Paging Rick Sund. Paging Rick Sund. I hope you’ve enjoyed your vacation, because it might be getting cut just a bit short, what with Jamal Crawford making some noise.
Then again, Sund is not known for being a quick mover in this business. Here’s a question for you right out of the gate, though. Will Sund move with near the swiftness in either paying or dealing Jamal, as he did in acquiring him? Of course, such a question comes with some caveats. One is that we don’t know whether that trade (in which the Hawks sent guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton to Golden State for Jamal Crawford) just fell into Sund’s lap, or if it was something both the Warriors and the Hawks were planning for some time, or what. Does it really matter? As it stands, Sund is not known for hurrying to make any move (see Josh Smith, Josh Childress, etc), outside of the quick and attractive offer made to Joe Johnson shortly after the free agency period began. Where does Jamal and his demands stand?
So Jamal would rather be somewhere else playing than in Atlanta, if he can’t get an extension he finds to his liking? Isn’t this the same guy who signed a clause in his contract with Atlanta, stating that he would not opt out of the final year of his contract (that would be THIS year), in the trade that brought him here? Do you think he’s being selfish, or is he doing the smart thing from a business standpoint? Is this related to the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement, or is it personal? While you think about that, let’s look at the two options Jamal has put on the table, and what either of them could mean for the team.
PAY HIM !
Do you even have to think about it? Jamal is the reigning Sixth Man of they Year. He averaged roughly 18 points per game, which is no mean feat in the NBA. He was the second option on offense. Not only that, but aside from Joe Johnson, who else on this team is a bonafide scorer/shooter at that level? I’m not talking about just being able to score in the teens. I’m talking about being able to lead a team in scoring. Being able to put up 20 or 30 points on any given night. Being able to take an opponent off the dribble. Being able to create your own shot anywhere inside the half court line. Who else on this team (again, aside from Joe) can do his own thing, and still score 18-20 or more, even on a bad shooting night (i.e. 7 for 21)? Josh Smith? Al Horford? That is the closest you’re going to get, and neither of those guys can get to the line enough to make up for bad shooting or a stifling defense. Not yet, anyway.
What happens if Joe Johnson incurs a serious injury? Who then can step up on offense? Mike Bibby? Sure, he has the range and the stroke, but is he still capable of getting those kinds of points for a couple of games? How about five to ten games? Twenty? Can Marvin Williams do it? Do I really have to ask? Lose Jamal, and you put some pressure back on Joe Johnson and the others. Lose Jamal, and you lose some things. You lose a guy who will take and make a long 3-pointer as the buzzer sounds, without flinching. You lose a guy who can excite the crowd. You lose a guy who can energize the team off the bench. Unless of course you think there are others on the bench who can come in and be that potent a threat. Can Mo Evans do that? Without Jamal, is the bench more than a bunch of also-rans?
Pay him more money, are you crazy? We just signed Bibby to a contract before last season, that pays him roughly $6 million per year, and what was the reward? We got to watch his game decline as the year wore on. The same thing could happen with Jamal to some extent, as he is not going to get better as time goes on, not at the age of 29 or 30. Besides, we have two major things going for us – One is Larry Drew’s phenomenal offensive approach, which will not be based on isolation plays. Two, we have Jordan Crawford, who is a talent in his own right. And we don’t want him to rot away on the bench all season the way Teague nearly did last season, do we?
Look how stacked we are at the shooting guard position. There is Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Mo Evans, and Jordan Crawford. Is this good team balance? How do you divide those minutes up without moving Joe and Jamal to other positions (small forward and point guard, respectively)? Is that efficient use of the team, or will it create matchup problems the Hawks don’t want to find themselves in? Also, doesn’t this team need a guy more suited to backup small forward? How about a third point guard in case Teague doesn’t pan out so well, or struggles all season? What about a better big man that the bench currently boasts? Couldn’t moving Jamal address one or more of those positions? Besides, the development of Teague and Jordan Crawford is pivotal for future considerations.
Back to Drew’s offense. If the idea is to move the ball around more and make more potent and efficient scorers out of the entire lineup, then will Jamal’s scoring prowess be needed at the level it was last season? Would he get the kind of shots and stats that made him Sixth Man of the Year last season? If not, does that diminish his value to the team? This team has one guy who can go into isolation mode if necessary, and will have to learn not to do so on a regular basis. Why keep a second one who might have the exact same issues?
So which route do you think the Hawks should go? Pay Jamal, or trade him….and why? Also, if he’s extended, how much should he be paid? The Hawks might want to be careful here, as an extension must also be reached with Al Horford, if the they don’t want to play the “watch, then match” game next summer, the way they did with Josh Smith. It’s rarely wise to do that with an All-Star player, particularly a young and promising one. Also, what ramifications might this have on the payroll? The Hawks want no part of the luxury tax, Pape Sy may not come over this year (if that buyout doesn’t work out), and the 13th roster spot has to be filled at some point.