With the season seemingly over for the Atlanta Hawks, let’s jump back again to look at the past.
Last time, it was a short jump back to think about what the season would have looked like for the Atlanta Hawks if John Collins hadn’t been suspended. This time, let’s jump way back to think about the time the Hawks had a chance to draft Chris Paul and didn’t.
Going into the 2005 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks were a league-worst 13-69 on the season. Despite having the worst record in the NBA and the best odds to land the first overall pick, the Hawks were slated to pick 2nd behind the winner of the NBA Draft Lottery, Milwaukee Bucks. With Andrew Bogut being projected as the consensus number one pick that year, the Hawks were left with a plethora of talented college players to pick from, including a few standout point guards.
During the 2004-2005 NBA season, the Hawks had a bad team, indicted by their league-worst record. In the 2004 NBA draft, the Hawks had two selections in the first round, taking Josh Childress and Josh Smith. With Antoine Walker and Al Harrington already on the roster, the Hawks had an excess of wing players, and the Hawks had a glaring hole at point guard.
Three different point guards received significant playing time for the Hawks during the 2004-2005 season. Tyrone Lue played in 49 games, starting 46. Kenny Anderson played in 39 games, starting 20. Royal Ivey, a rookie, played in 62 games, starting five.
Going into the 2005 Draft, the Hawks would have their choice of Chris Paul and Derron Williams, the two best point guards of the draft. Also, there was Marvin Williams, Sean May, Raymond Felton, but the Hawks had the option to pick the best player on the board after the Bucks would take Bogut. With two exceptional point guards on the board, it was safe to assume the Hawks would fill a massive need by snagging Paul or Williams with the second pick.
When draft night came, as it was projected, the Bucks took Bogut with the first overall pick. The Hawks were on the clock to make their selection. Despite have a blatant need of a point guard, the Hawks took the highly-touted freshman from North Carolina, Marvin Williams.
At the time, a lot of teams were in love with Marvin Williams going into the 2005 Draft. Reportedly, Williams would have been a lottery pick the year prior if he had jumped from high school straight to the NBA. Instead, Williams went to UNC for a year, primarily coming off the bench for Roy Williams. The Tar Heels won the national championship that season and had four players be drafted in the NBA lottery.
During his time at UNC, Marvin Williams played in 36 games, averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds while playing around 22 minutes a game. His measurements of 6’9 and 230 pounds at just 18 years old made teams fall in love with his potential.
As noted above, the Hawks had just drafted Josh Childress and Josh Smith. Throw in Al Harrington, who was still on the team at the time, too. With Marvin Williams in the fold now, there was a logjam at the forward spot. By leaving Chris Paul and Derron Williams on the board, the Hawks decided to push forward with Royal Ivey and Ty Lue as their primary point guards for the 2005-2006 season.
Instead of becoming a Hawk, Chris Paul stayed on the board until the fourth spot where the New Orleans Hornets picked him up. Chris Paul was a sophomore coming out of Wake Forest, projected by most to be the most “can’t miss” player in the draft that season.
The 2005-2006 season was much of the season for the Atlanta Hawks in regards to their point guard situation. Royal Ivey and Ty Lue split the time at the point guard spot for most of the season. Ivey, going into his second season, started 66 games. Ivey averaged 11 minutes, scoring 3 a game with 1 assist. Lue started 10 games, playing in 51. Lue played 24 minutes a game, averaging 11 points with 3 assists a game.
In his first season with the Hawks, Marvin Williams played in 79 games, only starting 7. In his time, Marvin played around 24 minutes a game, averaging 8 points and 4 rebounds. It was an underwhelming season from the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, to say the least.
In the same season, Chris Paul showed how special he was almost immediately. In the more difficult Western Conference, Paul started 78 games. He averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. Paul was a contributor right away in the NBA while laying the groundwork of becoming one of the players in all of basketball. The Hawks missed out on a generational talent when the chose to pass on Chris Paul.
Had the Hawks decided to draft Chris Paul rather than Marvin Williams, the Hawks franchise could have had a completely different season in ’05-’06 and beyond.
With trade acquisition Joe Johnson on the team, the Hawks improved 13 games to finish the season 26-56. With a capable point guard like Chris Paul during his rookie season, the Hawks could have pushed for a playoff spot right away.
Marvin Williams would wind up playing just seven seasons in Atlanta. While never living up to his potential, Williams became a very serviceable player for the Hawks. However, Williams never averaged over 15 points in his time with the Hawks and the team failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs with Williams on the roster.
It’s easy to look back in hindsight to think what could have been if the Hawks had picked Chris Paul instead of Marvin Williams.
The Hawks decided to draft for potential instead of taking the best player. At the time, selecting Chris Paul may not have looked like as much of a guarantee. Even Derron Williams was drafted before Chris Paul. The Hawks went with who they thought would be the better player and they were wrong.
Still, it is fun to imagine what Chris Paul would have looked like in an Atlanta Hawks uniform. We would have seen a lot more alley-oops to Joe Johnson and Al Harrington. It makes you wonder what Josh Childress and Josh Smith would have looked like with an above-average point guard running the show. It’s all imagining at this point, but sometimes, it’s still fun to imagine what could have been.
Do you think the Atlanta Hawks could have won a championship with Chris Paul?