5. Hawks trade: Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright and Brevin Knight
Grizzlies trade: Shareef Abdur Rahim and the 27th pick
On June 27th, 2001 on the eve of the draft, the Hawks worked out a trade that at the time seemed like the right move to make. They were coming off a losing season, with a record of 25- 57 and were in desperate need of proven talent to become competitive in the Eastern Conference. By acquiring Shareef Abdur Rahim, the team appeared to have taken a step in the right direction.
“We wanted to acquire talent with this draft pick that would make us the best we could be over the next five plus years. We don’t have to wait for Shareef to develop and he has a big upside because he is only 24.” General manager Pete Babcock said at the time about the trade.
It was also a homecoming of sorts for Abdur Rahim, who was raised in nearby Marrieta, GA and starred at Wheeler high school. He was arguably one of the top power forwards in all of the league, averaging 21.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game the year before in Vancouver. The Hawks only improved eight wins in the first season with Shareef in the lineup, missing the playoffs again.
The following year, Atlanta continued to surround Jason Terry with talent, adding former top draft pick Glenn Robinson to the mix that off season. The town began to buzz over the hometown squad, so much so that the front office famously guaranteed the team would make the playoffs. Even posting billboards like tattoos throughout the city. The trio of Terry, Rahim and Robinson actually outscored every other teams big three with almost 60 points per game, but they still missed the playoffs, again.
That failed bold prediction from Pete Babcock, would soon cost him his job and the team went on to hire Billy Knight as the new general manager. Knight was unimpressed with what Babcock was putting together and swung his wrecking ball across the roster. He traded Rahim as quickly as possible to the Blazers for Rasheed Wallace. Wallace’s Hawk career lasted all of one game, dropping a swift 20 points before being dealt to Detroit in what amounted to only a salary dump. He was gone before he ever arrived.
So for those keeping score at home, that’s two No. 3 draft picks (Abdur Rahim in 96′ and Gasol in 01′) that the Hawks traded for..wait for it..nothing! Good job’ Billy. Had the Hawks stayed the course and just kept the draft rights to Gasol, they would have had a face of the franchise and an all star center.
Could you imagine how good the Hawks would have been with a frontcourt of Gasol and Horford? If it’s safe to assume that Joe Johnson would also have been on that team, that’s a real force to be reckoned with. Championship caliber even. Hang on, it gets worse.