Sekou Smith makes the point today that Shelden Williams turning out to be another Antonio Davis would be a waste of the #5 pick in the Draft. That's wrong on two levels because Davis wouldn't be a bad end result for a player taken at #5 and because there are strong indications that Williams is a better player than Davis.
Smith criticizes Davis on the basis that he has averaged 10.0 points and 7.5 rebounds over the course of his NBA career. However, those numbers are deflated by the fact that he has hung on too long and has thus dragged his averages down significantly. In his prime (ages 31-34), here are his PPG/RPG averages:
And why did Antonio Davis hang on too long? Could it be the five-year, $60M contract he signed in the summer of 2001? Apparently, someone thought that he was an above-average player.
And why would we necessarily be surprised that Davis was a 10/7 player in the NBA, since he averaged 10/8 his senior year at UTEP? If college numbers are an indicator of pro success, then shouldn't Shelden Williams' 19/11 imply that he's going to be a better player than Antonio Davis? And that's before we get to the fact that Williams is an excellent shot-blocker, which is a skill that Davis has never really shown. It's that defensive skill that makes him non-fungible and therefore worthy of a high pick. Davis is more aptly compared to Zaza Pachulia, a tough rebounder who can score garbage points and play positional defense, but that's it. Williams has more offensive skill than that (although he still needs to develop in that regard) and he adds much more on the defensive end, which is where the Hawks have to improve.
Now, let's also look at the past ten #5 picks (and their career averages) to see whether we should expect a star at that spot (and keep in mind that this is a weak Draft by all accounts):
2005 - Raymond Felton (11.9 ppg, 5.6 apg)
2004 - Devin Harris (7.5 ppg, 2.5 apg)
2003 - Dwyane Wade (22.9 ppg, 6.1 apg)
2002 - Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
2001 - Jason Richardson (18.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
2000 - Mike Miller (13.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
1999 - Jonathan Bender (5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
1998 - Vince Carter (23.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
1997 - Tony Battie (6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
1996 - Ray Allen (21.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
What conclusions can we draw from this list? First, and most notably, there are four star-caliber players on the list (Wade, Richardson, Carter, and Allen) and all of them are swing men, most likely because great point guard or big man prospects are off the board at the #5 pick (save for the occasional diamond in the rough). As we have discussed ad nauseam, the Hawks don't need another swing man, unless they want to take Brandon Roy and put him next to Joe Johnson in a backcourt with two combo guards, an interesting idea but one that fails to address the team's glaring defensive problems. The star-caliber players also all came out in loaded Drafts and were pushed down the board as a result. In this Draft, I don't see any LeBron/Carmelo/Bosh pairings to push the next Wade down to us, nor do I see an Iverson/Camby/Rahim/Marbury quartet to push the next Allen to us. Generally speaking, if Williams turns into a 15/10 player and improves the Hawks' interior defense, which seems to be a reasonable expectation, then he would be good value at #5, given the other players who have gone at that spot.