Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Free Agency: Go Time

Well, the votes are in--and the Hawks have elected to tender Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, Solomon Jones, and Mario West as presented here earlier in the day. This leaves Thomas Gardner and Othello Hunter as unrestricted free agents.

Marvin's tendering was no surprise--the team definitely wants to control things while they decide whether to extend/match him, trade him, or let him sign and play out his tender, leaving him unrestricted next season.

The Josh Childress move was also expected, as they would like to get something for him if he wants to rejoin the NBA and he costs them nothing (either cap or otherwise) if he plays overseas again next season.

What was less expected were the tenders of Solomon Jones and Mario West. Under CBA rules, the Hawks had to present a contract for a million dollars to each of them, above the approximate 770K they played for last season. That the Hawks felt so compelled to grant this raise and not let them take their chances as unrestricted free agents was surprising, given that their production was sub-par by any statistical measurement. It already hurts to have good guy Mo Evans getting paid 2.5 million for his less than average statistical achievements (PER 11.1), but to grant .6 million extra in cap space to two guys who the HHB believes would have a hard time finding a roster spot elsewhere, much less more than the minimum grinds the salary cap gears even more. If we were Jones and West, we'd sign those tenders immediately--before the Hawks changed their minds--but the HHB has been wayyy wrong before.

What else we learned on Tuesday:

We learned that Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur are not simply dumb jocks---they took their 12.3 and 9.0 million respectively and decided to stay put for one more year--until the cap friendly Summer of 2010. This puts the Jazz precariously close to luxury tax territory and having to make a tough choice on their own restricted free agent, Paul Millsap.

Our buddy, Ric Bucher, was kind to the Hawks today (Insider required) as he listed the ATL as potential fits for free agents Ben Gordon and Anderson Varejao, who opted out of his contract today and become a free agent. We had to laugh and agree with Bucher's assessment of Gordon as a fit for the Hawks, since they are stockpiling isolation scorers in Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and first round pick Jeff Teague, of whom the HHB has likened to Gordon in style and scoring. The Hawks won't get him since after all the Hawks own free agents and Teague is signed, there will likely be nothing more than the exception to work with, and that won't get it for Gordon, even if the Hawks were interested.

Varejao is a classic overstated role player who dipped in rebounding rate last season. He's a mid-level guy who sounds like he believes he is much more like Carlos Boozer. He's not.

Looks like Jason Kidd is going to make a date with the New York Knicks in an attempt to get the Dallas Mavericks jealous and pay him. He's a better fit with Dallas due to Dirk and JT and the Dallas offense than in New York but we'd sure like a point guard like him in Atlanta.

An interesting player that will be available as a potential Zaza replacement is Orlando's Marcin Gortat, who was very productive in a backup role behind Dwight Howard. His rebounding rates are similar to Pachulia, but his shot blocking rate is far higher, which always enthuses the HHB galleries. It remains to be seen if the lesser experienced Gortat receives less lucrative offers than Zaza, but we would like to see another shot blocker up front--should almost be a pre-requisite of the center position.

Related to free agency, Detroit ran Michael Curry out after one season as head coach, ostensibly to be able to sell the team better to free agents (seems odd to create chaos to ensure stability). Debating whether he deserved to go in light of GM Joe Dumars (isn't it obvious the Pistons are about him and no coach) ripping out Chauncey Billups, bringing in Allen Iverson, and alienating Rip Hamilton is irrelevant---don't you think Mike Woodson is happy he chose Atlanta instead of "waiting his turn" in Detroit?

As Dominique once told the HHB, that's why he'd never coach. He said "Coaches come and go--and the executives stay." So true.

Here is an updated list of free agents for 2009 with their corresponding PER (Hawks players in bold) and will be updated regularly:
Free Agents (restricted)PER
David Lee (RFA)19.07
Nate Robinson (RFA)18.95
Paul Millsap (RFA)18.77
Andre Miller18.71
Charlie Villanueva
Chris Anderson
Ramon Sessions (RFA)17.65
Marcin Gortat (RFA)
Ben Gordon
Jason Kidd16.95
Hakim Warrick (RFA)
Antonio McDyess16.63
Lamar Odom16.60
Brandon Bass16.49
Mike Bibby16.38
Drew Gooden16.34
Marvin Williams (RFA) 16.04
Shawn Marion16.02
Allen Iverson15.89
Ron Artest15.64
Trevor Ariza15.51
Grant Hill15.26
Rasheed Wallace14.91
Hedo Turkoglu14.82
Von Wafer14.79
Anderson Varajao14.62
Rasho Nesterovic14.15
Zaza Pachulia14.14
Joe Smith13.85
Raymond Felton (RFA)13.80
Shelden Williams13.78
Chris Wilcox13.37
Jarrett Jack (RFA)13.10
Wally Szczerbiak12.18
Anthony Parker12.16
Solomon Jones (RFA)
Robert Swift11.50
Theo Ratliff11.22
Glen Davis (RFA)10.77
Raef Lafrentz10.40
Channing Frye
Mario West (RFA)
Ime Udoka
Stromile Swift6.80
Malik Rose5.28

Hawks Restricted/Unrestricted Player Update

Unofficially, the Hawks have tendered a qualifying offer to the following players:

Marvin Williams
Josh Childress
Mario West
Solomon Jones

This makes them restricted free agents and will carry a cap number until they are signed and gives the team the right of first refusal.

This means that Othello Hunter and Thomas Gardner have not received those offers and will now be unrestricted free agents, free to run, and run, and run to the team of their choice---with no way for the Hawks to stop them.

The Hawks will, in both cases, have the ability to initiate a sign and trade---which means the Hawks will also hold a cap number on these players until they are signed. If the team wants to free themselves of that cap number, they must renounce the rights to those players and the Bird rights that go with them.

This is also the case with their current unrestricted free agents (Zaza Pachulia, Mike Bibby, and Ronald "Flip" Murray).

We will update when we go final on the list and we thank @atlanta_hawks for the update!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Free Agency, Day (Minus) 1

The free agent discussion seems to have heated up all around the way, and the HHB was made aware of a couple of omissions from yesterday's free agent list. The list has been updated and will be kept up/tweaked along the way.

Free agency discussions begin legally among NBA teams and players Wednesday (that's July 1st for the calendar impaired) and Tuesday is the deadline for teams to tender qualifying offers to their restricted free agents.

What we learned Monday:

The headline, to the surprise of former Raptors GM Rob Babcock, was that Charlie Villanueva was not tendered by the Milwaukee Bucks, thereby leaving him open for signing elsewhere. Sekou Smith immediately informed the Twitter watchers (he's @sekousmith01, so follow him already) that CV31 was indeed on the Hawks radar, but we will expect that Charles will have a few places to choose from, and most of them playoff teams. With @CV31 so prevalent on Twitter, fans of every team has started campaigns to recruit the free agent elect to their town.

The Bucks did, however, tender Villanueva's soon-to-be former Buck-mate, Ramon Sessions, meaning that they retain the right of first refusal on the young PG. The HHB doubts you'll see a quick offer to Sessions, as teams are likely going to interpret the non-tender of CV31 and the opposite on Sessions to indicate they will match, much like the free agency of Josh Smith last summer. Teams don't want to tie up that money while the Bucks decide whether or not to match (up to seven days). Now, that doesn't mean that Sessions' camp won't say that the Bucks won't match, as they will want to try to get an offer when there are more teams in the mix for his service. Ah, we're so cynical here.

Isn't it nice when you see a front office quickly identifying what's needed and moving towards that goal? That's what we see in Portland's front office, as they have identified that what they need is a veteran upgrade at the point guard position. Jason Kidd and Andre Miller are the two names that have immediately jumped into the discussion. Smart, verrry smart.

We also heard that Toronto is interested in fulfilling the 5 year, 50 million dollar fantasies of Hedo Turkoglu. This might make sense if the Raptors were a player away and they knew Chris Bosh were staying, but signing Hedo to a 5 year deal going into his Age 30 season doesn't make a lot of sense in their current position.

As for the fits for the Hawks, while CV31 has already been identified by Sekou, we believe that Drew Gooden might be a better fit for the Hawks. We spoke highly of Gooden's production in our initial look at the free agents and now ESPN's Ric Bucher listed Gooden as a Top 20 free agent target (Insider req) and suggested that Gooden is "an above-average rebounder and can create shots for himself on the block" and suited for a team that needs a player who can "provide points when the offense bogs down and jumpers are not falling." Hello---that's a job listing for the Hawks right there. Now Bucher didn't list the Hawks as good fit for the forward, to which we objected with following Twitter salvo:

@RicBucher You've got to add the Hawks for Drew Gooden. A good rebounder who provides post offense when the shots aren't falling? Perfect.
to which Bucher graciously responded:

RicBucher@THHB Not a bad point. I just know Atl's not spending any $. 1M factors in the FA game. Tried to consider as many as I could.
Ouch--the truth (and our reputation) hurts.

Mark Bradley, who might soon be indicted as a Hawks fan if he keeps providing such good material about the team, speculated as to the Hawks free agent batting average after attending yesterday's Jamal Crawford presser. Bradley offered the following about free agent Zaza Pachulia:

Zaza is a tougher call. The rumor is that San Antonio is interested, and that’s a great organization. But the Hawks might even have a fallback there. If Zaza leaves, then the Australian power forward David Andersen, who played last season for Barcelona and whose NBA rights the Hawks hold, could well become a person of interest.
Now, it's a new day in the Hawks Front Office when we are actually discussing using some of our stored up assets for good use. The HHB filed this under (potential good news) just after we filed the Pachulia info under (Dang).

Oh, and the ATL was listed, at least in one place, to be a top 10 free agent destination. In your face, Shelbyville!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009 Free Agent Outlook

As free agency approaches, the natural inclination is that everybody else's refuse is our treasure. We look at the warts on the players on our roster and wonder how great it would be if some team would make a deal with us?

The HHB wanted to take as honest a look with what limited statistical knowledge we have (thanks to Basketball Reference) and see if the grass was truly greener on the other teams via the free agency route.

From what we could gather from ESPN, here is the list of free agents for 2009 with their corresponding PER (Hawks players in bold) and will be updated with latest news:

Free Agents (restricted) PER
David Lee (RFA) 19.07
Nate Robinson (RFA) 18.95
Paul Millsap (RFA) 18.77
Andre Miller 18.71
Charlie Villanueva
Chris Anderson
Zydrunas Ilgauskus
Ramon Sessions (RFA) 17.65
Carlos Boozer 17.28
Marcin Gartat (RFA)
Ben Gordon
Jason Kidd 16.95
Hakim Warrick (RFA)
Antonio McDyess 16.63
Lamar Odom 16.60
Brandon Bass 16.49
Mike Bibby 16.38
Drew Gooden 16.34
Marvin Williams 16.04
Shawn Marion 16.02
Allen Iverson 15.89
Ron Artest 15.64
Trevor Ariza 15.51
Grant Hill 15.26
Rasheed Wallace 14.91
Hedo Turkoglu 14.82
Von Wafer 14.79
RFM 14.79
Anderson Varajao 14.62
Rasho Nesterovic 14.15
Zaza Pachulia 14.14
Joe Smith 13.85
Raymond Felton (RFA) 13.80
Shelden Williams 13.78
Chris Wilcox 13.37
Jarrett Jack (RFA) 13.10
Wally Szczerbiak 12.18
Anthony Parker 12.16
Solomon Jones 12.08
Robert Swift 11.50
Theo Ratliff 11.22
Glen Davis (RFA) 10.77
Raef Lafrentz 10.40
Channing Frye (RFA) 10.09
Ime Udoka 9.57
Stromile Swift 6.80
Malik Rose 5.28

We know that PER isn't the perfect tool, but this gives a general idea of what's out there and by a little more advanced statistical look, how our current free agents stack up.

Some thoughts:

Some of these players need to be looked at not how they did last year specifically, but how they are trending, their age, etc. For example, Andre Miller still looks like a productive PG, but how will he look at the end of a three year contract, if he accepts that? Same goes for our own Mike Bibby.

Also, one year aberrations should be noted as well, as in the case of RFM, who had his second best season out of the (7) seasons in the league.

Drew Gooden is in his Age 28 season in the league. Seems like he's been in the league for a long time. He is likely entering the "underrated productive forward" stage of his career and then end up in "used to be underrated but then everyone realized he was underrated and now he overrated/overpaid" part of his career. Bottom line---he's always been productive (he always seems to kill the Hawks) and will likely be underrated going into this offseason--could be a bargain.

Robert Swift was as productive as Solomon Jones, though both played in limited minutes---but it's interesting to note in case Rick Sund decides to bring Swift aboard.

Trevor Ariza is poised to get wildly overpaid (thanks to his Finals run) for somebody with his track record of league average play.

It will be interesting to see how Allen Iverson performs next season. 2008-09 was obviously his worst season, but has been a terrific producer (if you can handle what he does/doesn't do offensively) statistically. He is prime for a 1-year, prove it, contract--but from whom? You would think that Atlanta would suit him perfect--the town would love him, his defense would look superb compared to what currently passes, and he (ahem) knows the Hawks offense.

Speaking of shorter deals, Jason Kidd has settled into the next tier down from his excellent run in New Jersey. He is going into his Age 36 year, so one has to wonder what he has left--likely looking at a Sam Cassell circa 2005 contract (2 years). His fit on the Hawks would be questionable, given the Hawks anxiety about pushing the ball (unless a forward has the ball) and the propensity towards isolation sets.

Borrowing from Hoopinion's great cap status post here, we can look at the Hawks financial outlook for 2009 as it stands today. It looks as if we can almost rule out a RFA signing, as even with tendering Marvin and renouncing everyone else (Zaza, Childress, et al) the Hawks could only start @ around 6 million for free agents. With the RFA list including Sessions, Lee, Nate, Charlie V, you would think that a contract starting there would be matched immediately.

Hakim Warrick has improved every season and last year came close to equaling Josh Smith's totals, though Smith's were his lowest since his second season. Warrick, however, doesn't come close to touching Smoove in the block/steal categories.

The HHB wishes that they could bring Zydrunas Ilgauskus in, given that he has consistently produced for CLE, can run a pick and pop, and rebounds so well. Shaq is more productive, even @ 3 years older than Z--but not by that much statistically and not in the same way. If Z gets away, then he'll be the top center out there for someone to grab.

Ben Gordon might wish that he already had that 6 year, 54 million dollar deal in hand--especially considering he had provided slightly above average numbers for the Bulls in his five seasons there. The Hawks can hope that Jeff Teague gives them that level of production with the 19th pick.

Admit it, you're surprised that Ron Artest is less productive than Marvin Williams. Look at his career, and you'll see he's been overrated compared to what his perceived value has been, not even measuring in the insanity factor.

(Sidenote: When he was a rookie in the 1999-2000 season, we mentioned to the late, great Jeffrey Denberg that we loved Artest's defensive intensity and wished he was on the Hawks, to which Denberg quickly responded, "You don't want him, he's psycho." In his rookie season. Well done, Mr. Denberg.)

You can see why Brandon Bass is getting some attention out there. Teams are probably thinking they can get the guy on the cheap, but his production since coming to Dallas has been obvious and it looks like people noticed, making him a candidate to get overpaid. When Bass worked out for the Hawks in 2004 when he first put his name in the draft--he looks like he is now, a tough competitor who doesn't look pretty, but gets the job done.

Shawn Marion used to be considered elite when he was @ Phoenix, but whether it's malaise or the effects of not being with an all-star PG, his production numbers have dropped across the board. A west coast team might be able to coax better seasons, especially those with a good point guard (let's rule out the Hawks then), considering he is entering his Age 31 season, but he may just be falling fast.

Hedo Turkoglu wants 50 million dollars over 5 years like Corey Maggette got last season, trying to revive the ol' "one bad contract deserves another" philosophy to negotiation. Turkoglu was a piece in the Magic's success, but it is saying something that the Magic would turn him loose so quick. They basically got an upgrade on the one trick pony by bringing in Vince Carter. This would be a player that the old Hawks might have signed, pre-Billy Knight. Thankfully, those days are gone--we hope.

Raymond Felton doesn't score well on the PER either, so it's good to look at why, considering Felton is touted as a good, young PG. His turnovers are high and his shooting percentage is awful, especially in the EFG, TS%, and his raw 3pt shooting, you understand why. When you have to envy Josh Smith's 3-pt prowess, you are struggling.

When you look at the crop of free agents, Marvin Williams comes out looking pretty good. Zaza Pachulia plays up to his backup center status and as one of the league's best offensive rebounders. Mike Bibby is as effective as his shot makes him--no big surprise there--last year being very good to him and lifting him above the league average. RFM produced at league average for minimum pay--he likely won't have to settle for that, but any team that signs him (especially the Hawks) have to understand his inconsistency and history. Solomon Jones may not get another look if the Hawks cut him loose, and while we have been down on Jones here, there are obviously worse players collecting a check. Doesn't mean the Hawks have to have him though, right?

UPDATE: As we said, we knew we'd miss someone, and Sekou has the name first on his free agents entry---his name and PER has been inserted--and yes, we should be interested--greatly.

UPDATE 2: Electric Boogaloo: Milwaukee has decided NOT to offer Charlie V a qualifier, making him unrestricted.

The HHB are not sabermagicians and understand that PER has limitations and this list may not be completely complete (hey, if airlines can have a last final call, we can have completely complete)---All conversation will be held inside the think tank that is the Comments Area.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bah, Humbug!

The worst part of any draft, be it NFL, NBA, or even your run of the mill fantasy sports draft, is seeing the player you most desperately want taken right in front of you. It seems to happen endlessly and while you should expect it, it still never fails to deflate your spirits.

So it's with great apathy that the HHB welcomes Jeff Teague, Wake Forest to the Hawks Nation.

Teague, who was only forecasted by hundreds of draft mockers to go to the Hawks, seems like a good enough pick, but the prospects of a Ty Lawson selection (officially endorsed by the HHB, if you didn't know) was so close (he was snapped up by the Nuggets by way of one of the TimberWolves 99 picks in the draft a single pick before the Hawks slot) that no amount of goodness can seem to wash it away.

Still, many draft observers raved about the new Hawks guard--so much so that we had to ask ourselves--other than sour grapes---why be disappointed about Teague? After all he put up these numbers (32.7 Pts/100 possessions, 50.1 2PTFG%, 44.1 3PTFG% (102 attempts), 81.7 FT%, 48.2 FT Rate--thanks, Hoopinion!) in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. He hung 30 on North Carolina and 28 on Duke. He was repeatedly lauded for his skill of getting into the lane offensively. He is an exceptional leaper, can get to the rim, and has great range on his shot.

So what's the problem?

Well stop us if you have heard this before--His listed (supposed, we will allow) weaknesses include a lack of defense, no real point guard acumen, turnover prone, and is a bit of a tweener.

In other words, the Hawks selected another combo guard who doesn't handle the ball well, looks to shoot, and doesn't have a real position.

If you missed it, the Hawks just traded for Jamal Crawford, who exhibits the exact same portfolio but has at least three inches of height on Teague. Ronald "Flip" Murray is also cut from this cloth, thought he is an unrestricted free agent. Joe Johnson also likes to dribble and shoot.

Heck, no wonder Josh Smith took so many outside shots and raced the ball upcourt himself last year--he must have felt that this would eventually be the only way to get the ball--after all if you can't beat them, join them. What a seer!

Also, most folks believe that there is no way that the Hawks will invest the money they are in Crawford and Teague and still bring back Mike Bibby (especially if the cheaper Murray is retained)--in fact, Crawford himself was rumored to have said in an interview that he was to be the Hawks starting PG. This would leave the Hawks with no actual point guard, again---a sickness that has haunted this franchise forever and hindered them from getting to the playoffs prior to Bibby's arrival late in the '07-'08 season.

The point guard position is a quarterback role on a basketball team and can often be the vocal leader. The Hawks lack both on the court and the missed opportunity to address it through the draft and the financial barriers around doing it through free agency exacerbate the frustration we feel when the Hawks continue to go down a path they've well taken by adding Teague.

We hope that Teague emerges as a Ben Gordon type scoring juggernaut for the Hawks, but to us, right now, he smacks of an unproven NBA project who has no position and simply duplicates what exists currently on the roster and, possibly, eliminates some skill sets (by losing Bibby) that aren't replaced by the young guard.

Still, Hawks GM Rick Sund believes they took the best athlete available, which is close to saying the best player available, but not quite--but really, taking who they felt was the best, regardless of need or what we already have is all you can ask for a team--heck, it's almost all we asked just prior to the draft.

There are still some trade pieces left to play for the Hawks (Childress, Marvin, etc.) so we won't surrender to our initial negativity as yet, but selecting a player who continues to enable a failed, flawed offensive "philosophy" of isolation, dribble, and shoot does not excite us.

Why Can't You Be More Like Your Brother?

We have to ask---why is it that, no matter who the regime is or who owns the Hawks, that they:

1. Don't trade up strategically to select anyone that has ridiculously slipped (No, Dan Dickau does not count).

2. Draft a second round pick who will "stay overseas" (Read: won't cost anything)

Now, we understand that the Hawks selected a shooter (surprise!) Sergiy Gladyr who has good game, but so does David Andersen, but that hasn't brought the big fella over to help out the team in the States yet, eh? Alain Digbeu and Antonis Fotsis (who did play in the NBA, but only after the Hawks dealt him to PHL) are also part of this famed club. Heck, even Josh Childress can get in on his restricted free agent pass.

The Hawks had some pieces to deal, and some talent to acquire on draft night, but the Hawks seemed content to stand pat and in other cases, punt. Seeing Blair drop into San Antonio when the Hawks desperately needed size/rebounding and everybody, so it seemed, was dealing picks above the Hawks, smells an awful lot like a missed opportunity. In fact, there seemed to be so much movement by other teams desperate to improve through the draft process that the Hawks, even with the trade for Crawford, seemed sedentary by comparison.

In fact, soon after the Teague pick, Hawks.com draft room spy, Micah Hart, tweeted that Sund made the statement that "
I'm definitely happy with what we've done today." That Sund seemed content doesn't necessarily mean they were ready to hang up the phones and stop working, but it doesn't exactly engender the feeling that it (trading for more talent) was on their minds either.

Party Time!

We thank The Bill Shanks Show for having us on all day yesterday. We talked a lot of hoops, Hawks, and even chatted with Bob Rathbun. We watched as Vince Carter rumors rose and then graduated to honest to goodness trade status. Good times---

We also had a great time on the night long (and it was long) draft chat, hosted by the HHB and Hoopinion. Thanks to all who stopped by and commented and most of all, to Bret, who set the whole thing up. It wasn't all we wanted the evening to be (would it have killed the Hawks to move up for Bret's DeJuan Blair pick?) but it was good to have company as it all unfolded.

The HHB is pleased to have the NBA Christmas over for 2009, but enjoyed it greatly--further thoughts about the Hawks pick or anecdotes regarding draft night can be shared in the temperature controlled Comments Area.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Draft Time!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Official 2009 HHB Draft Endoresment

Having the home team picking 19th and endorsing a selection is considerably more difficult than when they pick in the Top 5. It can be so unpredictable in attempting to determine who will be even available at that point much less try to pinpoint a specific player to endorse for the team.

But of course, we will do it anyway.

What we would like to see the Hawks do:

It's what we want them to do every year---pick the best player available. Need only comes into play when the talent levels are the same. You don't pick Shelden Williams because you "need a big man" or pass on Brandon Roy because you already have that same skill set--not when that player is immensely more talented and NBA ready than the player that fits that "need".

You know what every team needs? More talent.

What we don't want to see the Hawks do:

Other than reach for a "need", the HHB doesn't want to see the team take a player that doesn't have a better than even shot at making a rotation in the NBA. This would include taking a project Priest Lauderdale style or the tradition of trying to uncover a diamond in the rough and trying to, as Dave Pendergraft called it "trying to hit a home run".

Of the players who fit the profile, who would we endorse as the next Atlanta Hawk?

Up until Wednesday afternoon, it looked as if the Hawks would be selecting from point guards like Wake Forest's Jeff Teague, UCLA's Darren Collison, VCU's Eric Maynor, and North Carolina's Ty Lawson. Among the big men, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Ohio State's BJ Mullens.

Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Chad Ford made an interesting move on his latest Mock Draft, having 19 year old Brandon Jennings move down to the Hawks' slot on the draft board.

There are projects (Jennings, Teague, Mullens), proven productive players (Lawson, Collison, Maynor), and then NBA question marks (Hansbrough).

Of these types, it seems the players most likely to succeed under Mike Woodson's Hawks teams is the type of player who is ready to contribute today (read: no projects). There is no sense selecting a player with "huge upside" if you don't have the framework in place to develop that project. For those who wish to use Josh Smith as an example to the contrary, the HHB would point out that this is not a (13) win team anymore and the goals of the team (and definitely the coach) have changed and that would preclude a project from garnering the development he would need.

No, the Hawks need to select someone who can help the team next season, someone who can give the team solid minutes while also providing in an area of perceived need. Fortunately, this draft provides one of these, the point guard, in bushels.

Sure, the team could take a look at player like Tyler Hansbrough, but as we've written here already, while you can't debate the hustle and desire the guy has, you can debate whether he will be able to be a productive player in the NBA. Hustle is only a skill in the NBA if you have the athleticism to marry to that. Hansbrough lacks the explosiveness needed to make the rest of his skill sets relevant. He's a below the rim player in an above the rim league.

So that leaves the point guards, and from the list we have been given regarding potential availability, the only non-projects seem to be Collison, Lawson, and Maynor.

Of these, Ty Lawson stands out as the most productive, the fastest, and most complete of the point guards available. The drawback to Lawson on the Hawks is that the team doesn't seem to want its point guard to penetrate and finish, as Lawson's explosiveness enables him to do. But, as a proposed backup to Bibby or Crawford (or both), he would be an excellent change of pace on the court. And when the Hawks would want to crank up the speed of the game, something they should do more often given the advantages the team enjoys with their 4 and 5 (Smith and Horford) being able to outrun the other team down the court, they would have maybe the fastest trigger man in the draft in Lawson to lead the way.

So when the Hawks are on the clock, if Lawson is there, that's whose name the HHB will be hoping to be called.

Blessed Insurance

On the first pass, the trade of Acie Law and Speedy Claxton to Oakland for Jamal Crawford seems a simple equation:

Nothing for Something = Good!

But the trade, while inspiring some "Hey, we're active!" from those of us who watched as the Magic went to the Finals and the Wizards look ready to Flip their record (ah? ah? Clever!), has brought up perhaps more questions and angles than it answered.

To wit, there are variables that have yet to be resolved which obscure what the organ-i-zation may intend with this deal---assuming it's more than the parsimonious just give me your something for my nothing .

Mike Bibby:

With Crawford on board, does he get resigned? One might think that, with Crawford perpetuating the Hawks' stand-around-and-dribble-then-shoot-a-jumper offense, that having Bibby on board would nicely augment the new addition, given that he would be drawing the defense toward him and giving Crawford the same kind of "protection" that Joe Johnson received the day Bibby was able to healthily don Hawks gear officially.

Others could consider that doing so would make Crawford an expensive Hawk ornament and an expensive upgrade to RFM.


Does the arrival of Crawford mean that, assuming a re-signed Bibby and incumbent Joe Johnson, that the terrific season that RFM had would be a one-season show?

With the noted--ummm--deficiencies---on defense with Crawford and the already well documented defensive weaknesses of Mike Bibby, letting RFM go would leave Johnson as the only guard currently on the roster who looks like they were taking notes when Professor Defense was teaching his class.

The Draft:

The HHB is satisfied that the team upgraded the roster (assuming all else remains) without sweetening the deal with the valued asset that is an NBA first round draft pick.

But does the trade for Crawford mean anything related to what the Hawks will do with the #19 pick in the draft? Will it mean that they will now pass on any younger option in the backcourt with now another guard (who will actually play) on the roster?

Will they feel enabled to select a big man---and yes, we're all wincing about the prospects of another ACC big man "gracing" the roster---on a roster that sorely needs more talent and size, especially with the unknown of Zaza Pachulia's free agency?

Anyone Who Isn't A Guard:

One wonders, again--assuming the roster remains intact, if the Hawks frontcourt will either bother to practice thier shooting in the offseason?

Can you imagine a roster with Bibby, Johnson, RFM, and now the quick draw of Jamal Crawford? If Al Horford can get (5) shots a game, it will be because he is killing it on the offensive glass.

Sayyyyy--What, Say What, Say What?

So how does it all compute in the Official HHB Thought-O-Meter?

First of all, let's state a fact that this trade obviously brought out---that Acie Law was not trusted or being counted by the team to be the point guard of the future for the Hawks. Law now joins Sheldon Williams as former lottery picks that were quickly shipped off for a veteran guard near the end of his expensive contract when it was obvious that they weren't going to make a positive impact in the NBA.

That the Hawks Nation of Bloggers (HNB) had this nailed by the end of the season--so much so in fact that it was obvious to everyone that Point Guard was still a present and future need--speaks to the obviousness of this fact.

The HHB must have had the ol' ears burning when we decided to reach out (via Twitter) to our Tweet-buddy and now former Hawk Speedy Claxton to get some info about if he had been given any direction about where he would be next year. Within an hour, though not be a Claxton response, we had our answer.

Bottom line---Bringing in Crawford not only gives the Hawks a useful player for two players the team had no use for, but also provides insurance in case either Bibby or RFM won't be back. At this point it's unknown what Bibby or RFM will receive as offers for their services. If the Hawks were simply going to sit back and expect that one or both of them would be back, it would leave them in a weaker position should both of them get offers that were financially prohibitive to match and at that point scrambling for any talent life raft that may not be available at that point.

It's a proactive move that gives the Hawks options--a nice bit of decision making that could be considered unusual to longtime Bird Watchers, but certainly welcome.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coming Up! (Live at Atlanta)

You want a better kind of future
One that everyone can share
Youre not alone, we all could use it
Stick around were nearly there

We can only hope for this McCartney-esque (circa Wings) type enthusiasm for Thursday's draft and its impact on the Hawks. When we look around the prognostications they range from Jeff Teague (ESPN--reg req), Jeff Teague (Naismith Lives), Jeff Teague (Drew@ Peachtree Hoops via Ball Don't Lie), Jeff Teague (The Sports Xchange via Yahoo), and finally Jeff Teague (DraftExpress) we wonder if we should be crazy for thinking of any other player?

We believe that Teague would have us crossing our fingers and hoping that the flash he showed last season will translate to a more even effort for the Birds, if drafted. But after reading the excellent interview that Hawks.com magnate Micah Hart authors w/Director of Player Personnel Dave Pendergraft, we are left feeling that the Hawks are not playing the Teague card if there is a more sure thing (think Lawson, Collison) that can translate to an asset (or getting on base as Pendergraft calls it) rather than "swing for the fences", which going for Teague may better symbolize.

Elsewhere, the Timberwolves have heavily invested in a draft that may be the worst since the fabled 2000 draft (DerMarr Johnson draft for those Bird watchers). Their (4) picks are the most since the Hawks had the same amount in the 1999 draft.

You remember that draft, right? JT was the 10th pick---then it went downhill, big time. Cal Bowdler was the next Hawk pick @ 17--to the vocal disapproval of those at CNN Center. Then, local (and injured) favorite Dion Glover went with the 20th pick and the other local fave--Jumaine Jones was drafted, but the pick had already been promised to the Sixers, which drew more boos. Yes!

Draft Day/Night Hijinx!

The HHB will be busy on Thursday, starting with our annual Official Draft Endorsement entry in the morning. Then, later in the day, we will appear as a in-studio guest host on The Bill Shanks Show (3PM-6PM EST) where we will (presumably) be talking NBA Draft and the Hawks (sometimes both!).

That night, we will humbly join Hoopinion for a Draft Night chat-a-thon over at their place. We will no doubt be shown to be the know nothing goof to Bret's highly educated opinions---still should be good times, so watch for it over there and plan on being there with us throughout the draft goodness!

The HHB wants to know who you would pick in this draft--Those thoughts and other important sharings can be left in the Comments Area.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wanted: Inspiration

When the HHB is losing sleep (and not over those pesky Josh Smith trade rumors) because the newest member of the crew is waking up every two hours, the basketball offseason seems to race by.

That said--and despite mock drafts and predraft workouts, old NBA drafts on TV, ridiculous (or maybe not) trade rumors, and the always stimulating Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions (seriously, can't get enough of that, can ya?)--the HHB is longing for something that will inspire.

Thought: We thought we could get geared up that Josh Smith will be heading out to Vegas to participate in the summer workouts, hoping that it will result in the same accolades afforded Al Horford when he did the same last season.

Reality: We remembered that, when Horford returned to the team he was handed the same dirty mop he had propped in the corner from the season before. Additional skill only matters when it is put into use and the Hawks had no use for Al's well earned basketball merit badges--after all he's their "hustle guy" (Sorry, Flubber).

Thought: We could get excited by the fact that the Hawks actually have picks in the Official NBA Draft!

Reality: Through Hoopinion's and Micah Hart's breakdown of the players, it seems clear that, should the Hawks pick a point guard (which is an about 85-90 percent of the audience right now), the player they get will likely be solid, but not great, and likely not anything more than an (at most) eighth or ninth man. With coach Mike Woodson's track record, maybe not even that much.

Yet, we still find ourselves unmoved by any big men, can't get behind another shooting guard or small forward type---and that leaves us with the point guards, which also seem to provide the most value in that draft slot.

Thought: We could get fired up about Tyler Hansbrough declaring himself the next David Lee and write a thousand words about how it's just not true.

Reality: Sure, we could remind Tyler that David won a dunk competition that didn't involve a little brother and that explosiveness has served him well in the NBA, but we would be missing the point of Hansbrough's well placed comparison.

It's all about the money.

