Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jamal Crawford, Al Horford Contract Extension Roundup

At Ball Don't Lie, Kelly Dwyer aptly explains why Jamal Crawford should want a new deal or a new team and why the Hawks shouldn't offer an extension:
You see, the Hawks have declined to offer last year's Sixth Man Award winner a contract extension, which I think they're right to do. Assuming they pass on trading Jamal, the Hawks would have traded for the best two years of Crawford's prime, while admittedly paying a hefty price (right at $20 million, over two years) for the rights to it. Extending this guy beyond 2010-11 at anything more than half of what he's making now would be a bit daft.

But Crawford, assuming he and his representatives start to do a better job of keeping their wishes under wraps, is well within his rights to try and push for a deal (or new deal, with the extension) before training camp hits. A full season with a new team would allow for that new team - provided some approximation of the current salary cap rules carry over to the next Collective Bargaining Agreement - to go over the salary cap limit to re-sign him after this deal expires. And Crawford - a one-dimensional player who would be 31 at the time of his free agency - doesn't want to be seeking out a new deal amongst what few teams have salary cap space next summer.
Mark Bradley sees Crawford's demand as a microcosm of a franchise in competitive and financial limbo:
There was a time when the Hawks seemed a rousing success story: A team of young guys growing up together and learning to win. What we’re seeing is that NBA success carries a higher and higher price. A franchise cannot hold its core together for years on end without paying dearly, and paying dearly essentially means overpaying. The Hawks overpaid Johnson because they had no real alternative: To lose him would have meant losing much of the credibility they’ve spent the past decade trying to re-establish.

The price for credibility, alas, was flexibility. The Hawks have almost none. To give Jamal Crawford what he wants would be throwing more big money at a shooting guard already past 30 in the same offseason that has seen them lavish a six-year contract on a 29-year-old who plays the same position. To trade Crawford would be to weaken the team he helped lift from 47 victories to 53. There might be a happy ending to this latest Hawks tempest, but I’ll be darned if I see it.
Sekou Smith concentrates on how Jamal Crawford and Al Horford are linked in terms of the Hawks' financial future and how the team's actions show they're already planning to be without Crawford by the start of the 2011-12 season:
Muddying matters even more for the Hawks is the status of All-Star center Al Horford, who is eligible for an extension of his rookie deal (and according to HT sources will receive a near-max extension offer before the Oct. 31 deadline).

If the Hawks are forced to choose between Crawford and Horford, Crawford might as well pack his bags and be prepared to move on for the fourth time in four years (and there is no indication that the Hawks intend to hand out lucrative extensions to both players, especially after they spent $124 million to keep Johnson this summer).

No one can dispute the impact he had on the Hawks and the fact that with him they remain a dangerous team in a stacked Eastern Conference playoff chase. But making extension/trade demands surely won’t endear him to the fans or to an organization that is extremely sensitive about its already fragile public image. It’d also be a terrible welcome-to-the-job gift for Hawks coach Larry Drew, whose relationship with Crawford was rock solid last season.

But the first sign that his idea of his value and the Hawks’ perception of his value didn’t jive is when second-year point guard Jeff Teague became the first option to replace Mike Bibby as the starting point guard instead of Crawford.

If Crawford backs down from his stance and shows up to training camp with the Hawks, he’s tossed whatever leverage he might have had in the trash can and basically accepted the fact that he’s the most expendable person in the organization. Truth be told, the Hawks already have his replacement under contract. Rookie guard Jordan Crawford would just have to be rushed into duty a little sooner than perhaps expected.
Smith's solution? Crawford and Josh Smith for Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith.

It's an interesting hypothetical, one which, were it to come to pass would certainly challenge the idea that defense wins championships.

At Pro Basketball Talk, Kurt Helin underlines Al Horford's importance to the Hawks and how the league's economic structure works to his advantage:
The question is how much to pay him -- Smith reports a near max deal is coming. Is that fair market value? Depends on how you look at the market. If Rudy Gay is worth max money in Memphis, then Horford is in that ballpark. If you are of the opinion that only the Kobe/LeBron one-named guys who can fill a building are max guys, than no. But then you hate the whole economic structure of the NBA (and probably are an owner). Either way, Horford is in for a big payday.

Horford averaged 14 points a game last season on a team that barely ever runs a play for him. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith get all the shots, Horford shoots a good 55 percent but can't get a touch for long stretches. Maybe the motion offense new coach Larry Drew is bringing in will change that.

Horford can also defend. People that only saw him try to stick with Dwight Howard in the playoffs may dispute that, but that's unfair. First, nobody defends Dwight Howard well. Second, Horford is charged with protecting the rim on a team where the defensively challenged Mike Bibby and Johnson are your starting guards. There are guys slashing into the lane with impunity. Horford does a lot to keep order down there, as much as you could hope for.

Horford may really be a four, in the sense that you can put a Pau Gasol or Chris Bosh at the five but they are really fours, too. Not that Horford is quite on the level of those two, but the step down isn't as far as people think. He's good, just in a place where his skills have not been well utilized. Maybe that will change.
Kelly Dwyer advises the Hawks that they have options when it comes to extending Horford:
Unless you feel as if Al Horford(notes) is some tempestuous cry baby who couldn't handle the perceived shame of not being handed a barely bargained-on contract before the Halloween deadline, why bid against absolutely nobody else for his services? Why not let the market - those who have money, those who are willing to blink first and offer money knowing you could match the offer - do the work for you? And, better yet, why not wait until the NBA's salary structure is more to your liking, Atlanta, with revenue sharing likely tilting more in the league's direction, and with a lowered salary cap?

(Because, come on, the league is just too far down this road to try and shoe-horn a hard cap in. Owners might talk a big game about wanting it, but beyond all else, they also want to win, and stroke that ego. Which is why they overpay players in the first place.)

Al Horford is not a tempestuous cry baby. He's an exemplary worker who I have ranked in the top five at his position, despite the probability that this man is playing out of position. He's about as professional as professionals get, and he's only entering his fourth season. And with the idea that the Hawks could actually deign to feature him offensively this season, he can only get better. Which would, in turn, drive up his price, I know.

But if you're due to sign him to a "near-max" deal, that's about the most another team can sign him to next summer. And that's even if the NBA's salary limits stay in the same range (which they won't). Even if he was an unrestricted free agent this summer, the most another team could sign him to would be a "near-max" deal, a deal that you would no doubt match. So why force it now, when you can sign him to something that, I don't know, could allow you some freedom financially in the wake of the nuttiest NBA contract extension since ... well, wait a week.
Lang Greene thoroughly summarizes the situation at Hoops World and concludes that the Hawks hold all the leverage with Crawford:
The Hawks hold all the leverage at this point. The organization has until June 30, 2011 to extend Crawford to a new deal.

Taking their time allows the franchise the opportunity to analyze Jordan Crawford's long term potential and allow next season's trading block to fully materialize. Patience also allows the team's performance and whether it has peaked to be assessed and lastly a slow approach allows the squad to square away Horford's contract situation --- which is the biggest priority currently on the agenda.

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