The press release came out late last night, just after media members had filed stories about the Hawks crumbling on the road again — a major announcement in Atlanta at 3 p.m. today (Tuesday). That can only mean one thing:
Jamal Crawford, you are about to be sixth man of the year.
This should be a nearly unanimous vote, Crawford ran away with this. (The fun part, as always, is to see what some media member who barely watches games voted for, ala the David Lee for defensive player of the year vote that made us all laugh and cringe.)
Crawford was a scoring machine off the bench for Atlanta, usually replacing Mike Bibby then changing the energy and flow of the game. He came in with a scorer’s mentality, blowing some games wide open (and shooting them out of a few, too). He was a gunner who stayed in at the end of games and won the Hawks a few in the fourth quarter. That helped break his 11-season playoff drought this year.
Crawford had his best season so far — he scored 18 points per game, not his highest, but it was his best per-minute scoring average of his career (his minutes were down eight per game from last year). What mattered is his shooting got better, hitting a career best 44.9 percent overall, a career best 38 percent from three. Break out the advanced stats and he looks even better — a career best 57.3 true shooting percentage, a career best PER of 18.4. Pretty much if you look at an offensive measure, he had a career best year.
But Crawford is winning this because you don’t need advanced stats to see what Crawford did (many of the older voters are simple Cavemen Sportswriters, and they are frightened by your new technology and stats).
No surprise here, and deserved.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.