Thursday, May 08, 2008

John Hollinger's Take on Billy Knight

I don't have a lot to add to John Hollinger's evaluation of Billy Knight as a GM. OK, I actually do. A few bones to pick:

1. Blowing up the team:

Knight's most controversial move came shortly after he replaced Pete Babcock in 2003, when he made the decision to blow up the team's nucleus of Jason Terry, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Glenn Robinson and Theo Ratliff and start from scratch. Just for good measure, he whacked coach Terry Stotts, too.

I don't remember anyone saying "hey, let's keep together this nucleus of under performing, expensive players on the downward slopes of their careers." In what way was breaking up Babcock's dreadful collection a controversial move? And this argument is the weakest I've ever seen from Hollinger:

However, even with that, the brutal truth is that after five years, his team wasn't any better than the one he nuked.

Gee, would I rather have a roster full of good, cheap, young pieces are an expensive collection of malcontents who refuse to play defense? The Hawks' record might have been only two games better this year as compared to the 2002-3 team that Knight blew up, but the Hawks' trajectory and potential is much better.

2. Knight's Talent Acquisition

I can't argue with any of this:

In truth, his trades and free-agency moves probably would have allowed him to keep his job if his drafts hadn't been so horrible. However, his decisions to take Marvin Williams instead of Chris Paul and Shelden Williams instead of Brandon Roy squandered two of Atlanta's three top-five picks during his reign. Selecting Acie Law ahead of Rodney Stuckey in last year's draft looks like it might be a similar blunder. Offsetting all that was only one comparatively good move: taking high-schooler Josh Smith with the 17th pick in 2004.

And this is somewhat concerning:

Additionally, it's an opportunity for a new guy to clean up in areas in which Knight failed. For instance, the Hawks have had the rights to Danish-Australian forward David Andersen since 2002, but never have made any concerted effort to bring him over, even though he has been one of the best players in the Europe.

But this is simply not correct:

Along those same lines, Atlanta has had unusual trouble coming up with decent players to fill out the bench. Most notably, every attempt at adding a low-cost big man has been beyond disastrous. It was Knight who gave Atlantans the unholy trinity of John Edwards, Lorenzen Wright, and Esteban Batista, and believe it or not, each received a guaranteed, multiyear deal. Efforts at adding depth on the wings and in the backcourt didn't go much better.

What do you call signing Zaza Pachulia for four year and $16M?

I'm honestly a little surprised that Hollinger's shots at Knight aren't sharper. Hollinger is the best writer that has on the NBA and he pays special attention to the Hawks. The Knight epitaph should have been right in his wheel house, but a lot of his criticisms missed the mark.


peacedog said...

Human nature is a fickle thing. A couple of years ago - I'd say this was late in Joe's first season with the club.

I contended Knight was better than he was being given credit for the time. Mark's counter was that Knight had "given all that talent away". I attempted to persuade hin, but failed at the time:

1. We learned the dark side of Ratliff pretty quickly. On paper he was an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. In reality, he wasn't even a boor man's Ben Wallace and wasn't nearly as effective in the middle as we'd hoped.

2. Glenn Robinson was never, at any time, a particularly good NBA player and the numbers back it up. The argument was at it's most hotly contested point here.

As a side note, I told anyone who would listen back in the day Grant Hill was going to be a better pro and he was, before the injuries ravaged him.

3. We all hailed the Abdur-Rahim trade. We were wrong about that one too. He was a decent player, even pretty good. No more. And he went into the tank immediately after the trade. Caused by some combination of years and miles? Maybe. Also maybe because he was never anything but solid.

4. Terry - a decent pick at the tiem, he's another guy I'd call decent. But not great. Not really a PG, which means he'd be less of an impact player if he was still with the Hawks.

I think Hollinger has fumbled in his rush to criticize Knight.

chg said...

Replacement Billy King? What did the Hawks do to deserve that?

Don't count on King showing any self control when one year wonder free agents hit the market.

Jerry Hinnen said...

I had the same knee-jerk NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO reaction chg did when Hollinger mentioned King. I bet Josh Childress didn't think he was about to get $8.8 million a year, but Lord knows there's no one King likes better than a useful role player that's already on his team (as Kyle Korver, Willie Green, et al will attest).

I'll admit that I started this season wishing Knight was gone and ended it wishing he'd stick around--thanks mostly to Smith's continued development and Knight simultaneously admitting his mistake with S. Williams and finally addressing the PG situation. But also because I came to the realization that even if your GM is competent-at-best, that's still miles and miles better than having a Chris Wallace or Billy King or whoever that guy was in Seattle who drafted three straight 7' projects. I wish it was Woodson who was leaving, not least because I worry if Smith will re-up with Woodson still on the bench.

I'll also pointlessly add in response to Michael's previous Knight post that it's the S. Williams draft that was Knight's dumbest move. M. Williams was bad call b/c the Hawks needed a PG and there were two excellent ones available, but you could at least make the argument that they needed to draft the "best player available" and Lord knows the consensus at the time was that M. Williams was that. There was never any defense for taking S. Williams--still not a PG and pretty damn far from most talented.

peacedog said...

The Sheldon Williams thing was made doubly worse due to the nature of how it unfolded. The pick would have been blasted on draft day. Instead, we got to hear all about how the Hawks had already negotiated the deal before the sun had set on the eve of the draft.


Michael said...

The Billy King rumor is too depressing for words. He is terrible.

I wish I could bag on the Shelden pick, but I talked myself into it by the time it was made, mainly because we didn't have room for any of the other possibilities.