JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Basketball Writer
The Atlanta Hawks are putting themselves in position to be very active when the free-agent market opens Tuesday.
Just over 24 hours before the free-agent frenzy was set to begin, the Hawks agreed to a trade with the Toronto Raptors that will help them open up more than $15 million in salary cap room, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Sunday night. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been officially announced.
The Hawks will get veteran forward John Salmons, who has a $1 million buyout of his $7 million salary that will create even more financial flexibility in Atlanta.
The Raptors will get Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira, the 16th overall pick last year who spent last season in Spain, and veteran guard Lou Williams, a scoring specialist who is under contract for almost $5.5 million next season.
Shedding Williams’ salary helps Hawks GM Danny Ferry enter free agency with plenty of money to spend. There are some big names available on the market, including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. But it remains to be seen if Ferry wants to try to make a big splash by attempting to lure one of the marquee names, or if that is realistic.
The Hawks have made the playoffs for seven straight years but have been eliminated in the first round in each of the last three. Now Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, who brought San Antonio’s ball-moving system with him from the Spurs last season, have the room to make significant upgrades to the roster after drafting Michigan State forward Adreian Payne with the 15th pick on Thursday.
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri used Salmons’ attractive contract to bring in Williams, a natural scorer off the bench who will add some punch to the team’s second unit. He will be two seasons removed from a torn ACL, which could help him resume his form as one of the league’s best sixth men.
But the real intrigue surrounds Nogueira, a defensive-minded 7-footer who had some knee issues last season. He has one year left on his Spanish contract.
The move comes three days after Ujiri made one of the most surprising picks in the draft, selecting Brazilian forward Bruno Caboclo with the 20th overall pick. The Raptors like the long-term potential of the two Brazilians on a team that won the Atlantic Division last season.
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