Wednesday, January 27, 2010

THHB's Top 10 Hawks of the Decade: Number Eight

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, #9

Today we look at a player that will be in the center of what-if discussions for the next decade to come. His mere presence on the roster, his role on the team, and what his ceiling may/may not be are topics that are almost impossible to gain consensus among even the most fervent of Bird Watchers.

Our Number Eight Hawk of the Decade is:

Marvin Williams


Any discussion on Marvin Williams and his presence in the Atlanta Hawks has to begin (to the chagrin of many Hawks fans) with the 2005 NBA Draft.

Setting the scene:

The Hawks were coming off a miserable (13) win season and had drafted two young guard/forward types in the 2004 draft (Josh Childress, Josh Smith), thereby beginning to bring the Billy Knight vision to the court.

The Hawks ended up with the #2 pick in the draft and was likely looking at any of what was considered by many to be the Top 4 players in the draft: Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams.

The draft was widely considered to be one of the best for point guard position in some time, a position long needed for the Hawks, a search that we dwelled on at some length in this entry. The Hawks ended that woebegone season with the following players starting (at some part of the season) at the point.

Player (Starts)

Tyronn Lue (46)
Kenny Anderson (20)
Boris Diaw  (11)
Royal Ivey  (5)

Shouldn't have to tell you (and their record did if you needed to be told) but that mess was screaming for assistance from Billy Knight to improve that position in the starting lineup. And no, taking Diaw out to the point was not the droid they were looking for.

So, as the draft approached, the Hawks worked out Paul and Williams, who fit this need, as well as looking at the players who could potentially fall into the "best available player" category, which included Williams, as evidenced by the write-ups leading up to the draft.

DraftExpress

At this point, all we know is that Marvin Williams is going to be a promising forward in the NBA and is most likely a top five pick or possibly even the first overall pick whenever he decides to leave North Carolina. Unfortunately, it’s just way too early to speculate specifically what kind of player he will develop into.
 

ESPN-Chad Ford

Williams is Insider's No. 1-ranked player in the draft. He's a versatile forward who can play both inside and out. Still developing but has the trappings of a superstar.

SI--Ian Thomsen

Has size, skills and savvy to help transform Atlanta into an exciting, up-tempo team. 

ESPN's (and Hawks Nation's own) Hoopinion:

 I thought Luol Deng was a moderately risky pick last year. I was wrong. Similarly, Williams should thrive in the extra space created by the depth of the NBA three-point line. I'd put Williams down the list of my Rookie of the Year favorites, but most likely to be the best player from the draft in five, eight, and ten years.

Billy Knight, by all admissions, eschewed the long held tradition of identifying a point guard in the lineup. "Guards are guards" he most famously said upon being asked who he saw running the point. To most accounts, he was not impressed with Chris Paul's size and wasn't sure if Deron Williams was so sure a thing as not to pass on the best available player. So there was decent consensus when, to the dismay of those who believe in resolving things like the post and the point, Knight passed on the point guards and selected the talented Williams.

Looking back, it's clear that it was Chris Paul that was the best player in that draft and he filled a Hawks need--and that, combined with Williams not yet realizing the ceiling that some might have thought possible for him, is what leads this discussion when Marvin's Hawk status comes up.

Because of the gamble of future potential over filling what folks other than Billy Knight thought was a need, there was some anticipation as to whether this (19) year old could capture the fans imagination such as the potential and athleticism displayed by Josh Smith had the year before.

But since much of Marvin's skill lay within the confines of the jump shot, this was not something that was going to jump out at fans. One of Williams' other skills, running the floor and finishing, was stunted by the lack of a starting caliber point guard to make that happen.The fact that Joe Johnson, whose ball handling skills and hopeful acquisition from Phoenix may also have persuaded Knight to pass on a point in the draft, isn't a run-the-floor ball handler may have interrupted that as well.

Marvin spent the next seasons finding his spot on the floor and role on the team, a process eased by the fulfillment of the promise of great work ethic and character lauded from his year in Chapel Hill. Marvin's obvious good nature and effort kept the erupting of Chris Paul into an All-Star into full fledged resentment of Marvin by the Hawks faithful.

Prior to the 2008-2009 season, Williams had hit a miserable 25-108 (23 percent) from beyond the 3-pt line. In '08-'09, Williams extended his range to hit 55-155 (35 percent) and took a visible step forward in his development and role in the Hawks first winning season since 1999.

The development and improvement was such that it was the first season he began to emerge from his draft slot shadow and be embraced for what he is rather than what one might have thought him to become. Marvin missed almost the entire month of March w/injury. When he returned, in a home game against the Indiana Pacers, Williams was given a standing ovation, an indication that his absence was certainly felt.

This season, Williams has not been able to build on the improvements of last season for a variety of reasons. One is the arrival of Jamal Crawford, who has a Joe Johnson like Usage Rate and therefore gobbles up extra possessions that might have found their way to Marvin last season, leading to less minutes and shot attempts per game (Williams' Usage is also down from last year while Crawford uses a bit more possessions and minutes than did Flip Murray last season.)

Another is some amount of bad luck, as Marvin has been able (for the most part) to maintain his effectiveness on his jump shots but has missed an aberrant number of shots around the basket. If he had been able to maintain last year's success rate on shots under 10 feet, he would have another (7) baskets made, which would raise his shooting percentage above (46) percent, higher than last year's number.

Marvin was signed to an extension (5 years, 40 million) this past off-season, but his future role and impact on the team remains a mystery. He has shown flashes of being able to be a scorer when Joe Johnson is out, highlighted by his (20) free throw effort against the Bobcats last season. Some have suggested he would be an ideal sixth man, or seventh man in the wake of Crawford's role, providing another strong scoring option off the bench. As it is, Marvin remains in the starting lineup, picking his spots on offense while playing solid ball on the defensive end, making his abilities to perhaps score more or take on a larger role on the team a luxury for the Hawks.

Fortunately Williams is a company man, ready and willing to be used in any capacity, and this is a trait that shows on the outside as well, making him very easy to like as a fan. His story, talent, work ethic, intangibles (see video below), and his all-star caliber mustache (of course) make him our Number Eight Hawk of the Decade.


4 comments:

CoCo said...

Very well stated. Everyone was hyping Marvin as the best talent in the draft and etc. While I never believed it, I guess I kinda understand why Billy took him there. Either way, it's not his fault he was drafted #2. I don' t know that we'll ever know if Marvin can lead a team because he literally falls into whatever role they ask of him. I guess that is what makes him a good teammate and hey every championship team needs good role players.

Bret LaGree said...

Rather a mixed bag there from deep in the archives. I say I'd take Felton over Paul but also call Paul the next Steve Nash.

Can't beat this prediction though: "Luther Head will be an NBA All-Star."

THHB said...

Bret,

I had a paragraph in there about Chris Paul, but it found the virtual cutting room floor. In that though, I do mention that you called Paul the next Nash--which was a very astute comparison I thought.

THHB said...

CoCo,

Thank you, as always! I would love to have had Paul, but it didn't happen, so in turn, I am happy about who Marvin is and what his talents are.