Tamper with this: LeBron might well win a title as a Hawk

Picture him in a white jersey. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Picture him in a white shirt. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Since Michael Gearon Jr. has spent $25,000 to raise the issue, we’d be derelict in our duties  if we didn’t follow up for free. Let’s say the Hawks do pursue LeBron James. (I know — Atlanta is never mentioned as an LBJ landing zone. But let’s pretend.) Would he find a team here that could win him that slippery NBA title?

Shockingly enough, he just might.

Ric Bucher of ESPN the Magazine offered the best insight on why LeBron and the Cavs haven’t won it all. Wrote Bucher:

The team has been constructed on the presumption that he is Michael Jordan, a scorer and finisher, rather than Magic Johnson, a playmaker who needed a go-to closer alongside him to win titles. “They tried to make him Michael,” says one league executive. “He’s not.”

Remember when LeBron was playing high school ball for St. Vincent-St. Mary? The belief then was that he would be an NBA point guard, not the league’s leading scorer. He wound up being the league’s leading scorer for two reasons: First, because he’s so good he can do as he pleases, and second, because few of his teammates can make a play on their own.

LeBron averaged 29.7 points in 2009-2010. The next-best Cavs — Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, and the latter was there only 25 games — averaged 15.8 points. Shaquille O’Neal averaged 12 (but played only 53 games). Nobody else was in double figures.

Let’s do this: If you take LeBron away from the Cavs and Joe Johnson from the Hawks, which team would be better? The Hawks, I submit, by about 15 victories over an 82-game schedule. The Hawks would still have finishers in the prime of their careers — Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith, Al Horford. Heck, Even Marvin Williams is a career double-figure scorer.

Now let’s try this: Take Joe away and plug LeBron into the Hawks’ starting five. (And if the Hawks are to have any chance of landing James, they’d have to let Johnson leave. They can’t afford both. They’re not far enough under the salary cap.) Here’d be your lineup:

PG, Mike Bibby or Jeff Teague; SG, Jamal Crawford; SF, LBJ; PF, Josh Smith; C, Al Horford. Bench: Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, et cetera. Or you could keep Crawford as your sixth man, let LeBron play the 2-guard and let Marvin remain the small forward. Either way, that’s at worst — at worst — a 60-win team.

I’m not sure LeBron can expect to sign with many clubs and win 60 games in Year 1. The Bulls? They’ve got Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, but they might have to shed Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich in a sign-and-trade for James. And there’s no guarantee James and Rose, both of whom need the ball all the time, can co-exist, and Noah is more a rebounder/defender who scores occasionally than a polished big man on the order of his former Gator comrade. (Noah averaged 10.7 points last season.)

The Knicks? They’re starting over. The Nets? Just lost 70 games. The Clippers? Get real. The Heat? The King isn’t going to share a throne with D-Wade. Even if LeBron returns to Cleveland, he’ll surely find a new team — one without Shaq, who it’s believed drove a wedge between LeBron and coach Mike Brown, since canned, and also without Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Delonte West.

Maybe you laughed when you heard the Hawks — the Hawks, of all teams — had been fined for tampering with the biggest free agent ever. But maybe you shouldn’t have. I’m not saying LeBron is going to sign here — it’d be the longest of long shots if he did. What I am saying is that he should take a look. He might like what he sees.

176 comments Add your comment

F-105 Thunderchief

May 28th, 2010
10:01 am

FIRST AGAIN?

Nick

May 28th, 2010
10:01 am

First…yeah he might like what he sees but it’s still Atlanta…aka not Chicago or New York

Ryno in Athens

May 28th, 2010
10:02 am

Hey I like the idea. I wanna say first for fun…?

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:02 am

The F in F-105 again stands for … well, you know. Kudos.

Ryno in Athens

May 28th, 2010
10:03 am

Close. Wasn’t there something about if Joe leaves, the Hawks would only have $8 million in space left or something? I was confused. But that certainly wouldn’t be enough to land the King.

Gilley

May 28th, 2010
10:04 am

We have to be willing to go out on a limb and sign a SUPERSTAR and fill the arena similar to what the Falcons did with trading up for Mike Vick Say what you want but Georgia Dome was never the same. First!!!!!

