The Hawks are exploring contract talks with guard Joe Johnson, according to my long lost twin Sekou Smith, and theoretically an extension could be worth in excess of $75 million over five years (based on his current salary).
I have a question: Are you comfortable with this?
This isn’t meant to be a bang-on-Joe blog, although I get the feeling we’re headed in that direction in the comments section. Johnson has been an All-Star the last three seasons. He is a consistent 20-to-25 point guy on the court during the regular season and certainly not a problem off of it.
Overall, he’s an asset, not a headache. There. I said it.
But Johnson also has been less than impressive in the playoffs the last two seasons, and it’s worth asking — as we’ve asked before — whether he should be kept as the franchise centerpiece. I understand NBA champions are not one-man teams. But those who make $15 million a year should be a difference-maker when games count the most. Too often Johnson hasn’t been that. His point totals in the last post-season against Miami and Cleveland were 15, 16, 10, 14, 25, 13, 27, 11, 10, 21, 18.
The Hawks probably feel they need to make a decision on Johnson fairly quickly. He will be entering the last year of his contract at $14.9 million. The thinking is: If Johnson plays the season out, he could leave the Hawks as an unrestricted free agent.
My thought is: Let him play it out.
There’s no need to commit now. Let Johnson prove he’s the player he needs to be to earn that kind of money. If he doesn’t prove it next year, no other team is going to blow him away in negotiations any way. If he does prove it, then give him the world. And if he proves it and turns down the world from the Hawks, then obviously he never wanted to be here anyway.
Trade him? Maybe. But I’m not sure what the trade market is right now — after the draft and before training camp. I understand the argument of: You can’t let him leave as a free agent and get nothing in return. But the flip side is tying yourself financially to a player you might be uncertain of.
I credit Hawks general manager Rick Sund for getting all of the team’s players under contract this summer, quickly and efficiently. But this is one where I think he needs to take a step back.