With only a few hours left until the NBA draft, let’s take a long walk down the yellow brick road back to 2005, one of the last times the Atlanta Hawks were picking inside the top 3.
Atlanta had just come off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, winning 13 games, 5 less than anyone else in the league.
This team is not remembered fondly and rightly so, but what happened later in the offseason still looms over the franchise to this day.
Walker was an above-average player at the 4 position. What he lacked in length he made up for in versatility, averaging a hair under 10 rebounds and 3.7 assists. When he was traded to Boston in the middle of the season it was seen as a bit of a shocker.
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Atlanta acquired the L.A. Lakers’ 2006 first-round draft pick (later included in the Joe Johnson Trade), Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta and Michael Stewart. Stewart and Gugliotta were both not on the team by next season while Payton was waived and then returned to the Celtics on a free agent contract.
It was an awful deal at the time trading a 20 PPG scorer for 3 players all in their 30s and a draft pick that eventually landed at 21 in the 2006 draft.
But even if that wasn’t bad enough, it set up one of the biggest what-ifs in recent NBA history and probably the biggest what-if in Atlanta Hawks history. The point guard depth on that Hawks team was abysmal, with current Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue as the team’s starting point guard with Tony Delk and Kenny Anderson backing him up (oof).
In this alternate universe, let’s say no to the trade and keep Antoine for the rest of the season. Yes, this might have caused the Hawks to win a few more games and therefore change their draft position but lets not get too ticky tacky. For the sake of this article, the Hawks still end up picking number 2 overall in the 2005 draft. Andrew Bogut goes 1 to the Bucks and now the Hawks are on the clock.
Originally the Hawks took Marvin Williams, a 6th man power forward on the North Carolina championship team that is widely seen as a bust for his draft position.
But now, with the Hawks having kept Antoine Walker, our power forward position is filled and therefore we’re more willing to fill other needs on the roster. With guys like Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger still on the board, the Atlanta Hawks make the franchise-altering move of picking one of the 10 greatest point guards of all time — the Point God — Chris Paul.
With 3 years of college experience under his belt at Wake Forest, Paul is ready to play in the NBA and take over for a team with such thin point guard depth, forever changing Atlanta and NBA history.
Although we didn’t make the Antoine Walker trade in this bit of revisionist history, the real Atlanta Hawks still should’ve made this pick. Point guard was the main concern on the team even with Walker gone and taking a bit of an unknown in Williams was a devestating blow with Paul and 3-time All Star Deron Williams still on the board (people forget he was extremely productive during his tenure with Utah Jazz).
I’m extremely afraid Atlanta is going to repeat this exact situation come June 21st.
With reports coming out of the NBA that Atlanta and Sacramento might pass on Doncic if he isn’t picked by the Suns, our 2005 nightmare is staring us right in the face.
There is a decent chance he goes 1 to Phoenix and therefore all of this is nullified, but if he is there for the taking at 3, the Hawks should throw whatever cautions they might have to the wind and take the franchise-changing star out of Real Madrid. Do we have to beg? (We already have actually).
As famous writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Let’s hope GM Travis Schlenk and owner Tony Ressler are big Santayan fans, as the hopes and dreams of Hawks fans everywhere rest on their shoulders.