The Hawks other question: Is Al Horford a max player?
The Atlanta Hawks don’t really treat Al Horford like an All-Star, like a guy who deserves a big-money contract. But he is.
And it looks like the Hawks are realizing that, according to the Sekou Smith at the Hang Time blog at NBA.com.
The Hawks have until Oct. 31 to reach an extension deal with Horford on his rookie contract. If they don’t he becomes a restricted free agent next summer where other teams can bid and the Hawks can match. Maybe, depends on what comes out of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
With that CBA issue looming, there is motivation for both sides to get a deal done. Maybe the rules will change for guys like Horford after their rookie deals and they will be free to test the market unrestricted. Maybe not. But however Horford tests the market you can bet there would be interest and some team may go very big. For Horford he knows he can get a larger deal now than he can after that new CBA is in place. The Hawks don’t want to lose him, Horford wants to get paid...
You can expect a deal.
The question is how much to pay him -- Smith reports a near max deal is coming. Is that fair market value? Depends on how you look at the market. If Rudy Gay is worth max money in Memphis, then Horford is in that ballpark. If you are of the opinion that only the Kobe/LeBron one-named guys who can fill a building are max guys, than no. But then you hate the whole economic structure of the NBA (and probably are an owner). Either way, Horford is in for a big payday.
Horford averaged 14 points a game last season on a team that barely ever runs a play for him. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith get all the shots, Horford shoots a good 55 percent but can’t get a touch for long stretches. Maybe the motion offense new coach Larry Drew is bringing in will change that.
Horford can also defend. People that only saw him try to stick with Dwight Howard in the playoffs may dispute that, but that’s unfair. First, nobody defends Dwight Howard well. Second, Horford is charged with protecting the rim on a team where the defensively challenged Mike Bibby and Johnson are your starting guards. There are guys slashing into the lane with impunity. Horford does a lot to keep order down there, as much as you could hope for.
Horford may really be a four, in the sense that you can put a Pau Gasol or Chris Bosh at the five but they are really fours, too. Not that Horford is quite on the level of those two, but the step down isn’t as far as people think. He’s good, just in a place where his skills have not been well utilized. Maybe that will change.
Rumor is the Hawks only want to give one more long-term deal and that either Horford, coming out if his rookie contract, and 30-year-old Jamal Crawford will get it. In that case, the easy choice is the young big man. And he deserves it anyway.