R. Pitino

May 28th, 2010
10:04 am

It all comes down to where LeBron can best market himself and reap the millions of advertising $$$ that come with it. Sorry, the ATL is not that place. Unfortunately it’s not about the best basketball ‘fit’ for LBJ but instead what best fits his stardom image.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 28th, 2010
10:05 am

He would do well here, but what are the chances the Hawks even make an effort? Sounds like they are going to focus on keeping Joe, which is OK, as long as Iso-Joe goes away.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:05 am

That would be enough, Ryno. A max contract for LeBron can’t go above $17 mil.

why not?

May 28th, 2010
10:07 am

I don’t even know if its been done or allowed, but what about a double sign and trade? LBJ to the Hawks and JJ to Cleveland – not likely, but it may be the only way Joe gets a max contract

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Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:09 am

I don’t know why that wouldn’t be allowed, why not?

clay

May 28th, 2010
10:10 am

well in order to get lebron here MB would take just like gearon said. we would have to go over the luxury tax by a lot, but you cant tell me they wouldnt make there money back. people would go insane here. phillips would be the new sold out arena every game. just like the guys said on 790 the zone we could rename everything down there lebron.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:13 am

I think Hawks’ tickets might become hard to find, clay.

HawkKingBibby

May 28th, 2010
10:15 am

Mark seriously there wouldnt be near enough to sign Lebron if JJ leaves. You would be asking Lebron not only to come to Atlanta but to be paid about HALF of what a max deal would give him. The only chance would be to come up with a sign and trade that Clev would actually agree to. Since Clev most likely wont agree to any the Hawks are stuck. Now if the Hawks keep JJ they can still sign and trade Marv and Smoove for Lebron if Clevland agrees. That would still leave the Hawks with a good cast but we would still need a center.

Reid Adair

May 28th, 2010
10:17 am

Interesting idea, Mark. The only difference to me would be that PG isn’t an “or” situation. It’s time to turn the team over to Jeff Teague.

HawkKingBibby

May 28th, 2010
10:18 am

Clay we wouldnt be able to get Lebron and go over the luxury tax because we can only pay Lebron up to the cap if JJ leaves ( about 8 mil) if he stays ( about 5 mil with the mle as if Lebron takes either). The only way to get Lebron here is a sign and trade and that would send the same salary back to Clev that Lebron gets ( Smmove and Marv per say) so we wont be in the luxury tax.

Halberstram

May 28th, 2010
10:21 am

Nice to daydream on a day like this when most have already checked out for the holiday weekend.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:23 am

It’s a long shot, I concede. But remember this: If LeBron’s only concern is money, he’s not leaving Cleveland. The Cavaliers can pay him more than any other club. But if his greatest desire is to win a title soon …

chem

May 28th, 2010
10:24 am

Can Lebron guard Vince Carter and Dwight Howard simultaneously? If so, sign him up!

Ted M

May 28th, 2010
10:25 am

So a max contract for LBJ in a sign and trade is possible from a technical salary cap perspective?

Bryan G.

May 28th, 2010
10:25 am

The NBA salary cap rules are the stupidest rules in the history of the world.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:25 am

Not sure you need to guard Vince Carter at all, chem.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:26 am

I’m not a salary cap maven, Ted M. But that’s my understanding.

j

May 28th, 2010
10:26 am

He will choke in the playoffs again no matter where he goes.

Remarkable

May 28th, 2010
10:27 am

Mark, thanks for all the replys to everyones ides, questions, . . .

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:28 am

No thanks necessary, Remarkable. But I appreciate the thought.

MatthewH

May 28th, 2010
10:29 am

Well, LeBron is meeting with Joe Johnson (and Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh). Maybe they’ll start their own team?

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Ted M

May 28th, 2010
10:29 am

If that’s the case why wouldn’t the Hawks pursue LBJ with every thing they have. Atlanta is a city that many Athlete simply choose the live in.

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:30 am

There’s no doubt that the city of Atlanta is a favored destination for pro athletes, many of whom do not work for Atlanta teams. I know two (Tyrone Poole and Courtney Alexander) who lived in my subdivision. (As did Marcus Giles and Mark DeRosa.)

steve brown

May 28th, 2010
10:35 am

And politicians are honest, your house is your best investment, reporters live perfect lives, and the NBA hasn’t become pro wrestling. Dream on.

LBJ in the ATL?

May 28th, 2010
10:36 am

The real question is, if LeBron somehow decides to look at the ATL, do we have enough money to throw at him to even make him think twice to come to Atlanta? New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and alot of other teams have made moves to clear up space, so it seems like its gonna be hard to compete with them. I agree that we have much better pieces in place as far as players than other teams, and if we have any chance at signing LeBron, I think that is only upside he may see if he chooses to be a hawk.

