UPDATE: Still no word on an agreement between J.J. and the Hawks. There’s been no indication that a deal won’t happen soon, with J.J.’s agent telling Marc Berman of the New York Post: “[H]e’s comfortable in Atlanta, happy, and they can offer him one more year.”
If J.J. likes the team and the money, all that’s left for the Hawks is to wait . . .
Talked to a person with insight into ASG’s rationale for offering J.J. a max contract. Basically, the plan is for the Hawks to re-sign J.J. and then add the necessary pieces to make them a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
Letting Joe leave would mean the Hawks would be worse in the short term, and the Hawks aren’t prepared to take that step back (the sign-and-trade options aren’t so appealing as to assure the team would maintain or improve). Once they made that philosophical decision, they took a look at the market for J.J. It quickly became clear that a few teams with cap space were ready to offer him the non-Bird max, so the Hawks made an aggressive play to re-sign him and hope that pays off with a commitment from J.J. soon.
Atlanta’s basketball people recognize that re-signing J.J. alone isn’t enough to improve the team (because, well, it’s basically the same team) and ASG is not opposed to exceeding the luxury-tax threshold to sign the right player. That’s a good thing since they don’t have much choice. If J.J. re-signs, the Hawks would have about $68 million in committed salaries when including Chill’s $4.8 million qualifying offer and Jordan Crawford’s rookie-scale salary. The NBA projects the tax threshold will be about $68 million, so the Hawks would be bumping up against it with only
10 11 players under contract.
That leaves a minimum of
three two open roster spots. If Chills signs an offer sheet (Washington is interested) and the Hawks don’t match it (they haven’t ruled out matching or working out a sign-and-trade) then the committed salaries would be roughly $63 million with four three open roster spots. The Hawks want a bona fide center and ASG is open to using the mid-level exception to sign one. They also will explore trade opportunities, though there haven’t been any serious discussions about potential moves because Rick Sund is focused on J.J. right now.
Here is where the draft ties into ASG’s thinking. The Hawks traded down with the belief that Jordan Crawford (he needs a nickname, right?) would still be there at No. 27. They liked Kentucky’s Daniel Orton and would have taken him with the No. 31 pick but he went 29th to the Magic and they didn’t like any of the other centers available. So they sold the No. 31 pick for close to $3 million, and that money could help offset their potential luxury tax bill and also the hit they would take for missing out on the tax escrow rebate.
ASG rejects the view expressed by David Aldridge and others that a potential sell of the team influenced the max offer to J.J. Michael Gearon Jr. has insisted that he is not interested in selling his share. It’s expected that Steve Belkin eventually, finally, mercifully will be bought out and another investor will be sought. The Hawks are said to be one of the few teams with no debt on their franchise.
So a future sell of the team is not what’s driving the decision to max out J.J., according to the person privy to ASG’s plans. It’s about the belief that re-signing J.J., adding more pieces and improving their tactics and approach under L.D. will allow the Hawks to finally take the next step. As far as I know, all the speculation about using J.J. in a sign-and-trade is off base, perhaps a way for skeptical observers to rationalize what they see as a bad contract offer from the Hawks. It’s always possible, I guess, but I haven’t heard anything that leads me to believe they want to send J.J. along (a sign-and-trade obviously would require his permission) and everything to suggest they really want him back.
I understand why many of my blog people (and it seems pretty much everyone on the Interwebs) believe this was a bad move. As I said before, Hoopinion, Peachtree Hoops and HawksStr8Talk all offered reasonable, clear-headed explanations as to why they feel the Hawks should move on without J.J. if his price is too high. I’m just trying to offer you as much insight as possible into why ASG did made the decision to offer the max.
If J.J. re-signs and the plan doesn’t work, with J.J.’s contract becoming a burden and their other moves also falling flat, then the Hawks will be judged harshly.