Hawks Offer Joe Johnson 6 Years, $119 Million
Last summer, the Detroit Pistons belly flopped on the first day of free agency, signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva for a combined $95 million. The move led to a win difference of -12 for the Pistons (they won 39 games in 2008-09, just 27 in 2009-10) and destroyed their salary cap flexibility.
I bring this up not to pile on Pistons fans, but to highlight a similar error the Hawks are about to make with Joe Johnson.
Wednesday is the first day of free agency and already the Hawks have offered Johnson a maximum contract of six years, $119 million, according to Yahoo! Sports.
The Atlanta Hawks offered Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million contract Thursday morning, and sources close to the All-Star guard expect him to accept the max deal soon.
The Hawks moved quickly at midnight ET to try to secure their franchise star and offered the contract that Johnson’s agent Arn Tellem sought from the organization. Sources say ownership OK’d the max offer and general manager Rick Sund delivered it in Los Angeles.
After receiving the Hawks’ offer, Johnson met with a contingent from the New York Knicks that included coach Mike D’Antoni, Johnson’s former coach with the Phoenix Suns. Knicks GM Donnie Walsh didn’t attend.
I think this is a terrible miskake for the Hawks.
Johnson is a fine player, a four-time All-Star who has averaged over 20 points a game for the past five seasons, but he's a second-tier star at best. We learned that in the Eastern Conference Finals this season, as the Hawks were swept by the Magic and Johnson averaged just 13 points per game while shooting 18 percent from the field.
Max contracts are for superstar players, and Joe Johnson is not a superstar. He's a very good complementary player. He would be an excellent fit next to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade somewhere, but, again, he's not superstar material.
On top of that, Johnson is 29 years old. I've yet to see a shooting guard perform better in his early 30s than in his late 20s (even Ray Allen and Reggie Miller experienced drops in production once they hit 31 or 32), so unless JJ is a freak of nature, the Hawks are playing top dollar for a player past his prime.
Yes, Johnson was the backbone of a Hawks team that went farther into the playoffs than they had in many, many years. And, yes, he's been good to the city of Atlanta. But in the NBA you have to make business decisions, not decisions of the heart.
It would be killer for Hawks fans to see Johnson jet off to New York or Miami, but letting him go would have been better for the team in the long run.
As it is, the Hawks are about to sign what Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie calls the worst contract ever. And he's not prone to hyperbole.
This contract is great for Joe Johnson (kudos to Arn Tellem, his agent), but it can only end badly for the Hawks.