Friday, August 27, 2010

Jamal Crawford Wants To Be Traded

A month ago, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported that Jamal Crawford wanted a contract extension. For obvious reasons (the Joe Johnson contract, the pending extension for Al Horford, the pending CBA negotiations, Crawford's age and game) that extension hasn't materialized. So Crawford has issued an ultimatum: pay me or trade me.

Broussard, tonight:
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.

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.
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 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.

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.
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.

5 comments:

CoCo said...

We all know the chances of Jamal playing in Atlanta past February's trade deadline are slim to none and always have been. They can't afford to pay him for all the reasons you listed. I wouldn't worry about him poisoning the locker room though. He's not that kind of guy. He's probably one of the nicest guys in the league.

Bret LaGree said...

I don't think they worry would be that he'd be a bad dude, just that he'd either be, or be perceived to be, looking out for himself more than the team to a larger extent than normal. Given that I'm skeptical about how willing he and Bibby and Joe Johnson will be to change for Larry Drew anyway, this could become an issue.

Ben Castellon said...

I don't get why we don't at least offer him a small extension if we can't get the trade deal we want. He's clearly better than Mike Bibby, Marvin, or Zaza, and we extended all three of them. Why not offer Jamal a 2-3 year, 5-6 mill/year offer? He's by far the best 6th man we can get, he thrives off the bench, and we don't have a sure bet right now at PG either. I don't see why we're so focused on trading him when he's a clear game changer most games and is our best acquisition since Joe Johnson. Wouldn't we still be able to resign Al Horford?

Bret LaGree said...

Ben --

The Hawks already owe $52 million to 8 players for next season. That amount does not include what figures to be (at least) a $2-3 million dollar raise for Al Horford. Offering Jamal Crawford the $5 or 6 million per year deal you suggest (ignoring for the moment the likelihood he would agree to such a salary cut) will almost certainly put the team over the salary cap if the owners succeed in the CBA negotiations and insure another Summer of signing players like Jason Collins and Josh Powell to fill out the bench in order to to keep from paying the luxury tax for a 50-win team.

I don't believe that past profligacy is a good argument for even more over-spending. Obviously, the team disagrees with this so there is some chance that the Hawks will pay for the pleasure of employing both Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford through their early 30s.

JMar said...

I don't agree that the chances of Jamal being in Atlanta after the deadline are slim. I PRAY he is traded at the deadline, and could bring back a solid return from a playoff team needing instant offense. Unfortunately, that is giving too much credit to an incompetent front office, that could again not want to give up a key piece to the fourth best team in the east.