Should Al Horford Be a Max Player? Hawks Betting 'No'
In Al Horford, the second most productive player of the 2007 draft (behind Durant), that's not quite the issue. Horford is good and getting better. If he reaches restricted free agency next summer, which would happen if he and the Hawks cannot agree to an extension agreement by November 1, Horford will be in high, high demand. A fine rebounder and ace defender who was been able to add some offensive punch last season, Horford made the 2010 All-Star Game as a 23-year-old.
All that isn't getting the Hawks to accede to Horford's contract demands, believed to be a max value extension like the one Durant received. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports there has been no progress on talks between Horford and the Hawks, who earlier this summer signed Joe Johnson to a six-year deal worth $123 million. Suddenly shy, the Hawks are believed to be looking more toward the range of Noah's $60 million deal than Durant's $80+ million contract.
Of course, as with all decisions these days, the NBA's uncertain labor future plays a role. If the players' salaries are sliced down in a new collective bargaining agreement, Horford could command less next summer, and with restricted free agency rights Atlanta could match any offer.
That, of course, assumes part of the new CBA isn't a hard cap that makes it impossible for the Hawks -- due to pay Johnson, Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia roughly $50 million combined next season -- to offer Horford a decent contract. Owners have reportedly pushed for a hard cap in early labor negotiations, even though a hard cap would virtually destroy the rosters of the best teams.
It's a tricky balance. The Bulls were able to get Noah down to $60 million, and that'd be a no-brainer for Atlanta if Horford consented to a discount. But he recently switched agents, and that's not the sign of someone ready to settle for security over the biggest pay day possible. If Horford is indeed holding out for max money, and the Hawks don't give it but another team offers it next summer, well, the Hawks are no worse for the wear. But if the new CBA makes it impossible, that team has lost a huge part of its success.
We seem destined to see Horford unresolved until next summer, and it's going to be a pretty frightening ride for both sides.