New Atlanta Hawks owner Alex Meruelo recently said he intended to bring a chip to Atlanta under his reign. He didn’t give an ETA on his claim what with the lockout on top of the team’s current makeup. At any rate, his statement isn’t off the norm. Lofty goals are often championed by new owners impassioned with their brand new club. The Hawks have proven they have the pieces to make a decent run. Yet, they’ve lacked the key ingredient to lead them to uncharted post season territory.
A killer point guard.
Flashback to the 2005 NBA Draft. ATL sat pretty at number two on the board after a wretched 13-69 record. General consensus suggested the Bucks would select Andrew Bogut with the #1 overall choice. Then Atlanta would finally be open to get the point guard they’ve needed for years…if everything went to plan. Keep in mind then-rookie point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul screamed “pick me” in this scenario. Both had stellar college careers and the upside to build a team around them. The Deer predictably snatched up Bogut which put the Hawks on the clock to get things right. Atlanta’s timer wrapped up with their franchise ready to make the obvious choice. Then David Stern hits the podium and says…
“With the second pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select…..Marvin Williams from the University of North Carolina.”
Perhaps Billy Knight saw something in Marvin Williams we all didn’t. Well, whatever he perceived didn’t come to fruition as Marvin sits as a mid-level swing man. Hindsight’s 20/20 and all that. Nevertheless, you really have to wonder why Atlanta picked another small forward when they had no shortage of 3’s. Josh Smith could play both forward spots despite being an extremely raw talent. Moreover, I always thought people gassed Josh Childress coming out of college. Williams still, point blank, didn’t offer a considerable upgrade over Josh as a starter. He may have been a touted prospect out of school but that didn’t stop him from being ill-fitted for Atlanta’s needs. Therefore, I don’t blame him in so much as I point the finger at Atlanta’s front office for committing another ill-advised move.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul hit the ground running as a Hornet while Deron took a year in Utah to mature into a burgeoning star. Additionally, they currently sit at the top of the heap in a point guard’s league. Thus, Atlanta may have been an elite squad by now with either player at the helm. Deron and Paul are great individual performers and Paul, moreso than Deron, truly brings out the best from his squad. Chris has led various NO squads to the playoffs who, on paper, really had no business being there. Just image what he could’ve accomplished in a Hawks jersey.
The Hawks instead trudged along for a few years until, at the 2007-08 trade deadline, they found a makeshift fix via Mike Bibby. Mike had been on the decline but his addition showed a sparkle of what the team could be with a solid point. The Hawks unexpectedly stretched the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round that year. But the next season drew a lopsided second round exit at Orlando’s hands.
Jeff Teague’s late season emergence last year saw ATL flirt with maximized potential once more. His heightened play evidently helped the Hawks give the Bulls a scare in the semis while Hinrich nursed an injury. Asking the Teaguester to instantly become a premier player is unrealistic but his growth exhibits how much better the Hawks can be with a reliable floor general. He’s still young and has time to develop. Nonetheless his development comes at the cost of potentially more years without major contention: let alone a Larry O’Brien trophy. It remains to be seen if he’ll help them develop an identity throughout a season. Therefore, he could fall anywhere between all-star status to Rodney Stuckey part two.
Having the best points running the floor with Atlanta’s athleticism could’ve been special. Alas, they’re a team begging for direction when the playoffs come around. Larry Drew’s coaching got the crew in shape but he still doesn’t have the right parts to complete the puzzle. The franchise and its fans heavily paid for passing up two All Star candidates six years ago. Joe Johnson’s contract, pending a new CBA, stifles their ability to trade for talent down the line. Plus Atlanta, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have Al Horford if they got Deron or Chris but the point still stands. Meruelo can promise better days for Hawks fans all he wants. However Billy Knight’s foolish pick will haunt the Philip’s Center unless new management can startlingly pull some strings.