As the names were coming off the board during the draft last night, I couldn’t help but think of the entry I had the night before the draft. In that blog entry, I mentioned that I would hate to see the Hawks zero in on a player and pass a player that had unexpectedly fallen to them on draft night. As the 14th, 15th, and 16th picks rolled off, I kept thinking to myself that this was actually happening. Someone rated much higher than where they will end up going is going to fall to the Hawks. In the entry, I mentioned a few names. Among them were Damion James of Texas, James Anderson of Oklahoma State, Quincy Pondexter of Washington, and Hassan Whiteside of Marshall. As the 18th pick was announced, all three were still available.
At that point in time, as I was chatting with some other Hawks fans, I formed a list of the 5 players. I was hoping the Hawks would be able to get one of those five players. On that list were Damion James, James Anderson, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, and Dominique Jones. I admittedly wasn’t that crazy about Hassan Whiteside. I love his potential, but I hate the baggage that comes with him. I was asked a couple of times during the chat why I didn’t have any big men on the list. The answer was that I simply wasn’t that crazy about any of them. The 19th pick rolled out, and one of my five had been chosen. The Celtics chose Avery Bradley, likely giving themselves the longest pair of point guards in the NBA and a guy who can legitimately defend both the point guard and shooting guard position in the NBA.
As the 20th pick approached, I had a feeling that San Antonio was going to take another one of the five I wanted. They have a history of having players fall into their lap and taking the best guy available to them. Low and behold, they did just that. James Anderson, one of the best pure shooters in the draft, was taken. This was the guy I was really hoping would end up falling to the Hawks. Now my list had been narrowed down to three players, and with three picks before the Hawks were to pick, I was beginning to wonder if one would end up falling to them.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were picking for the New Orleans Hornets with the 21st pick. New Orleans was a team looking at shooters earlier in the draft, so they were a threat. When the name Craig Brackins was announced, I was relieved. I just had to get through the Portland Trailblazers and the Minnesota Timberwolves with the next two picks. Portland and Atlanta are very similar teams, IMO, and they were looking at a lot of the same players. I thought that Portland may be looking at Damion James, but after they got Luke Babbit in a trade with the Timberwolves, I thought they might take either a big man or another shooter. Another shooter is who they took when they drafted Elliot Williams with that pick.
At this point in time, I was really hoping Damion James would fall to the Hawks. With the Timberwolves picking, I was having flash backs to last year’s draft when they took Tywon Lawson, the player I was hoping the Hawks would get, one pick before Atlanta’s pick. Would they do it again? After taking Wesley Johnson with the 4th pick, it wouldn’t make sense for them to take another small forward. Then I remembered that this was the same team that drafted Ricky Rubio, Johnny Flynn, and Ty Lawson last year. Would they do it again? The pick was announced, and the Timberwolves had taken the undersized Trevor Booker, who they later traded to Washington.
The Hawks were picking, and Damion James was there. This was the guy I was wanting at this point, as I felt the Hawks needed a strong small forward who could back up Marvin Williams and play strong defense when he’s in the game. I still had doubts that they would actually take him. I had felt all along that Atlanta was focusing on shooters, so I thought there was a chance they would still take Jordan Crawford over Damion James. Then, there was Rick Sund’s and Dave Pendergraft’s history of drafting project big men. With Hassan Whiteside, Daniel Orton, and Solomon Alabi all available, I thought there was a chance we would hear one of their names called. The pick was in, and I was very excited when David Stern announced that the Atlanta Hawks had taken Damion James, small forward from the University of Texas. For the first time in a while, the Hawks had gotten the player I was hoping they would get. Hold the phone though, because almost as quickly as they announced the pick, word got out that the Hawks had traded the rights of Damion James to the New Jersey Nets.
When this happened, the first thought in my mind was that we just dealt our pick and got cash in return. If that was going to be the case, then I was going to be one angry Hawks fan. The details of the trade came out, and when they said that Atlanta was getting the 27th and 31st pick for Damion James, I regained my excitement. This was the perfect trade. The Hawks had been targeted Jordan Crawford anyway. Now, they might be able to get him and also get that project big man that everyone else in the world thinks they absolutely had to get. This move was a stroke of genius by Rick Sund. The two other names on my list went with the next two picks as the Grizzlies drafted and then sold Dominique Jones, and the OKC Thunder drafted Quincy Pondexter for the New Orleans Hornets. Now, the Hawks were essentially on the board again, and the player that I feel they had targeted all along was there. I told the people in the chat that this would be Jordan Crawford. The pick was announced, and Jordan Crawford was an Atlanta Hawk.
