Another Spirit dilemma: Can Hawks afford Jamal Crawford?

Jamal Crawford has made a difference as a Hawk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Jamal Crawford has made a real difference as a Hawk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The hockey arm of the Atlanta Spirit might be headed out of town, and a key part of the Spirit’s basketball operation could be, too. This assumes the Spirit will keep the Hawks, which it might not. Confused yet?)

Jamal Crawford won’t be taking his talents to Winnipeg, but he might not be a Hawk much longer.

Crawford isn’t anxious to leave. Of his four NBA stops, this has been the sweetest: He made the playoffs for the first time, and last season he was voted the league’s best sixth man. But he wants more money. He’s not apt to find it here.

He made $10 million this season. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He informed the Hawks a year ago that he’d like a new contract, and nothing much has happened. (Nothing beyond Rick Sund, the general manager, saying he’d like to keep Crawford.)

Unless the NBA thrashes out a new collective bargaining agreement that radically boosts the salary cap, the Hawks won’t be in position to spend. The Spirit, which funded the league’s seventh-highest payroll in 2010-2011, doesn’t want to pay one penny of luxury tax, the threshold for which was $70 million this season. (And even if the Hawks were sold, the sale wouldn’t be finalized until after the keep-or-dump decision on Crawford is made.)

The Hawks have committed almost $67 million to salaries for 2011-2012, which brings us to the greater issue. Their surprising playoff run notwithstanding, is there financial room for growth?

Joe Johnson will make $18 million next season. There was a time when — at least to some people, this correspondent included — it made sense for the Hawks to pay whatever it took to keep their best player. One year into his $120-million contract, Johnson is no longer that player. He slipped from 11th in the NBA in scoring in 2009-2010 to 28th this season, and he didn’t draw a single vote in All-NBA balloting. (He’d made third team the year before.)

Combine the $18 million due Johnson with the $8 million on Kirk Hinrich’s contract and the $1.5 million due Jeff Teague, and you’ve got nearly $28 million sunk into a backcourt without Crawford. And the price paid for Hinrich — the rookie Jordan Crawford plus the Hawks’ No. 1 pick in 2011 — wrecked the chance of developing young talent at an entry-level rate.

If the Hawks lose Jamal Crawford, they won’t be as good. He’s a difference-maker. He’s also 31, and Johnson is set to turn 30 next month. Even if the Spirit could afford it, would it be wise to spend big to keep another shooting guard of similar talent and age?

Small forward is the bigger concern. With his increasing reliance on size over skill, Larry Drew moved Al Horford to power forward, which enabled him to shoot more jump shots to lesser effect, and Josh Smith to the perimeter, which did the same. Marvin Williams, who’s under contract through 2013, has become a lost soul. If Horford and Smith remain at 4 and 3 — and I’m not sure that’s the answer — then the Hawks can get by with Williams doing little.

Should the Hawks keep Jamal Crawford?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

If not, could Johnson swing to forward and let Teague and Hinrich start at guard? The learned John Hollinger of ESPN has suggested as much, but I don’t see it. If we know anything about Johnson, it’s that he needs the ball in his hands. And would a team that ranked 22nd in a 30-team league in rebounding differential dare to deploy three guards as its base lineup?

It wouldn’t be a summer if we didn’t have Hawks drama. In 2008 they lost Josh Childress to Greece but kept Josh Smith. In 2009 they kept Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby and Zaza Pachulia but let Flip Murray leave. (Trading for Crawford had rendered Flip expendable.) Last summer the Spirit fired Mike Woodson, promoted Larry Drew and broke the bank for Johnson.

On the record, the Spirit has a pretty good history of keeping the guys it wants to keep. Crawford, however, will be the most severe test. The Hawks like him and value him, but they might not be able to afford him. And he’d be a real loss.

By Mark Bradley

157 comments Add your comment

Jim Doggg Wallace

May 19th, 2011
10:27 am

me

May 19th, 2011
10:28 am

Josh Smith is a joke.

Jim Doggg Wallace

May 19th, 2011
10:30 am

mom and dad always told me “spend your money for what you can afford” … seems like good logic for the Hawks, also – even if it is NOT in the sports logic …

Mark Bradley

May 19th, 2011
10:33 am

Kudos, Jim Doggg.

PMC

May 19th, 2011
10:34 am

He doesn’t fit Rick Sunds profile for getting paid.

Crawford actually produces.

GStateBen

May 19th, 2011
10:40 am

Jamal’s Crawford age plus decrease in regular season production gives him no chance to be retained unless he wants the mid-level exemption.

The Hawks are no longer a Free agent wasteland. They show they pay superstars (Joe) and re-up their draft picks (Josh Smith, Al Horford).

