Al Horford is off the list of potential 2011 free agents. The 24-year-old big man agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension with the Hawks on Monday, earning him the same money as Chicago’s Joakim Noah, about the same as teammate Josh Smith and a tad more than some other quality bigs, including Andrea Bargnani. And the Hawks have managed to lock up Horford, just 24, without overpaying him. With an average annual salary of $12 million, Horford will make less than fellow bigs David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge and Emeka Okafor.
It’s a fair deal. Unfortunately, like everything else the Hawks do for the next half-decade, it must be viewed in the context of the disastrous $124 million contract they gave 29-year-old (!) Joe Johnson just a few months ago. With Horford locked up, the Hawks, as constituted now, won’t have any significant cap room until after the 2013-2014 season. The cap this season is nearly $58 million, and though a significant salary rollback in the new collective bargaining agreement might give the Hawks a little bit of relief next season, it’s hard to envision a rollback large enough to change their cap situation in any major way.
So, essentially, this is the team. And it’s a good team — one capable of winning 50 games every season, and one that should see Smith and Horford get better over the next few seasons. The Hawks are counting on that sort of internal improvement to make them a title contender and not just a solid playoff team. They’ll need Marvin Williams, under contract through 2013-14, to find a more varied offensive game even as he continues to lose minutes this season to Jamal Crawford. They’ll need Jeff Teague to be a competent NBA starting point guard next season. And they’ll need to be creative with the draft and the mid-level exception, which they did not use last summer.
The Hawks’ biggest fault was re-signing Johnson to a max deal. The argument that “we had to sign Johnson or lose him for nothing” just doesn’t hold water. Teams never have to do anything. There is always an option, even if that option is losing Johnson for nothing, or maybe just a trade exception and a future first-round pick. Because those options are better than the alternative: crippling your team’s cap situation for a half-decade.
Monday, November 01, 2010
The Point Forward: Lowe: Hawks Follow Mistake With Good Deal
Zach Lowe commends the Atlanta Hawks for extending Al Horford but, quite reasonably, ponders what the team could do to improve: