What Recession? NBA Teams Throwing Around Money Like Usual

David DeRyderCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2010

ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How does one become an NBA General Manager?

Seriously. I think I should apply. I'm convinced I could run a team better than half the executives in the league.

This isn't to say I'm some kind of basketball genius. I think most fans of the NBA who have a minimal understanding of budgeting could run a team. I doubt one person who follows basketball would have given Darko Milicic $20 million.

When the collective bargaining agreement expires, I'm sure the owners will use this summer to point out how flawed the system is. The irony is that they're the ones who keep giving out stupid contracts. It's not rocket science. Yet time and time again teams overpay players.

The biggest contract offered Thursday was by the Atlanta Hawks to Joe Johnson. The Hawks looked to take Johnson off the market by offering him a max contract worth $119 million over six years.

Joe Johnson is good player, but $119 million good? I don't see the Hawks winning a championship with their current team. Committing that amount of money to Johnson is not a recipe for a title.

By giving Johnson a max contract, the Hawks have severely limited their ability to improve the team in upcoming years. Aside from drafting Jordan Crawford (who was very impressive in Xavier's March Madness run), the Hawks will enter the 2010-2011 season with basically the same team from last year. Remember, this is the group that got blown out by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs.

What is going on in Minnesota? Does anyone know what David Kahn is trying to do there? In 2009, he drafted point guards with back-to-back lottery picks. He went small forward heavy in this year's draft.

To top it off, he gave Darko Milicic $20 million for four years. Granted, the fourth year is only partially guaranteed, but we're talking about Darko, one of the most famous busts in league history. Darko is only 25. He may be a productive player at some point.

The Memphis Grizzlies gave Rudy Gay a five year, $80 million deal. If the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant agree to a contract extension, the deal could be similar to the one Gay received. Rudy Gay is good player who can still improve.

However, if he's paid as much as the NBA's scoring leader, isn't there a problem?

Aside from the free agents, rumors suggested that Chris Paul may want out of New Orleans. It would be tragic for the Hornets to lose their franchise point guard. The most interesting thing in regards to Chris Paul was ESPN.com's John Hollinger suggesting that the Orlando Magic were the most likely team to land him during an online chat.

Most trade rumors end up never materializing. Regardless, I am fascinated with the idea of Chris Paul dishing the ball down low to Dwight Howard. He could be the player to take the Magic over the hump and bring a championship to Orlando.

Whether or not Paul moves, I expect him to have a huge season next year. He was motivated by falling to the fourth pick in 2005. He has enjoyed the reputation of being the league's best point guard. However, with his injury and the excellent post-season play of Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul's title is in jeopardy. I think he will play hard in an attempt to regain his status as the best at his position.

One last thought: How much more intriguing would this summer be if the NBA did not have a salary cap? It would be fascinating to see how much LeBron James' services would be worth in a league with no salary restrictions. How much could he make? $25 million a year? $30 million? Would someone pay him $50 million a season? I would love to see what Mikhail Prokhorov would/could offer him.

I'm not advocating removing the salary cap. Still, it's an interesting question that will never be answered: How much would someone pay LeBron to play basketball?