There’s been much hand-wringing among my blog people about the Hawks’ draft, and I get that. Even when your team is picking No. 24, and even when that team is the Hawks, the hope is that somehow they beat the odds and find a rookie who can be a major contributor for a team that won 53 games last season.
But regardless of how you feel about the draft, it was far less important than what happens over the next couple weeks. Free agency opens at midnight Thursday, when teams can negotiate with players on the market. Deals can be struck during that time but signings can’t happen until a week later. And of course the biggest deal for the Hawks is what happens with J.J.
The Hawks want J.J. back. The things outsiders debate about regarding J.J.–his age, his minutes, his isos, his leadership, his postseason fade, etc.–don’t seem to be such issues at Centennial Tower. The Hawks value J.J. not because they won’t have the ability to sign a comparable free agent if he bounces, but because he’s a heck of a player whom they’ve built their team around.
As all of the rumors have swirled about J.J. wanting to leave for more shine, because of a beef with the fans, to be part of the super summit and whatnot, I’ve maintained that if the Hawks offer him the most money he will come back. The Hawks still believe they can re-sign J.J. because they can offer him the most money, and they don’t expect cash to be the issue.
Yeah, I understand you are skeptical about that part, but that’s their perspective. The difference in the maximum the Hawks can offer Joe and what other teams can give him is substantial. The exact numbers won’t be known until the league sets the salary-cap numbers for next season, which it will do during the July 1-8 moratorium. But it’s going to be something like $119 million max over six years from the Hawks for J.J., $92 million max over five years from someone else.
That’s $27 million, and as D-Wade told reporters: “Thirty million means a lot to anybody. To Bill Gates, $30 million means a lot.”
The Hawks are less concerned about the money and more worried about the knocks J.J. takes from fans and (cough, cough) media types. They fear he might decide to play for less money somewhere else because of those issues or something else they can’t control. Maybe those concerns are valid, but I’m still waiting for someone to show me players who leave that kind of cash on the table, particularly when it’s the last big contract they will get. The best way to show a player love and appreciation is, and always has been, to show him more money.
So, to summarize . . . The Hawks badly want J.J. to return. If it comes down to money, the Hawks like their chances to re-sign him. If it comes down to something else, they will get a little nervous. I’m guessing it will come down to money and if the Hawks step up in that regard, even if it means paying him the max, then J.J. will be back.
– The Hawks have opened a dialogue with Chills, a sign that perhaps he might soften his stance on returning to Atlanta. If it’s true that his Greek team doesn’t want him, that would seem to increase the attractiveness of a return to the league. Nobody wants to be where they aren’t wanted, after all, especially when that place isn’t even the best place to ply your trade.
Also, Chill’s market value may not be what he thinks. I’ve heard that a couple teams were interested in a sign-and-trade for him last summer, but the money they were talking about offering him was less than what Atlanta was dangling before he bolted for Greece. So Chills may not get what he wants when he goes looking for an offer sheet, especially when you consider teams are even more frugal now than they were then. Combine the market realities with the lack of Olympiakos love and that one-year, $4.8 million contract from the Hawks might start to look more appealing.
– Clearing up the confusion on Pape Sy. . . . I screwed up when I blogged that L.D. thinks he can play center. My bad. The Hawks measured Sy at 6-7 in shoes. L.D. thinks he could possibly play small forward but the Hawks essentially see him as a combo guard. Now we will see if they keep him around to try and develop him, which hasn’t been their M.O. in recent years.
– The Hawks are optimistic they can put together a good summer league roster. It’s important because they want Rook’ to have a good squad to work with in Las Vegas. My bosses just gave me the OK to head out there, too, so my blog people will get some firsthand accounts of Rook’, Jordan Crawford, Sy, and L.D.’s revolutionary new offense. There’s also a slight chance I end up in a casino.
– Thanks for all the comments over the last few days. Good to see my blog people still care, even if some of you don’t care for me. It’s all love. And it’s just basketball.
– Go USA. Beat Ghana.