that might be worth trying for the Hawks when Capela recovers to full health.
There’s also the distinct possibility that the Hawks will take it very slowly with Capela and saw the opportunity to upgrade at center for a short time with this deal. They shed Jabari Parker’s player option for next year, which is likely going to tie $6.5 million to Sacramento’s books, and picked up two lowly second-round picks to take on Dedmon’s contract, but there’s a real chance that Atlanta will flip Dedmon again in the summer for positive value. His contract is essentially expiring next year, with just $1 million guaranteed in 2021-22, but if he recaptures his offensive impact in Atlanta’s system and provides the same very good defense he’s had throughout the last few years, they’ll have no trouble finding a team willing to part with something real to get him.
The Hawks have been busy and it would surprise nobody if they have another move in them between now and the deadline, but as things stand, they’ll go into the summer with $49.21 million in cap space, assuming they cut Nene, dump the cap holds for all five of their upcoming free agents, and hold the No. 5 pick in the draft. They’ve been active about adding 2020-21 money in these deals for Capela and Dedmon, so another move to take on more money going forward makes sense for a team that wouldn’t need to spend all that cap space this summer anyway. They’ll have a number of roster spots to fill, with only nine accounted for in their eight players and lone first-round pick. They picked up a pair of seconds in this deal, one of which is Houston’s in this year’s draft, but neither project to be very good – Houston this year and Miami next year are going to convey second-rounders in the bottom ten picks of the round, where it’s exceedingly unlikely a team can find a rotation-level player.
For Sacramento, Len is a capable backup center who, perhaps most crucially, won’t complain about his minutes and doesn’t cost them anything for next season. Holmes has taken control of the starting center spot, but Len is a solid rotation-level big man capable of protecting the rim. He’s an up-and-down three-point shooter and has hands made of cement when rolling to the rim, but he’s got a lot of size defensively and is underrated for the basketball intelligence he brought to the Hawks. He was clearly their best center this year, though that’s obviously not a very high bar to clear when his competition was Damian Jones and rookie Bruno Fernando.
Parker has missed quite a bit of time with a shoulder issue and doesn’t have a definite return date as of this writing. Early in the season, he was a very good facsimile of Collins in Atlanta’s offense and stepped into the starting lineup for an extended period while Collins was sidelined with a 25-game suspension. He can bring some scoring for the Kings when he’s healthy, but he’s definitely a negative on his contract, which was one of the worst deals signed last summer. His player option on the second year brought no value to the Hawks and likely dampened the second-rounders they received alongside Dedmon.
Sacramento has a number of power forwards already on the roster going forward in Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Nemanja Bjelica, Anthony Tolliver, and now Parker. Tolliver will be a free agent this summer and Parker’s acquisition may lend itself to the Kings moving on from Bjelica, either by cutting him before his guarantee date or finding a trade with a team that values him at $7.15 million for next season.
The Kings made sure to let everyone know that this trade meant they have enough money to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic, even though they have full Bird rights on him and could always have re-signed him up to the max no matter what their other commitments were. As things stand they’ll go into the summer with $38.04 million separating their team salary from the projected luxury tax threshold. Bogdanovic is lined up for a contract starting around $20 million for next season, giving them $18 million to use on their mid-level exception and filling out the rest of their roster, which perhaps includes retaining Len through his Early Bird rights, .
Some housekeeping: Sacramento will have to open a roster spot to take back two-for-one in this deal, but they can terminate Eric Mika’s 10-day contract a few days early, as it is set to expire on Monday anyway. The Kings will generate a $2.67 million traded player exception in the deal.
Update: Atlanta will use their remaining cap space to take on salary from other teams, then go over the cap with this trade. Dedmon won’t be able to be aggregated in a trade for two months, but that will hardly matter.
Atlanta still has $1.10 million in cap space remaining, which gives them a bit of flexibility as the deadline rapidly approaches. They can aggregate any of the players they’ve received in the three trades they’ve made with each other or other players on their roster.
For Sacramento, they paid the price of two low-end second-rounders to save about $8 million, $7 million of which will come next year. Making this move helps their tax bill for next year and gives them more breathing room to re-sign Bogdanovic and fill out the rest of their roster. Atlanta took on those two seconds to get a player they have to hope they can rehab and move on for a positive return, particularly since they already made another big move for a player at the same position. There’s some hope that Dedmon and Capela can play together, but this move seems like it’s all about setting up a future move with the same player – like a run-down house the Hawks think they can fix up and flip for a profit in the short-term future.