What’s funny is that we are all assuming that a lockout doesn’t happen. The NBA is in much worse state than where the NFL was entering the final weeks of the Playoffs.

Phil

May 19th, 2011
10:45 am

I was talking to Jamal after the playoff loss along with John Hollinger about this stuff. It may come down to whether he’s signed prior to June 30 under old NBA rules. The NBA owners will be pushing hard for a hard cap at or close to the luxury tax threshold under the new contract. IF that happens (and it’s likely to be the main bone of contention if there’s a lockout), there’s no way they’d be able to afford Crawford unless he’s signed under the old old rules and grandfathered in.

And as you well know under current NBA rules, the salaries on contracts have to match in the event of a trade (or at least to 125% of the trade’s value, unless a team has a trade exemption). Perhaps IF the Spirit’s real intention is to just keep the Hawks and jettison the Thrashers, they’ll be willing to spend into the luxury tax. But it’s not like the basketball team is making money, either.

Let’s not even go there as to possible ASG motives to tie up the Hawks and Philips in an exclusive negotiating period while all 3 should be for sale.

coachx

May 19th, 2011
10:47 am

Good bye Crawfrord and hello Jeff Teague. We don’t need to invest logterm in a 31 yer old SG we are already over paying for another 30 year old SG. What ever money can be spent needs to be spread over other positions.

Let Crawford walk and use the mid level exception on a legit center like Pryzibilla….you may even get lucky with Dalembert for the MLE.

Worst case get A. Gray, K. Fesenko, J. Foster, N. Mohammed as veteran centers with size for the leage minimum.

Some rebounding PFs like Craig Smith and Reggie Evans could be had for part of the MLE as well.

mountain_jim

May 19th, 2011
10:51 am

Hard to summon up much of a care at this point. The contracts to Joe and Marvin and the trade of 2 picks for an un-needed guard have killed this team’s immediate future. And Sund is re-upped? :(

Time to hire back Billy K, the ultimate team imploder? …. Just kidding.

PMC

May 19th, 2011
10:57 am

Joe is getting paid about 5 years longer than the Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla right?

DC

May 19th, 2011
11:05 am

We let crawford go…fewer Iso playand more team ball! I like the guy but that style of ball doesn’t win championships and passing the ball never has an off night…

mark33

May 19th, 2011
11:05 am

that’s the problem the ASG has moving forward.
No matter what the reason right or wrong, any move that looks bad becomes more “pile on” anger against the the Spirit Group.
That is why they must sell both teams ASAP.

GTT

May 19th, 2011
11:07 am

They could have afforded Jordan Crawford.

DC

May 19th, 2011
11:07 am

Let crawford go. His Iso-play alone does not build a team and does not win championships…yes you get those crazy games where he goes off..but you also get those games where he is cold *cough bulls series *cough..

GTT

May 19th, 2011
11:11 am

Joe could become Bobby Dandridge at small forward. Give it a try.

Nick

May 19th, 2011
11:11 am

Someone PLEASE buy the Hawks and fast….I cannot wait for Atlanta Spirt to be Somewhere else Spirit. They are the worst professional sport team owners possibly ever. Single handedly making us lose the Thrashers….terrible.

GTT

May 19th, 2011
11:11 am

You might recall Dandridge played with a 6-foot-7 center.

JeJe

May 19th, 2011
11:15 am

Crawford’s one responsibility is scoring, and 3 out of the 6 games vs. Chicago he did not crack double figures. 2 of the 6 games he scored 10 and 12 points

Goodbye Jamal

KBP

May 19th, 2011
11:17 am

Tough call on Jamal. Definitely need him but not at 12 mill or more per year. Does anyone really think Marvin has gotten worse than he was in his best season of 2008? I say the role he is forced to play on this team makes him look worse. Better outside shooter than everyone except Joe but no plays run for him. Better on the ball defender than anyone not named Joe or Jeff or Kirk. Terribly misused by the Woody last year and Drew this year. He should ask to be traded.

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:17 am

season after season we keep shooting ourselves in the foot

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:19 am

also, one of the best draft classes coming out this year and we have no first round pick because we traded for Hinrich (who i like but not THAT much)

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:21 am

KBP

I’ll give up Marvin and beg for someone to “take over payments” on Joe..Immediately hire a mentor for immature Josh and get a strong mentor for Teague to further develop him like T. Hardaway or T. Porter

Mark Bradley

May 19th, 2011
11:21 am

I’m not sure this is a great draft class. Next year’s will be better.

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:30 am

Next years class will be good Mark but this years def. has some studs coming out

Marcus

May 19th, 2011
11:31 am

With the notoriously small window of opportunity in all championship pursuits, coupled with our financial constraints (existing contracts and reluctance to go over the luxury threshold), we are about to see some big changes for 2011-2012.

