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Perspective on 2010 and beyond or why the NBA blogosphere is great

NBA blogs are great. They really are.They make me a better Hawk fan without even talking about the Hawks.

Over at Sactown Royalty, Tom Ziller adds some perspective to the try to win now and must win in 2010 mentality that pervades the league. It is a known fact that the new NBA collective bargaining agreement is coming. With many NBA teams losing money, David Stern is going to try and hammer home some serious concessions.

From Wojnarowski at Yahoo!,

Here’s how an NBA front-office executive described the document the commissioner’s office delivered to the union to start labor negotiations: "It’s just a photocopy of Stern’s middle finger."

What is obviously not known is the specifics of the final deal, but talk of a hard cap and 30% reduction in salary are on the table. As Ziller points out, the league will obviously allow some transition time, but teams with lots of salary signed under the old deal are going to be hard pressed to sign their younger talent against a hard cap. Basically, some teams would not physically have the capability to sign their own guys.

It leads Ziller to say this about trading Kevin Martin,

This is part of the reason Samuel Dalembert (an expensive defender, signed through 2011) is more attractive to me than Josh Howard (an expiring contract) -- I don't really want the Kings to have cap space this summer, because the temptation to use it could be too great if a good player gets shut out among the max-offering teams. Yes, I'd like a few more good players. We need them. But good players will be available in 2011, and they will almost certainly be cheaper. An artificial price cap is coming in '11. Can't we be patient?

Of course, the Hawks and the Kings are in two very different places. The Kings have one potential superstar and another high priced player who are having trouble (or perceived trouble) playing with each other. And the team is losing. The Hawks are winning and Joe Johnson works perfectly fine with the guys on the team. There are murmurings that Joe stifles more efficient players, but it is not so much when Joe is bad Al is good and vice verca.

This is all true, but Al Horford's contract does come up in two summers. The most painful thing in the world would be if the someone offered Al enough money that the Hawks literally could not match the offer. And that does not even get into the argument of where the team's future direction should be.

But on that argument, I must point to Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata's extraordinary work in graphing offensive efficiency and usage. You really must go play around with it. It is incredible even for non-stat guys like myself.

I graphed Joe, Al, and Josh Smith. Joe has largely had the same efficiency the last four years. He is not going to get better, and the minutes his body has taken do not bode well for him keeping the pace (especially toward the end of a four or five year contract). At the same time, Joe had better offensive efficiency as a Hawks than Josh Smith every year but this one. So anyone that says right now Joe does not make the team better is talking crazy. The question in 2010 though is not right now but right tomorrow.

Josh Smith has become much more efficient with less usage. The down turn in usage also occurred over the last two years so one could argue Josh's development as a player and not his lack of touches has helped his efficiency, but no real data exists to show that Josh dominating the ball will yield a high return. This makes sense to me and represent a calculated risk if Joe Johnson does leave. Will the added offensive burden hurt Josh's efficiency?

Finally, Al Horford is a machine. Based on his first three years, it appears he has no ceiling. His chart basically is a straight line upward. Al's usage has remained nearly the same but his efficiency just goes up. I believe I have said this before, but I guess it bares repeating. Al Horford needs more touches. He also needs to be the number one priority for resigning.

What does it all mean? Well, these next two years are going to define the Hawks for close to the next decade. Joe Johnson should not be totally scrapped. One look at his usage and efficiency shows just how important he is to this team. Yet, with new rules for the salary cap coming, the Hawks cannot simply have the mentality of spend now to win. They cannot control all the factors, but all the factors need to be taken into account. Nostalgia should be thrown out. Reality should set in, and even though Hawks fans have been told to be patience for six years, it may take one or two more years of that request to truly build a contending team.