Friday, February 26, 2010

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

Haven't seen our Countdown of the Top 10 Hawks of the Decade? 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, #8, #7, #6, #5

Our next player arrived as a part of the Pete Babcock "rebuild while staying relevant now" plan, which, umm, yeah.

Our Number Four Hawk of the Decade is:

Shareef Abdur-Rahim

The Hawks had the #3 pick in the 2001 draft and worked out a variety of players who could continue the rebuilding started by the recent drafting of guards Jason Terry (#10, 1999), Dion Glover (#20, 1999), and DerMarr Johnson (#6, 2000).

It was a big man draft, which worked well for the Hawks, given the guard heavy draft focus above. The high school quartet of Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, DeSagana Diop, and Kwame Brown were all targets of then GM Pete Babcock, as was Duke straight man Shane Battier. Less known to all was the potential impact of Spaniard Pau Gasol. And, if the backcourt were still an option for Pete, Jason Richardson and a guy named Joe Johnson would be there, if wanted.

In the days leading up to the draft, Grizzlies GM Billy Knight was wanting to shed costs and one of the biggest salaries he could shed was that of sixth year forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Shareef was going into the third year of a 6 year, 70.88 million dollar deal and the Grizzlies were going nowhere. Babcock saw the opportunity to snag a young (25 at the time) 20/10 caliber power forward. As he stated after the deal was struck for Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight, and the Hawks pick in the 2001 draft, "We felt we could either draft someone who might become an All-Star or acquire someone who was already there." And so the deal was done.

Immediately upon arriving, Abdur-Rahim showed what had made him a productive player in VAN; a fundamenally sound, workman like post approach and a nice, if a little robotic, jump shooting style. Abdur-Rahim counting stats, constantly referenced in the tidy PPG/RPG format (as we did just above), were a product of high minutes and high usage, and his time in ATL was no different, trailing only Joe Johnson in Usage for the decade (25.4).

Despite the production and efficiency (20.2 PER), Abdur-Rahim's numbers rarely had the impact one would expect with stats (and contract) such as his. He produced, but it was as understated as he was and rarely had a take-over effect on games.

One fantastic exception was the Thanksgiving break explosion in 2001 against the Detroit Pistons, when Shareef dropped the magic (50) on their visitors in a 106-99 win. It would be one of two times Shareef scored 40+ points in his career, both with the Hawks. He had a great spin move to the hoop, great touch around the basket, and had an unusual way of dunking despite looking like he was (27) feet underneath the hoop.

He was recognized in 2002 as an NBA All-Star and, while his production validated his presence there, his ho-hum approach to the game didn't translate to that particular exhibition.

He played on a youthful, rudderless roster with questionable coaching and never complained, he just worked, and played solid basketball. He was never the star Babcock might have thought when acquiring him to grow with his young guards,and they never had a winning record with Shareef. His time as a Hawk ended when he was sent packing again by Billy Knight, now the Hawks GM, as he scrapped Babcock's roster and started over in 2004.

Despite his mild-mannered appearance, impact on the game and the team's record, Shareef led the team in PER for the decade, was near the top in total rebounding rate (6th, 13.3), defensive rating (4th, 105) and TS% (4th, 55%). In the traditional stats, he was 2nd in PPG (20.4), 3rd in rebounding (8.9), first in free throws made per game and attempted per game (5.5/6.6), 4th in FG% (47.3), 2nd in FT% (83.5), tied for 4th in steals (1.1), and was the best post presence the Hawks had before Al Horford showed up in the ATL. He grinded out efficiency and production every night he was here---not too high, not too low--much like his post game demeanor.

His consistent, dependable, high level production makes him THHB's Number Four Hawks of the Decade.

(Video Note: Looking around the webbage, there appears to be no video evidence of Shareef's time in the ATL, save for this TNT footage from '02-'03. So we've included a highlight package that has bits of him playing for everybody but the Hawks. Go figure.)

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