Deeks notes that there are seven teams that have never paid the tax and, half expecting the Hawks to be one of them, though last season we figured the selling of a second round pick was likely to cover that cost, we were shocked to find that, not only did they pay the tax last year -- that it wasn't the first time!
Let me take you back, if you will, to the exciting year of 2002-2003, when the Atlanta Hawks entered the third season under Lon Kruger and had come off an eight win improvement over Kruger's first season with the club.
Expectations were high. This would be the season of the ill-fated "Playoff Guarantee" to give an idea of context of expectations heading into the season.
Then, DerMarr Johnson nearly lost his life in his Mercedes, the Hawks started 10-10 before losing eight of the next 10 and Kruger losing the team along the way and soon, his job. The Hawks finished 35-47, two games better than the previous lottery season.
But it was this season that the Hawks paid the most tax, over 3.7M per Deeks for a roster that had identifiable names, but no true stars.
Per basketball-reference.com, here is a breakdown of the salaries for that roster:
Even with JET outplaying his contract and Shareef pushing 20PER for his max deal, this team featured some wildly overpaid slots for the production they received.
Glenn Robinson earned nearly 10M for his worst season in five years. Alan Henderson was Joe Johnson before Joe Johnson, being known in Atlanta for his contract rather than his play, which was below average at that point. Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed both sported team best defensive efficiency, but were sub-average offensively, dragging their overall value.
The team was a directionless, theme-less, hodgepodge of skills -- and that lack of cohesion translated nightly into inconsistent play and ultimately, a disappointing season -- and paying the luxury tax for such a team finally cost Pete Babcock his job before the season ended.