The state of the Atlanta Hawks small forward

Remember back in the day (and by day I mean three years ago) when it seemed like every player on the Hawks was 6'7'' or 6'8 and weighed 220 lbs? I used to call that defense "the captain planet." Everyone just stretch out their arms and by their powers combined they could cover every inch of the floor. Ahhh the good ol' days, when the beer flowed like wine.

Well, if Marvin Williams leaves this off season, the Hawks will have Mo Evans, Joe Johnson, or Josh Smith to play that 6'8'' 220ish position. None of those guys gets me running for the 2010 all star ballot.

A Look Back

Marvin Williams went into the summer trying to move his excellent two point jump shot range behind the arc. He finished the season shooting 35% from behind the arc on 155 attempts which was 47 more attempts than he had in his first three years combined. All in only 61 games of action. Probably the most impressive summer leap on the team right there. And I assume that 35% will only get better.

For all the talk about Marvin and his draft position, he has improved every year without any of the attitude another steady Hawk improver has had. Marvin's PER has increased each season, up to 16 this year (league avg. is 15) and his rebounds have increased every year. This year especially, Marvin has not only taken steps to be the best on the ball defender for the Hawks, he revels in the challenge. Watching Marv guard the likes of Paul Pierce and LeBron James, he showed more emotion on those defensive stops than I have ever seen on the offensive end. (Then again that Bibby esque dance after the would be game winner against Boston might have something to do with his normal decision to remain calm.) All this and he remains only 22.

But the mysterious back injury was certainly a bit scary. It was good for his bank account and the Hawks psyche that he came back for the playoffs and the only thing lacking was his timing, touch, and stamina. Still, back injuries that don't have words like "strain" in them stay over a players head for a long time.

The NBA may be a guards league these days, but small forwards more and more act like guards. Shoot, there is actually a term called point-forward. And for many teams, the primary point scorer still comes from this position. It is not surprising then that the Hawks greatest difference in PER by position for is at the small forward at -.8 (stat per 82games.com).

Overall, with Joe in the lineup, Marvin has always struggled to assert himself outside of the sporadic drive, open jumper, and fast break bucket. He certainly never demands the ball. And Mo Evans may have an excellent record in the games he started, but with Mo, you have a lesser defender and a more limited player on offense. Woody used Joe and Josh in the small forward slot either as a response to matchups or a desperation method to keep Acie Law on the bench.

Looking ahead

Tendering Marvin an offer is a must. Far too much investment has gone into him as a player and far too much potential remains to lose him for nothing. I do not care if Sund did not draft him. You get something for the effort of the organization and the loyalty of the fans. A sign and trade is a minimum for him. And with the tendered offer being over 6 million for next year, I could see all three options of resigning, trade, or acceptance of the final year salary by Marvin to be a real possibility.

Since I have always liked Marvin, I must throw out this little stat. If by miracles/horribleness (whichever your perspective) Marv becomes more aggressive and/or Joe Johnson is no longer on the team, Mr. Williams did go for 23 and 29 points in the two games Joe missed this season. Sample size, smample size.

Unless the Hawks move up in the draft or have a drastic change in vision regarding their own players (ie Joe Johnson or Josh Smith to the three), the Hawks must enter next season with Marvin Williams or someone of his equivalent as the starting small forward. Mo Evans is an excellent 8th man, but if he is starting opening night next November that means the Hawks downgraded a starter and weakened an already weak bench. And that of course will make me cry.

Final Thoughts

I would resign Marvin if I was Sund. I think in this economy you could can get Marvin for what he is worth which is a nice perk since Marvin's high draft status and still high potential normally bring suiters willing to overpay. That said I would certainly listen to offers. I do not think Marvin is ever going to the be the franchise center piece some number two picks turned out to be.

Finally, to take a trip on the "what if" train, if Woodson was not our coach and we could get him for two years and I was feeling a little crazy, I would not be opposed to a little one Ron Artest.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to to board the "what if" train or stay in reality.

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