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Jamal Crawford likely to leave because the Hawks can't afford him

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Inspired from the e-pages of the Real MC, who takes a look at potential free agent destinations for the 4-point player himself, Jamal Crawford.

A sampling:

According to Frank Isola of the Daily News in New York, Jamal prefers "returning to the New York area if he does not re-sign with the Atlanta Hawks." Isola suggests that Jamal's chances of signing with New York or New Jersey increased when he signed with agent Andy Miller, who "has close ties to both the Knicks' and Nets' organizations."

As a proponent of the popular "players almost always take more money" school of thought, I've never followed the "agent-likes-the-team-so-player-will-sign-there" angle. The same dots were connected for J.J. to the Knicks even before last summer ("Done deal") . The same kind of thinking also had J.J. going to Chicago ("dead set on joining the Bulls").

The opinions of whether the Hawks bring Jamal back fall vociferously on both sides. The bring him back side trumpets the offensive scoring impact that has begun to be underrated in a new era of efficiency stats as well as the red flags around losing one of the three quality bench players the Hawks have night in, night out.

The he won't be back side points to one main obstacle, money. The Hawks, as has been demonstrated very well, are at financial capacity, if you assume the team won't be either paying the luxury tax or using their amnesty immediately this offseason. Since the Hawks were loathe to pay the tax prior to the even more punitive system soon to be in place, that's a fair bet. Also, given the flexible nature of the amnesty clause, the pause to immediately expire that option may also yield even money.

About how financially strapped are the Birds? Let's review from Kris' excellent recap a few days ago:

The Atlanta Hawks have some work to do with roughly $65 million committed to just seven players for the upcoming season. The salary cap figure for the 2011-12 season is expected to be the same as last year at $58 million with the luxury tax threshold at right around $70 million. Assuming there aren't any surprises in the way that the league prorates contracts for this season, the Hawks will have roughly $5 million dollars to use to add six players just to get to the league minimum of 13 without going into luxury tax territory which we will talk about in a moment.

Here is a look at the Hawks players under guaranteed contracts for this season:

  • Joe Johnson - $18,038,573
  • Josh Smith - $12,500,000
  • Al Horford - $12,000,000
  • Kirk Hinrich - $8,100,000
  • Marvin Williams - $8,050,000
  • Zaza Pachulia - $4,750,000
  • Jeff Teague - $1, 579,920

Atlanta also has two players that are signed to non-guaranteed deals. Picking up the options on those would bring the roster total to nine and the salary figure to right around $66.5 million.

  • Magnum Rolle - $788,872
  • Pape Sy - $788,872

Presumably the Hawks will also add second round draft pick Keith Benson to the roster for two reasons. One he is young big man and two because he will come cheap.

  • Keith Benson

So that brings the Hawks roster to 10 players and one of their first calls in free agency is likely to be to Jason Collins. Michael Cunningham also reported this past week that the Hawks had expressed interest in bringing back Damien Wilkins before the lockout began so we will see if anything has changed there. According to ShamSports.com the cheapest Atlanta could bring those two players back would be at a salary of $884,293. However, until we know the exact details of the new CBA, these numbers could change.

  • Jason Collins - Free Agent
  • Damien Wilkins - Free Agent

These moves would get the Hawks to 12 players and one below the league minimum of 13.

Say, you know what 5 million for 6 players means? No Jamal Crawford.

Jamal tweeted that he has interest in who has interest in him. (H/T MC, again!) I assume when Jamal says "interest" he means teams who can actually pay him more than the minimum. And as the list of teams that can do just that start to accumulate, we can begin to start to write the thank you cards and fare thee well orations to Jamal's short, but fun and productive, stint as a Hawk.

Too bad. Because I trust nobody else in the NBA more than Crawford in taking the last second shot from 40+ feet. Nobody.

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