Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Hawks' Draft: a Heel, a Headcase, and a Guy Named Cenk

I can't hope to do a Draft Diary quite like Sports Guy and won't bother to try. In the back of my mind, I was happy that the Hawks weren't going to get a chance to draft Andrew Bogut because I didn't want our team to be on the receiving end of Sports Guy's barbs about the pick and how the franchise should move to Las Vegas. In the front of my mind, I was happy that the Hawks weren't going to take Bogut because he is nothing more than an average NBA center who will be viewed as a failure if he's anything less than an all-star. For confirmation of this fact, one needed look no further than the tepid highlight package that ESPN had for him. How is anyone supposed to be excited about a player whose college highlights apparently consisted of receiving lobbed entry passes and then laying in awkward shots over hopelessly overmatched MWC foes. 2005 will be remembered as the year of the Utah bust. (If I knew of a famous, voluptuous woman from Utah, I'd throw in a joke and a picture here, but I don't, so I won't.)

I remain excited about Marvin Williams. He's the best player in the Draft and the worst team in the league cannot do anything other than take the best player available. Sports Guy's criticism is that he didn't start for UNC, but that's simply a pro sports fan showing his ignorance of North Carolina basketball. Evidently, he's never heard the maxim that the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points per game is Dean Smith. UNC values seniority and there's no way they were going to start a freshman when they had two seniors and three junior first round picks in their lineup. Williams was on the floor at crunch time of their big games, which is what matters.

Mark Bradley had a couple interesting criticisms of the Williams pick:

a. "He's basically Shareef Abdur-Rahim." An interesting point, but wrong on a couple levels. Williams is much more athletic than Rahim. Shareef's drawback was that he was a skilled offensive player without great athleticism who couldn't play defense. Williams is a better jumper and a better defender. He also comes from North Carolina, which almost never produces a bust from a high pick. On the other hand, Williams only played there for one year, so it might not be fair to compare him to all the players who learned under Dean Smith for multiple seasons.

b. "The team still needs a point guard and a center." This is true, but misplaced for several reasons. First, the pick makes Al Harrington a potential trade commodity. Could the Hawks not get, say, Jarrett Jack for Harrington? (Of course, they would have to take some salary from Portland, probably in the form of registered sex offender Ruben Patterson and the Hawks would need to waive him immediately to protect their young players and local babysitters.) Even if they don't make the trade now, when some team feels they're one player away next January, Harrington will command an excellent price. Second, the Hawks can take a crack at addressing their problems at the one and five in free agency and they made themselves a lot more attractive by adding the best, most marketable player in the Draft. Third, even if they don't solve their problems next year, the Hawks aren't going to completely rebuild in a year. They probably won't make the playoffs next year, so they'll have another lottery pick to address the one and the five. Finally, positions are overrated. The Bulls won three titles with Steve Kerr at the point and Luc Longley in the pivot. Great players at the other three positions can cover for a lot of mistakes.

You'll notice that I'm not listing Salim Stoudemire as one of the potential solutions at the point. I know I supported him as a second round pick yesterday, but I started to re-evaluate. The stories about him being a headcase are worrisome, although Lute Olson seems to like him. The bigger concern is that I can't differentiate him from Shawn Respert, Randolph Childress, or the other littany of great college shooters who were too small to play the two and lacked the requisite passing and dribbling skills to play the one. Stoudemire probably can't create his own shot and, as his negative assist/turnover ratio last year shows, he doesn't do a very good job of creating shots for others. If Marvin Williams becomes a great scorer and forces double-teams, then Stoudemire will be the perfect guy to rain from behind the arc. Otherwise, the Hawks missed a chance. Chad Ford is very high on Roko Ukic as a point guard; we'll see if he's right that he would have been a better pick. Ronny Turiaf was also available and could possibly play center for the Hawks. (He has to be better than Jason Collier and Obinna Ekezie.)

Other thoughts from a Tuesday night at Philips Arena:

1. I found myself excited on the way down to the Arena, hoping desperately that the NHL solves their labor issues and I'm making the same walk in early October in the Thrashers jersey and the USA Hockey hat. Am I a complete sucker because I'll be even more excited than I was before when the team finally takes the ice? Most fans tend to respond to major labor imbroglios the way that wives respond to their husbands when they return from bachelor parties.

2. For a great illustration of Old School/Nu Skool, you should have seen the live war room cam shots last night. Billy Knight was sitting at the end of the table. Former Stanford student Josh Childress was crouched behind him, engaged in constant discussion about something. Too cool for school Josh Smith was sitting to Knight's left, playing a hand-held video game.

3. I'm not saying that Bob Rathbun is out of shape or anything, but when he was on the stage giving out signed bobbleheads and Tony Hawk tickets (yes, the Hawks didn't exactly behave like the Fat Girl last night; maybe the Williams pick has functioned like a drunken hook-up and convinced the team that they don't need to go the extra mile anymore) with a Hawks dancer assisting him, there was a certain unshakeable image in my head:

4. I couldn't tell what the crowd's reaction to Andrew Bogut going #1 was because I was too busy cheering my head off and humming "Ode to Joy." The crowd was educated enough to look bewildered when the Velociraptors took Charlie Villenueva.

1 comment:

peacedog said...

I forgot I wanted to touch on the Shareef comparison - not seeing it. By all accounts, Marvin is a good athelete. As we learned first hand, Shareef was nothing special (which isn't to ssay he was unatheletic).

I also wanted to touch on the one year thing but forgot in the heat of the moment. Next year is always uncertain, however that's part of the process. You can't rebuild in one year. This is year 2 (or maybe 3). It's going to take time. It's insane to suggest a neeed has to be filled ASAP, particularly when you are talking about a team without a good scorer/talent.

Marvin may not work out, but I think the criticisms leveled at him thusfar are ridiculous. I've already touched on the "didn't start" thing, which is asinine.