Basketball Jones

May 19th, 2011
11:32 am

@ ATL, where do you get your draft info? Every person close to Basketball says this is one of the weakest drafts in NBA history.

Marcus

May 19th, 2011
11:32 am

Sund will REALLY earn his GM duties this year to free up enough space to sign the min. no. of players and get a competitive roster.

joey1

May 19th, 2011
11:34 am

hawks cant afford j crawford,anyways we need to trade alhord for andrew bogut straight up trade marvin williams for a mid 1st round pick and sign al thorton in free agency over the summer

starting lineup teague,joe,thorton, smith, bogut

Basketball Jones

May 19th, 2011
11:34 am

The Hawks would have been picking in the 25-26 slot. Not a lot of value there this year.

hmmmm......

May 19th, 2011
11:36 am

any chance the hawks could ship out marvin for a draft pick straight up?

truehawks fan

May 19th, 2011
11:37 am

that would be a be a upgrade from what we had, we have a true center smith goes to his natural position, thortonnhitting ourside jumpers, joe at sg and teague pushing tempo , driving to the basket kicking to open shooters i like that starting lineup just get a few better bench players who work hard and hustle

joey1

May 19th, 2011
11:38 am

hawks fan what do you think of this???
hawks cant afford j crawford,anyways we need to trade alhord for andrew bogut straight up trade marvin williams for a mid 1st round pick and sign al thorton in free agency over the summer

starting lineup teague,joe,thorton, smith, bogut

What you are thinking...

May 19th, 2011
11:41 am

We have to keep Crawford or make a big move for a 3. Can we send Marvin to the D league???

Najeh Davenpoop

May 19th, 2011
11:41 am

No, they can’t afford him. Even if they could, the smart move would be to let him go anyway. Much like Bibby, he is a crutch leaned on by LD to avoid giving minutes to Teague who impacts the team adversely as often as he does positively due to his defensive shortcomings.

That money is better spent on another quality big man and/or a small forward who can take Marvin’s spot in the rotation.

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:41 am

Basketball Jones -

plenty of players coming out that are cut for the NBA..around 25-26 pick as you say, Thompkins from UGA, Parsons from UF, Johnson from Purdue are big men who can shoot and could be avail late round

Najeh Davenpoop

May 19th, 2011
11:44 am

In fact, what really would have been smart is if they had traded him at the trade deadline when his expiring contract was an asset that could have brought back multiple useful players, rather than holding on to him and letting him walk for nothing.

ATL

May 19th, 2011
11:45 am

crowd consensus…marvin has to go, cant afford crawford for stupid business on behalf of our front office

Ted M

May 19th, 2011
11:53 am

It’s a foregone conclusion…Jamal is gone.

The Hawks will be a 7th seed next year and out of the playoffs after the first round.

JeromeMJ

May 19th, 2011
11:54 am

With luck the Spirit will leave town in the middle of the night and the new owners will hire a real coach. Then they can trade Johnson to anyone willing to take a guy who loses more games then he wins and destroys team play. But Atlanta is not feeling lucky today!

MannyT

May 19th, 2011
12:01 pm

Under current rules, I’d sign the best fit for this team under MLE. That way we stay under luxury tax. If Jamal is that guy & willing to take that money, do it. In reality I think Marvin, Zaza, Damien & Teague (or Hinrich) will be the core of the bench. The new MLE player will be (in order of need) either a starting center, starting SF, or the bench scoring leader.

New CBA rules could change this option, but with less cap room, other teams will have similar problems. If there is an Allan Houston clause in the new CBA to ditch a contract, I suspect Marvin goes.

Newbie

May 19th, 2011
12:03 pm

It’s me again. I have been reading this blog for the last couple of years and Wednesday was my first post and I post this ne today on one of the other blogs. I would have to agree with the earlier post from Joey1 abouting trading Williams, Hoford, and Hinrich for Bogut, Gooden, Sanders and Salmons. Al is one of our most consistent players but is unhappy at playing center and has regressed some this year and has good trade value, don’t need to explain why we need to trade Marvin, and Hinrich also has good trade value. This combination is our best tradable package and with this trade to the Bucks, we get a ligit 7′ center, a young 6′11″ power forward and good back up bench players at the shooting guard and power forward positions. After that trade I would go after so of this years free agents. First I would start with a point gaurd, Aaron Brooks (RFA $3 million Qualifying Offer), Andre Miller (Team Option $7.8 million), Rodney Stuckey (RFA $3.9 million Qualifying Offer), T.J Ford (FA making 8.5 million)or Sebastian Telfair (FA making 2.7 million). Next I would look at signing Al Thorton at SF (FA making .9 million), then I would try to sign Alexis Ajinca (FA making 1.5 million) at center. Finally, I would bring back the following bench players: Damian Wilkins, Pape Sy, ZaZa Pachulia, and either Magnum Rolle or Hilton Armstrong. The team would look as follows:

