The Atlanta Hawks have been rather successful with their free agent signings over the years.
The franchise, after all, seems to have more bad luck with draft selections, using their lottery picks for underwhelming players like Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams in the past.
But like every other NBA team, the Hawks have also shelled out big money for meager returns. The team has a track record for rewarding players with lucrative extensions, only for them to regress once the contract has been signed.
Let’s take a look at four of the Hawks’ four worst free agency decisions over the years.
Kent Bazemore: re-signed to 4-year, $70 million extension (2016)
Bazemore did pretty well for himself after going undrafted in 2012. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard initially signed a modest deal with Atlanta in 2014 and proved to be a good enough rotation player.
The Hawks were eager to retain him, but eyebrows were raised when the amount was revealed. Bazemore was getting a lot of attention from other teams that the Hawks threw him a big bag of cash to make him stay.
To be fair, his averages of 10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.2 steals in five seasons with ATL were quite decent. Although he struggled with inconsistency at times, he was a nice 3-and-D option who brought a lot of positives to the team.
Still, $70 million is a lot of cash for a glorified energy guy off the bench. They cut him loose last year by sending him to the Blazers for Evan Turner.
Speedy Clayton: signed to 4-year, $25 million contract (2006)
The Hawks were looking to drastically improve their backcourt in the summer of ’06 and the team had faith that Claxton could be their guy. The undersized speedster, after all, was coming off an impressive season where he tallied 12.3 points and 4.8 assists in limited minutes for the Warriors and the Hornets.
Atlanta was willing to give him a more prominent role, thinking he could produce even higher or at least similar numbers during his contract year.
They were gravely mistaken, as a multitude of injuries forced Claxton to suit up in just 44 games in two seasons. He wasn’t even close to the form he had with the Warriors, churning out just 5.1 points on 32.6 percent shooting from the field with ATL.
The Hawks cut their losses by shipping him back to the Warriors in 2009.
Joe Johnson: re-signed to $123.7 million extension (2010)
To be perfectly clear, Johnson had his best career years in a Hawks uniform. He took the team to new heights and was practically one of the most unstoppable offensive players in his prime. He was worth every penny of the $70 million offer he initially got from the team in 2006.
His accolades speak for itself and likely earned him the gargantuan payday he received in 2010. The only problem was that his numbers began to drop after that extension.
Iso Joe’s deal made him the highest-paid NBA player at the time and put a strain in Atlanta’s cap space. After five straight seasons averaging 20+ points a game, his scoring took a slight dip in 2010-11 (18.2). His efficiency also took a dive, shooting 44.3 percent from the field and an alarming 29.7 from downtown.
He kept the same averages the next season but was limited to just 60 games due to injuries. Seeing he was now past his prime, Atlanta traded away his massive contract to the Nets just two seasons after the extension.
It proved to be the right choice moving forward, as Johnson never regained his All-Star form.
John Koncak: re-signed to 6-year, $13 million extension (1989)
Not a lot of fans from this generation know who Koncak is. His name was quite prominent in the ‘90s, albeit for notorious reasons concerning his overblown contract.
It’s completely mind-boggling why the Hawks gave him an extension in the first place, considering The 7-footer didn’t necessarily play well since the team drafted him fifth overall in the 1985 draft.
Perhaps thinking a fresh deal would revitalize his career, Atlanta still invested in the lumbering center by giving him $13 million. Granted it’s a rather modest amount by today’s standards, but it was indeed a pretty lucrative contract back then.
To put things into perspective, Koncak was making more than megastars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird at the time.
The Hawks gave him all the opportunity to prove his worth, but would never average more than 4.2 points throughout his contract. He lasted 11 seasons in the league and normed 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.