13. Atlanta Hawks
Six reasons we need a lockout ...
That's what Atlanta owes Joe Johnson, by year, through 2016. You know, because any time you can totally overpay someone hitting his 30s who isn't one of the best 15 players in the league, you have to do it. To be fair, at least Johnson played the best basketball of his career once he locked that money do- ... oh, wait, that's not what happened at all. He had his worst season in six years. These things can't happen anymore. Once the owners blow up the system and pass the "no contracts can last longer than four years" rule, we will never see another contract like that one. Joe Johnson, you made history. Anyway, here's how the next three months will play out for Hawks fans ...
APRIL: The Hawks get crushed by Orlando in Round 1, a sweep highlighted by Zaza Pachulia starting three "someone hold me back, could someone hold me back so I look tough, HOLD ME BACK!" altercations with Dwight Howard, as well as 7,300 Hawks fans showing up for Game 4 and Charles Barkley saying, "The Hawks were turrrrrr-able ... . They were turr-able. Number one, Joe Johnson, if you wanna be paid like a franchise player, you gotta play like one. Second of all, Atlanta needs to blow things up, Ernie. And number three, that's why we havin' a lockout, because Atlanta had to overpay their best player to keep him, and Ernie, he ain't that great."
MAY: With Atlanta desperately needing to cut payroll ($65.7 million guaranteed to eight players next year), the Josh Smith trade rumors kick into 19th gear. NBA reporters are faced with a dilemma: should they tweet every single rumor they hear, or should they just pass along stuff that they know is true? Naturally, they choose to tweet every single rumor they hear. Josh Smith trends for the next six weeks straight, to the point that non-NBA fans wonder, "Who is Josh Smith? Is he trapped in a well or something?"
EARLY-JUNE: Fresh off the success of "The Heat Index," ESPN.com launches "Just Joshing," an entire site devoted to totally unsubstantiated Josh Smith trade rumors that will never happen. Yahoo responds by announcing that, every day until Smith gets traded, Adrian Wojnarowski will write a scathing column blaming Atlanta's increasingly dire situation on Worldwide Wes and LeBron James.
LATE-JUNE: The Hawks finally make their move: a three-teamer that sends Smith and Pachulia to the Clippers, Chris Kaman to Cleveland (absorbed by their trade exception for LeBron James), and Al-Farouq Aminu to Atlanta. The deal saves the Hawks a whopping $30 million over the next two seasons but locks them into 42-45 wins for the rest of eternity. And you wonder why we need a lockout.