The HHB seriously doubts if Hansbrough really believes he can produce like Lee--but he did the right thing in reminding people that they seriously underestimated Lee when left the University of Florida and selflessly paved the way for back to back championships. (Much love, David).

As teams wonder about Tyler's draft slot, he puts a little fear and doubt in their minds by referencing Lee, who would surely go a lot higher if that draft were held with today's knowledge in mind and in turn gets himself placed in, potentially, that higher draft slot.

But Tyler, seriously--we watched David Lee and we've watched you---and while we admire your tenacity--you are no David Lee.

In the end, we are left without a muse--and searching for answers---or at least the next rumor.

About Josh Smith

We have received some notes asking us what we think/thought about the Smith trade rumors and what we think is this----unless it's a can't miss deal for the Hawks there is no way the Hawks should pull the cord on Smith.

No doubt--right now, he's far from the perfect player. But---The things that have prevented Smith from being an even bigger positive factor for the Hawks are still teachable and to panic and deal Smith for even 3 quarters on the dollar is what the old timers would call "second division" thinking.

For a long time Hawks fans longed to see the Hawks draft a player that other teams should have taken long before the Hawks stole him. They have wanted a player that other teams and fans were interested in--someone who sparks the imagination with his ability. Smith does, in fact, fit that bill--and his contract is reasonable for someone that young and with such ability.

Years ago, Portland traded a player too early, one they had spent a similar draft pick as the Hawks spent on Smith and (4) years developing. Think the Blazers wouldn't mind getting a do-over on the Dale Davis/Jermaine O'Neal deal in 2000?

The LA Times opined at the time of the trade that "
When O'Neal did get into games, usually as a backup to aging center Arvydas Sabonis, he showed promising shot-blocking and rebounding skills at the defensive end, but almost no touch on offense."

Other publications echoed such sentiment---since then, however, the trade has been recorded as one of the more lopsided deals of all time. Anybody want the Birds to be on that list (again)?

That's not to say the Hawks shouldn't pull the trigger if the deal is too good to turn down---but with players as young and as talented as Smith--to be cliche'---the better deal is likely the one they don't make.

The HHB is seeking inspiration to pull them from the silent halls of the Official HHB Headquarters. Suggestions and Recipes can be offered in the Comments Area.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26...
In Vietnam he was 19.

Ninininininininininin 19 nininininninin 19

For being followers of a team that has not done so tremendously well either in the draft lottery or in the actual draft itself, the HHB gets very excited for the NBA draft.

Recently, The Almighty Hawks Website, Hawks.com, asked a few of us for our thoughts on what the Hawks should do with the #19 pick in the draft. Our thoughts rained down as written below:

Being that for almost a decade now the key pieces to the basketball team, a point guard and a center, are still understaffed and continue to be the places that we wish the Hawks to focus for the long term.

Mike Bibby, while being a key part of a turnaround, has been and is a short term solution to the point guard solution. That the team has seen fit not to give Acie Law the backup minutes behind Mike this season that would be needed to evaluate whether he is the long term solution to the position (while Mike was in a contract year to boot) means to the HHB that the team must not be sold on Law at all---actions, as they say, speak louder than words.

As it is, there is quite a population of proven point guards available in this year’s draft, and as we are always a fan a drafting the best available talent regardless of position, this year the Hawks might have the best of both worlds, picking the best available while still addressing the need at the point.

About the big men: Rick Sund speaks certainly regarding Al Horford’s future in the league-and it’s at center-so while the Hawks need to beef up the frontcourt, using the draft when there may not be the type of talent at center that there might be at point guard, would lead the HHB to look at other avenues to beef up the frontcourt (including re-signing Zaza Pachulia) and leave the Hawks drafting their future floor general.
Nothing that has transpired since has altered this view---it still looks like some quality floor leaders are going to be the best value where the Hawks are selecting. Both Micah and Bret have been tracking the draft along with the usual national links like our old friend (and fellow Gator) Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress.

(Side Story--CAUTION!) We worked with Givony @ the old DraftCity and was covering the Hawks 2004 draft workouts when we were locked out of the workouts after having too-little nice to say about JR Smith (nothing mean or negative really--We just dared to say he was uneven and not the can't miss lottery candidate other outlets were predicting at the time).

Our fearless predicting (We love Kirk Snyder!) should have tipped the world off that we were (and still are) harmless, but we suppose enough people were reading to be dangerous--strange.

Anyway, we love the process and especially love when quality guys start to drop (i.e. Rajon Rando in '06) for no apparent reason. The position most likely to drop is the point guard and that's what we have been seeing, at least in the mock drafts, with such names as Teague, Lawson, and Collison coming on down. The Hawks are poised to, at least, get a point guard they can trust to play behind Bibby. (We really don't want to pretend the Hawks may not sign Mike, since they have done everything but carve an AH + MB heart in the Philips Arena court--but we guess we will have to wait and see.)

The HHB celebrates the changing family times in the Hawks blogosphere--As we welcome the fifth piece to our personal All-HHB team, we congratulate Drew @ Peachtree Hoops for their nuptials and safety on their travels.