The Atlanta Hawks did not have to re-sign Joe Johnson. Rather, they had a few options which could have filled his combo-guard role at a much better bargain.
The Hawks already have an established guard in reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford, an individual who has a similar, although lesser, skill set as Johnson. But, most importantly, he makes less than half of what Johnson will now be making.
Atlanta also has second year point-guard Jeff Teague, last summer's 19th overall pick out of Wake Forest. He saw limited time last season, but during the Las Vegas Summer League, he showed promise, putting up 15.6 PPG and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Therefore, he could have cheaply picked up some of the scoring and assists which Johnson contributed, albeit at the low pay of an NBA rookie contract.
Had they not re-signed Johnson, another cheap, young player who could have figured prominently into the Hawks plans is the 2010 No. 27 overall selection in the draft, Jordan Crawford—perhaps most famous for dunking on LeBron last summer, only to have Nike officials confiscate and then release the recording of it.
Jo. Crawford, who has a scoring-oriented game, similar to that of his namesake Jamal, also played well in the LV Summer League, to the tune of 16.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.8 steals per game. However, it now appears that, this season, Jo. Crawford will see little playing time, being buried on the bench behind all of the Hawks' other guards.
Lastly, Atlanta could have helped to fill the void left by Johnson with Josh Childress, had they not traded him. Childress decided to return to the NBA from Greece this offseason, and the Hawks signed him to a five-year, $33 million deal, in order to trade him to the Phoenix Suns for a future second round pick and a partial trade exception—very little for a player of his caliber.
Consequently, the Hawks could have likely been alright if they had not re-signed Joe Johnson. Using Ja. Crawford, Teague, Jo. Crawford, and Childress, Atlanta would have retained financial flexibility, while not experiencing too much of a drop in production.
Additionally, were this to have happened, the Hawks would have been able to pursue top-tier free agents, such as Chris Paul or Deron Williams (to replace the aging Mike Bibby), in the future.
However, this did not happen. Instead, Atlanta Hawks are stuck with Joe Johnson for the long haul, but really, only time will tell if he will be able to come close to earning the money which made him the highest paid free agent of 2010.