Crawford, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, told the Hawks that if they don't want to extend his contract, they should trade him, sources said.Unfortunately for the 30-year-old Crawford, he woefully lacks the leverage with his current employer that either the 25-year-old premier point guard in the league or the demonstrably younger and better scorer possesses.
The Hawks offered Joe Johnson an extension last year, but Sund does not typically give extensions, preferring instead to let players complete their contracts. Crawford is expecting Sund to take that approach in their meeting, sources said.
But with a potential lockout looming and the next Collective Bargaining Agreement expected to be less favorable to the players, the 30-year-old Crawford, who averaged 18 points last season, wants security.
Crawford is the latest in a growing chorus of top players this summer to express a desire to be traded. In July, Chris Paul was looking to leave New Orleans, and more recently, Carmelo Anthony has reportedly told the Denver Nuggets that he wants out.
The Hawks aren't in a much better position. Extending Crawford would be the lone
(non-injury) way to make the Joe Johnson contract seem worse and, given their overall financial situation, appears wildly unlikely to occur. Furthermore, unlike the Hornets or Nuggets, the Hawks can't expect to get much in a trade for Crawford. 14 months ago, with 2 years and $19 million owed him, Crawford brought Acie Law IV and Speedy Claxton's expiring contract in a trade.
Coming off a career year, and with just 1 year and $10 million owed him, Crawford's trade value is likely higher than that now but it's difficult to envision another team both being able to take advantage of Crawford's skill and to live with his weaknesses as the Hawks, under Mike Woodson did last season. Most teams expect their guards to play some semblance of defense and, if they already have an All-Star shooting guard and one or more All-Star caliber big men, tend not to have a need for a sixth man with a usage rate over 25%. The better part of the past decade gave plenty of evidence as to what happens to teams that don't have at least three players clearly better than Crawford.
There's no reason to begrudge Crawford's personal financial motives but, from the team's perspective, I suspect it doesn't make him more attractive to the rest of the league. That Al Horford, Marvin Williams, and (to a lesser extent) Josh Smith are underutilized in the offense might mean that the Hawks could survive a trade made through clenched teeth for the expressed purpose of getting rid of Crawford lest he poison the team atmosphere. Given the team's lack of a proven point guard, a backup small forward, and a fourth big man, it's far from implausible that trading Crawford could better balance a team that spent $123.7 million and a first-round draft pick on shooting guards this summer.
Long-term, whether Crawford plays out the final year of his deal in Atlanta or gets traded, it's unlikely to make much difference for the Hawks in terms of the salary cap as Michael Cunningham explains:
Atlanta has about $50 million in salaries committed to 2011-12, including $18 million for Johnson and $12.4 million for forward Josh Smith.Crawford shouldn't be expected to duplicate his production from last season even in the best of circumstances. Having spent freely on role players whose tenure with the team preceded Crawford, the Hawks don't appear to have the luxury of gambling on Crawford being a pleasant surprise again.
In addition to those committed salaries, the Hawks might need to maintain flexibility to retain All-Star center Al Horford. Atlanta can work out a contract extension with Horford by November; if not, he would become a restricted free agent next season and could sign an offer sheet with another team that the Hawks would have the right to match.