SWAT Native

May 28th, 2010
10:39 am

Mr. Bradley? David Stern on line 1…

Remarkable

May 28th, 2010
10:40 am

I hope all the Atlanta Hawks owners are thinking this way. The great shame would be if LBJ would consider coming to Atlanta and we never even tried to get him. Atalnta and Georgia are fast becoming basketball crazy. Georgia now has a real basketball coach and is able to recruit, Tech has a strong basketball following and even many smaller schools have risen in recent years. I’ve been to more hawks games this year than ever before and I live three hours away from Atlanta. Give us a good team and we will all come. Show me anyone else out there who can help Atlanta move forward and I’ll get on that band wagon, but for now lets shoot for the moon.

Ted M

May 28th, 2010
10:45 am

Do the Cav’s sell out the arena every game?

swatguy

May 28th, 2010
10:45 am

If I the Nets, I get Phil, Draft Favors and sign LeBron.

Starters:
Harris
Lee
James
Favors
Lopez

Bench:
Yi
TWilliams
Boone
Douglas-Roberts
Humphries

And all the money in the world to resource whatever

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:47 am

Yes, Ted M. Not a lot to do in Cleveland otherwise.

Reggie

May 28th, 2010
10:48 am

If the Hawks had the money to get Lebron, wouldn’t you think the Hawks have to do sign & trade to get him?

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:50 am

I think whoever gets LeBron would have to do a sign-and-trade.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

May 28th, 2010
10:55 am

You live in a subdivision with pro athletes? Is your wife rich?

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:56 am

I live on the poorer side of the subdivision, Barnacle Bill.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 28th, 2010
10:56 am

If the ownership were different say and arthur blank type , I could see the hawks making a push for Lebron , but as it stands I am thinking JJ is the only target in their crosshairs
I hope i am wrong which i usually am

Mark Bradley

May 28th, 2010
10:58 am

I imagine the Hawks’ first priority is keeping Joe Johnson, SOUTH GA DAWG FAN. But if it becomes clear that isn’t going to happen, they might adjust.

cheshire

May 28th, 2010
11:00 am

yeah, i don’t really understand some of the comments on here saying “he won’t come here – it’s Atlanta”. when did Atlanta become a 3rd rate town? it’s one of the largest cities in the country and has a huge media market. just because it’s not as big as New York doesn’t make it a one horse town. don’t you kind of have to be a pretty nice town to get the Olympics?

I think the biggest strike Atlanta has against it isn’t the options it would give LeBron to win, the $$$, or the city (i think Atlanta could be a huge NBA town – half the NBA already lives here) – it’s the ownership situation. I think that’s a huge turn off to a lot of free agents. You look at our ownership group and it’s not one guy who can sit down and talk about his commitment to winning and forming a relationship with a player… it’s like an executive board meeting of guys who have a history of taking each other to court. That’s not an attractive situation to walk into unfortunately.

PMC

May 28th, 2010
11:01 am

Ah the glorious Air Tran marketing contracts….

Lebron eats at THE VARSITY!

a boy can dream anyway. We do collect fowards afterall.

kagevsu

May 28th, 2010
11:10 am

Let’s remember half of the NBA’s national television contract is based out of Atlanta with Turner, and NBA-TV is also a Turner property now here in the city… To me that also makes Atlanta a pretty nice NBA city.

Chris

May 28th, 2010
11:12 am

This feels just like the thoughts that go through my head after buying a lottery ticket. “What will be the first thing I buy?” = “How fast could I buy season tix for next year?” Unfortunately, the outcomes seem equally unlikely.

Voice of Reason

May 28th, 2010
11:23 am

The Spirit needs to contact Tyler Perry and get a deal set up with LBJ in a Perry movie – to me that could be one of the biggest draws of the ATL area along with the TV contacts “kagevsu” mentioned. Tyler is one of the real assets of ATL and should be utilized to help the Hawks!

Hmmmmm!

May 28th, 2010
11:25 am

MB writes “(And if the Hawks are to have any chance of landing James, they’d have to let Johnson leave. They can’t afford both. They’re not far enough under the salary cap.) ”

Wasn’t Gearon Jr. fined for saying that for Lebron he would be wlling to “exceed” the salary cap?