At this point, I just knew the trade was a stroke of genius. To be able to get the player the team wanted anyway and get another pick to use on a project big man was too much to believe. At this point, Daniel Orton was available as was Solomon Alabi, Hassan Whiteside, and Jarvis Varnado. The Grizzlies took Grievas Vasquez at 28, and then the Magic took one of those project big men with the 29th pick. Washington was picking next for Minnesota, and I just knew they were going to get a big man considering their lack of defense on the interior. Yep, they took another small forward in Lazar Hayward from Marquette.
The Hawks were on the clock again, and two project centers were available along with a couple of power forward/center prospects the team had been looking at. At this point, I thought the Hawks would take Solomon Alabi with this pick. I questioned whether he fit this team, as I wondered openly if he would be able to run with this team.
It seemed like it took forever for this pick to be announced. Finally, the pick was announced. The Atlanta Hawks had taken Tibor Pliess with the 31st pick in the draft. Who? That was the response from many Hawks fans after the pick was made. Immediately, the thought that the Hawks just drafted a player they could keep overseas and not sign was on the minds of every Hawks fan. Tibor was actually rated around this area though, and Oklahoma City was considering him with one of their picks in the first round prior to their trade with the Hornets. Then it was announced. The Atlanta Hawks had traded Tibor Pliess to the OKC Thunder for CASH CONSIDERATIONS!!
What? Now the talk of the Hawks being cheap was rampant. Many were questioning why the Hawks made the deal if they had no intention of using the pick. I have to admit that my initial response to this was that it was a very questionable decision. Why not use the pick and get a player that may help the team 2-3 years down the road.
The day after the draft, the talk is that the Hawks wanted to get the cash for that pick to use on veteran players. Their response was that this is still a young team that needs more veteran players. No offense to them, but do they really think that having someone like Joe Smith play limited minutes and not produce is more cost effective and more effective on the court than having Jarvis Varnado play limited minutes behind Josh Smith? At least Jarvis can defend!
Overall, I felt like getting Jordan Crawford in the first round was a very good move. Had they stayed at 24, they likely would have taken him anyway. He’s a gifted scorer that can shoot, and it was obvious two weeks ago that the Hawks were looking for perimeter shooters to add to the team. I really feel that Jordan Crawford has enough upside that he could eventually start in the NBA. I also feel that he could contribute immediately as a back up shooting guard in case Joe Johnson does leave via free agency. This pick alone makes this a good draft.
However, using the 31st pick on a player that would have improved the end of the bench would have made this a great draft. My response to the Hawks idea that they didn’t use the pick because they wanted to use the money on veteran players is this. Don’t urinate on my leg and tell me it is raining. Moving down to take Jordan Crawford was done because taking him 3 picks later will save the team around $100,000 this year. Also, they are going to have a hard time explaining to me why using the money to sign a veteran to be a 10th-12th man on the roster is more cost effective than letting a rookie with potential hold one of those spots. I feel that not using this pick on a player, whether it was going to be Jarvis Varnado, Hassan Whiteside, or another shooter like Terrico White is a bad move, and when the Hawks are trying to find a veteran who will take the minimum salary in the league at the 11th hour before the season starts, they will think about this and realize that they could have had someone for around $900,000 in his first year who had the potential to be something down the road.
With the 53rd pick, the Hawks took Pape Sy (pronounced Pop C). He’s the mystery man of the draft, as it doesn’t seem like anyone knows anything about him. He’s the one international player that Fran Frischella didn’t just gush about, and he gushes about almost everyone of the international guys drafted. All we know is that Pape is from the French Pro League and is somewhere between 6’3″ and 6’10”, depending upon what source you look at. He apparently is a very good shooter, and he also reportedly held his own against the likes of Darington Hobson and Stanley Robinson when he worked out for the Hawks. At this point in the draft, I think you could have pulled a name out of a hat, and I was expecting the Hawks to take someone they could stash oversease much like they did with Serge Gladyr last year.
My overall feelings is that this is a good draft that could have been a great draft, and that drive to be great seems to be the one thing this Atlanta Hawks team is lacking from ownership down at the moment.