ESPN's John Hollinger and Chad Ford had two great articles (both insider) on the salarly cap and who can sign who next summer. With the prediction that the cap will actually decrease, a bunch of team are in real trouble without signing anyone. Teams hoping for two max players are having their dreams dashed. In fact, Chad Ford lists only nine teams with room to sign a single big name free agent not already on their team. New Jersey, New York, Houston, LA Clippers, Sacramento, Chicago, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Miami.
The Hawks of course have the ability to offer the biggest contract to Joe Johnson. So for the fan who has Joe's face tattooed on his or her thigh can rest easy that the team has a trump card. They can offer the most money. As I have said before, I am not sure Joe is worth close to 20 million a year nor am I sure the Atlanta Spirit would want to pay anyone that much money. But if the market deems him worth such a number and the Hawks are willing to pay it, one could almost guarantee Joe back. But who is going to force the Hawks to sign Joe to that kind of contract? Who wants to sign Joe at all?
The something crazy has to happen
Miami- Dwyane Wade is not moving to point guard. Joe Johnson is not a true three (despite sometimes being the match up advantage) especially on the defensive end. Overlapping that much on one position for that much money is crazy town. And if Wade goes elsewhere, I suspect the Heat want a bigger draw with their money than Joe.
Oklahoma- They have a soon to be top five player in the league at small forward and just drafted a Harden who I assume they will not be ready to give up on after only a year. Plus, Presti is using his hard earned cap space on another team's free agent. It's just not happening.
Houston- Unfortunately, I have no idea if Joe Johnson secretly has secret stats that shows he makes people better (see Shane Battier).But Houston is close to Joe's hometown in Little Rock, and if/when, the Rockets don't resign Tracy McGrady, this could work. But the Rockets would have to resend the rights of Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes and they would still only have 12 million to spend. I think the Hawks will pay Joe 12 million.
LAC- I am under the firm belief that LA is a draw no matter what team you are talking about, and the Clippers need a shooting guard. I am also under the firm belief that Rick Sund will make a better decision than Donald Sperling. Plus, the team has about 11 million to spend. Again, Hawks are probably willing to pay Joe that rate.
The certainly not a first option but could happen
New York- They want a guy that fills the seats. They want LeBron James or Wade or maybe even Bosh. The only reason I don't have them in the something crazy has to happen is because D'Antoni has good history with Joe.
Sacramento- They have Kevin Martin. I could see them wanting Joe at the three for a very tall back court. But it just seems like a weird mix. Plus, the team is in pretty rough financial shape and only has around 10 million to spend.
Minnesota- They might be willing to overspend for a free agent. They need a two guard. But they just drafted two point guards and said they wanted to play them together. They have a center who demands a lot of shots, and Joe has a game that does not necessary make centers better or give them more shots. Plus, does Joe want to go to another rebuilding team where his role will probably reduce. Probably not.
The real players
New Jersey- Probably the best fit of any team. The Nets are on the rise, in a large market, and need an established shooting guard. Plus, they have the most money. Thanks Orlando.
Chicago- A recent fan shot over at BlogaBull showed most fans neither wanted Joe to be the team's first choice or desired to pay him max money. I think Joe would be a good fit there, and in the end, the front office has to make decisions they think are correct so possible fan disappointment only goes so far, but clearly, Wade is number one. Plus to be able to sign any big name free agent they would have to renounce Tyrus Thomas. No sure thing.
What it all means
Even if you believe Joe deserves all the money the Hawks are legally allowed to give him, very few teams have a realistic shot/desire to sign him. Is their a real chance the Hawks could lose him to another team? Yes. But unless they pay him max money (and the Hawks choose not to), the likelihood is very low. A lot of top tier free agents will be on the market. The salary cap is dropping. The Hawks probably should resign Joe but no reason to approach it as a life or death matter. The long term future of the Hawks might best be served by resigning Joe with a keen awareness of how the market could force him to a more reasonable salary.