Starters:
PG-Jeff Teague, SG-Joe Johnson, SF-Josh Smith, PF-Larry Sanders, and
C-Andrew Bogat (Note: could also move Josh Smith to PF and start Al Thorton at SF)

Bench:
PG – Aaron Brook, Andre Miller, Rodney Stuckey, Sebastian Telair, or T.J. Ford (which everone we sign)

SG – John Solomons, Pape Sy, Damien Wilkins
SF – Al Thorton or Wilkins/Sy
PF – Drew Gooden
PF/C – Zaza Pachulia, and either Hilton Armstrong or Magnum Rolle
C – Alex Ajinca

This would give us a very versitale, athletic, and interchangable team with a good mixture of young and veterian players. This team could and would be able to compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference as long as Joe plays team ball and JSmoove plays like he did the last couple of play off games (slashing and attacking the rim) and not settling for the long jumper. Also, coach Drew will have to grow a pair and stand up to his players, this way they will show him some respect, and not the affaird to set players.

OK, now it is time for you veteran bloggers to tell me what you think and see if I am worthy to post on your blog.

Man Man

May 19th, 2011
12:08 pm

Trade Joe Johnson Contract away from here and get a Lottery Pick

Hawk n the Ham

May 19th, 2011
12:09 pm

@ MB, while talking about difference makers in the backcourt you forgot one key ingredient. The secret weapon, AKA, Pape Sy!! :lol:

joey1

May 19th, 2011
12:10 pm

again, hawks fan what do you think of this???
hawks cant afford j crawford,anyways we need to trade alhord for andrew bogut straight up trade marvin williams for a mid 1st round pick and sign al thorton in free agency over the summer

starting lineup teague,joe,thorton, smith, bogut

Man Man

May 19th, 2011
12:10 pm

Joey1-How bout signing Tayshawn Prince or Wilson Chandler?

marcus

May 19th, 2011
12:16 pm

too late to keep him, with the cost of johnson and the development of teague, he should move on. more effort should be placed in finding adequate center/power forward backup.

KellieJenee

May 19th, 2011
12:25 pm

Not sure why everyone’s so hard on Joe!!! He’s still the best player on the team, hands down. Ya’ll act like he should be able to win all by his self just because he got a nice contract. He got it because he deserved it, but he can’t do it all by hisself. He’s not going to be on all the time and have a great game every single time, same as everybody else in the league including Kobe, Lebron, and Mr MVP D Rose!!! Not sure what the answer is but one thing is for sure, the spirit is cheap and based on some of these comments, the fans are too!!! I hope they come up with a winning combination, but that doesn’t require slamming my favorite player or any player on our team for that matter!! I wasn’t thrilled with the ending of the season either but once again we did improve as we have every year…does anyone EVER acknowledge that on this blog????

I really like Jamal, and he was a good fit with the Hawks, so hopefully he realizes that as well and stays for a reasonable cost. But if he gets a better offer and he thinks he can be a good fit somewhere else, I can’t be mad at him. All I can say I wish you the best and good luck…until you come back to the A of course!! :)

ByteMe

May 19th, 2011
12:29 pm

Blow up the team. They’ve gone as far as they can go and are starting to get old in the wrong places. Trade Joe and Josh for future draft picks and players with expiring contracts, tank the team for a year for a lottery pick in a year. Give Horford a bonus to keep him around during the mess that will ensue and look for a competitive team in 3 years. Let Crawford go, so that others can develop.

Time

May 19th, 2011
12:36 pm

Seems like last year all you heard out of the press and blogs was how the Hawks wouldn’t be as good if they let Joe walk. Now, a year into the deal, it’s clear it was a huge mistake. One that has placed a noose around the neck of the franchise and is only starting to tighten.

Now it’s they won’t be as good unless they pony up for Crawford. Look, he’s been a good bench scorer. But he wants to get paid like a starting All Star. He just plain isn’t that talented. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have kicked around from team to team for most of his career.

Let Crawford go, spend that money on a credible decent center that can play some D and rebound. Then start Teague and bring in Hinrich as your 6th man. You lose some scoring punch, but gain defense.

CJ

May 19th, 2011
12:39 pm

Newbie, Al has not “regressed”. He had a stellar year with 15.3/9.4 (as compared to last years 14.2/9.9). Anyone suggesting we should trade Al does not keep up with the team enough.

But speaking of regressed, Jamal certainly regressed this season and didn’t have the same fire as the year before. I think he was pissed off about the contract situation and didn’t see enough reason to give it his best. As we saw in the playoffs, our offense does not move as well with him in the lineup. I’d rather move on and get someone who fills a role better.