As always, we invite you to check out our other End of the Hawks Decade articles:
A Decade of Hawks Aughts (and Aught-Nots),
Top Hawks by Statistical Category
THHB's Top 10 (and more) Hawks of the Decade, #10
Now we look at a player (yes, only one this time) that became one of the most interesting situation/stories of the Hawks decade---a player that was also productive enough to warrant inclusion here as well. But he is/was a player that drew mixed reviews among Hawks fans, in fact, we think some will have issue with his inclusion on our list.
The Number Nine Hawk of the Decade is:
From the get-go, the drafting of Childress was an interesting inclusion in a decade worth of interesting roster moves.
Leading up to the 2004 draft, the Hawks worked out many players due to their various draft positions (4 of the top 37 picks). Looking at their place with the 6th pick, the Hawks potentially had the choice of a diverse group of talents (Ben Gordon, Jameer Nelson, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala) but still managed to genuinely surprise by taking Childress on draft night.
Coming from Stanford, he had the look and sound of a good guy, hard working, athletic talent--and fit into Billy Knight's long, athletic wingman approach to roster building. Since the Hawks passed on Luol Deng and Iguodala to take him (which more fans were comfortable with), his unorthodox shooting style and play was ripe for criticism.
But whatever could be said about Childress' odd form in shooting, from the first season he proved to be a solid, productive player. Childress was the 4th most productive player as it corresponds to PER for the rookie season. He trailed #1 pick Dwight Howard, #2 pick Emeka Okafor, and #17 pick Josh Smith. Good job, Billy Knight, eh?
Childress did improve every season over his (4) with the Hawks and led the team for the decade in Effective FG% and Offensive Rating and was 7th in PER for the decade for the ATL. In the meantime, however, he got classified by Mike Woodson as a 6th man and hustle guy off the bench, a designation that saw him relegated to a reserve (highly used, sure), going as far as not starting a single game in '07-'08 even when injuries saw Marvin Williams and even Flubber West gain starting assignments instead of Childress and he saw his minutes shrink as well.
The issue of being pigeonholed by the staff into this role left the talented swingman longing for a different situation or more money to accept it. When the restricted free agency period arose and the Hawks (with new GM Rick Sund) playing hardball, Childress challenged the Hawks to pay up or watch Josh go overseas to Greece. Nobody blinked and Childress, while remaining Hawks property to this day, has been enjoying the European high-life for the last two seasons.
Childress gave it up entirely on the court, was good on the defensive end, and aggressive all over the place. He above the rim play was exciting and useful and the Hawks have yet to adequately replace his value to the team. He would be a wonderful starting small forward today with Marvin Williams coming off the bench. Instead they lost Childress and gave Marvin the money that could have kept Chill in the ATL. We love Mustache Marvin too, but Childress was/is more productive than Marvin at similar points in their careers.
Below is a highlight package of what we're missing out on losing our #9 player of the Decade.
We miss J-Chill and wish he were a part of all of the success the last two seasons and beyond.
(Audio on this clip is Ludacris so, you know, it's not suitable for Work or Children. In other words, if you don't like profanity, mute before listening. That is all.)