It’s awfully difficult to compare a 6-year, $13 million contract in 1989 to a 6-year, $123 million contract in 2010, but Mark Bradley of the AJC attempted to pull it off. Jon Koncak (aka Jon “Contract”) received the first one from the Hawks; Joe Johnson received the 2nd one from the Hawks. Here’s Bradley’s take:
6. Is Joe Johnson’s contract worse than Jon Koncak’s notorious deal?
Yes. Koncak re-upped for $13 million over six seasons, which was big money in 1989. Johnson stayed for $123 million over six seasons, which is huge money now. Koncak was 26 when he signed his new contract; Johnson had just turned 29. The Hawks will have little wiggle room so long as Johnson is a Hawk, and he’s under contract through 2016. Whoa.
Bradley is one of those flame-throwing columnists (every city has one) who excel at instigating and making outlandish statements. (What until you get to the bottom of this post.) Let’s look into Bradley’s claim.
Here’s a smattering of 1991-1992 NBA salaries that show how bad Koncak’s deal was:
Michael Jordan $3.25 million (MVP, led the Bulls to the title)
Charles Barkley $3.2 million
David Robinson $2.24 million (1st team All-NBA)
Jon Koncak $2 million (3.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Kevin Johnson $1.95 million (3rd team All-NBA)
Clyde Drexler $1.37 million (1st team All-NBA)
Koncak was paid like one of the elite players in the league for a handful of years, even though he a non-factor reserve. If you’re looking for an NBA equivalent right now, it’s a difficult chore because nobody gives pedestrian reserves monster deals. The only one that immediately comes to mind is the Raptors giving Amir Johnson 5 years and $34 million last year, but there’s a problem here – Johnson’s not paid like an elite player the way Koncak was. If this current list of highest-paid players was compiled in 1991, Koncak would be on it.
Koncak’s deal was so terrible, it robbed the Hawks of any cap room maneuvering to help Dominique Wilkins – who was still an elite player scoring 25, 28 and 29 ppg in the early 90s – try and get to the Finals.
Johnson’s deal will hinder the Hawks, too. I think many NBA observers would agree Joe Johnson’s deal was bad and the Hawks grossly overpaid a 1-dimensional shooting guard. It’s so bad that in Johnson’s first year of the deal, his stats went down. Johnson’s only 29, and the deal only gets worse from here. In 5-6 years it will be a complete albatross. Or maybe it already is one? It’s so bad the Hawks are now rumored to be looking into the idea of trading Josh Smith, who is probably their best overall player.
At least with Johnson – a starter logging 35 minutes a night – around, the Hawks are still a 2nd round playoff team. If the Hawks had lost Koncak – a reserve playing 25 minutes a night – it had no impact.
My opinion would be that the Koncak deal was slightly worse.
But here’s my favorite part of the Koncak vs. Johnson debate – Bradley did not feel the same way in July 2010:
Contrary to popular belief, the Hawks are not complete idiots. They know they’ve overpaid Johnson, but overpaying was the only way to keep him. And the consequences of not keeping him more than offset, at least in the short run, the outlay …
They entered free agency with two choices: Overpay J.J. and remain a factor in the NBA East, or save the money and sink back to irrelevance. They chose to remain relevant, and good for them.
One thing more: This might well be a bad contract, but it’s not the worst in NBA history. It’s not even the worst in Hawks’ history. Alan Henderson’s was worse. Speedy Claxton’s was worse. Jon Koncak’s was worse.
Wonder what changed in 11 months to make Bradley flip-flop?