Al Horford

Al Horford’s in for Atlanta, but who’s out?


Al Horford and the Hawks agreed on a contract extension that will keep Horford in Atlanta for five more seasons, but the Hawks’ long-term problems are far from solved. Losing Horford should never have been an option, but the money he’ll be owed over the next five seasons is thrown on top of the substantial financial commitments the team has already made to Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams. Those three players alone will cost Atlanta $38.6 million next season, and that’s not including Horford’s new salary, nor the guaranteed salaries of Mike Bibby, Zaza Pachulia, Jeff Teague, Jordan Crawford, and a potential Jamal Crawford replacement.

That financial reality has made some NBA decision-makers doubtful that the Hawks will be able to retain their current core. From Chad Ford of, writing at TrueHoop:

Several GMs believe the Hawks won’t be able to keep Johnson ($18.5 million in 2011-12), Josh Smith ($12.5 million in 2011-12), Marvin Williams ($8 million in 2011-12) and Horford ($10 million in 2011-12) together past this season for financial reasons.

While Horford’s new salary won’t push the Hawks into the luxury tax, it will put them very close. The move means they won’t be able to afford to re-sign Jamal Crawford, or replace him with a similar salaried player next season, without incurring the tax.

In spite of his defensive flaws, Crawford is an elemental piece of this year’s team, and should he walk in free agency — as the Hawks seem willing to let him do — that could spell trouble for Atlanta’s offense. Plus, if the Hawks are additionally forced to part with one of their current mainstays as Ford suggests, Josh Smith might be the most logical choice to relocate. Joe Johnson’s salary makes him an impossible sell on the trade market. Marvin Williams may not fetch much in return. Horford appears to be a part of Atlanta’s future. That makes Smith, who (as Ford notes) is no stranger to the trading block, the piece Atlanta is most likely to dangle come summertime.

Would that play make the most sense for the Hawks? Hardly. But Atlanta may not have all that many options. If this core is spinning sideways and relying purely on internal development, it might be appropriate to shake things up. The Hawks can’t just bide their time; though the Celtics will eventually decline, the Heat and Magic aren’t going anywhere. Atlanta will need to make moves to compete with either of those teams, and possibly even to compete with Chicago and Milwaukee in the future. Trading Smith may be the only way the Hawks move from their current mid-seed spot in the East, even if such a change would leave open the possibility of a free fall.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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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.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

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.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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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.