Atlanta Hawks Choose Cash Over Winning on Draft Night

This may not be fair, but it's how I feel: On a night that could have shown the Hawks as a savvy, clued-in franchise, they chose thrifty instead in their approach to the 2010 NBA Draft.

Let's be clear, they got a first round talent, Jordan Crawford, and even wisely traded down to do it. But to focus on that one player and that one pick is to bury the lead of the evening, ignore the obvious truths that surround this franchise, and to blindly believe that the Atlanta Hawks are serious about being any kind of champion.

The night started grand, with a ton of talent that the Hawks were looking at drifting down the draft board to them at the 24th pick. Big men like Solomon Alabi, Daniel Orton, Hassan Whiteside, and Jarvis Varnado were all on the table, as were the backcourt players they looked at as well. As the picks came off the board, it was clear the Hawks would have multiple players they liked to choose from.

So they did what any really savvy franchise would do: Trade back, pick up an extra pick,  and get two of the players you wanted instead of just one. And they did just that, first drafting Texas forward Damion James and then shipping him to New Jersey for the 27th pick and the coveted first pick in the second round, #31.

Euphoria swept the Hawks fandom as we quickly added up that the Hawks could address both a small and a big with the two picks. Sure enough, when #27 came up, Xavier's Jordan Crawford was the pick. 

Crawford, who can be compared to Jamal Crawford and Ben Gordon, was a good value there, and it allowed the Hawks to begin to focus on a big man with their next pick. Alabi, Whiteside, and Orton were all still available just before the Hawks were set to pick at #31. Then Orton came off the board, leaving the Hawks with two big men to choose from, as well as Varnado.

This was it. We were going to be one of those teams who played the draft with precision and skill, picking up a couple of players who can help the team and improve the overall depth. No more Jason Collins type player, even if it were a project big man coming into the fold. It was an odd feeling of  "we're doing it, we're that team this year". Odd because draft night has been historically a collective stomach punch for Hawks fans over the years.

So the 31st pick seemed like it took forever to be announced. We just knew something sweet was coming. We were going to pull one over on the league, get a scorer and a shot blocking big man by trading back. This was going to be sweet. Folks even started to wonder what we could get at #53, daring to dream about getting (3) guys who could help even this season.

Something became amiss when the pick was announced, and it was Tibor Pleiss, the German center. Then, ESPN announced the worst: Not only was this pick not going to be a Hawk, rather, it would be going to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Hawks weren't even going to take a player for the pick. 

Nope. They sold it for cash considerations. Guess somebody needed some rent money at the end of the month.

So long two for one. So long caring about the depth of the team. The Hawks are a financially strapped organization, you see, so they couldn't afford to have a second player they would have to pay coming out of this draft.

At #53, the Hawks again went cheap, selecting Pape Sy from France, which means he can continue to "work on his game" overseas and the Hawks don't have to pay. If he becomes anything, they can either bring him to the States or pawn him off for something else..a la David Andersen of the Rockets.

Terrific.

To sum it up, the Hawks traded down, and got some cash. Why trade down and help a team if you are not going to even use the extra pick you got to trade down to help your roster?

Well, you see, the 27th pick has a cheaper salary slot than the 24th pick and they can make a couple of extra bucks by selling, as the network described it, one of the most valued assets in the draft, the first pick of the second round.

Oof.

Watching a franchise like the Thunder, who expertly moved up and down the draft, doing the things that winning franchises do to build a champion, and then watch your club make the money grab is a sobering comparison indeed.

Last season, the Hawks carried the minimum amount of players required by NBA law last season. They consistently eschew quality toward the end of the bench for as yet undetermined reasons. They had the opportunity to greatly improve the quality..or at least the potential quality of the bench by simply taking advantage of the situation in front of them.

Instead, they punted, and got paid to do so. Swell.

Further sad truths come when you understand that these second round picks can be, especially at #31, incredibly financially efficient assets for the team. Certainly what you would pay for that pick (or top players in the D-League, for that matter) would be better, dollar for dollar, than forking out the vet minimum for Joe Smith and Jason Collins. Easily.

The Hawks need a lesson on financial organization. If they are so strapped for cash that they can't even put the #31 pick on the roster, then please don't overpay John Salmons to come in here and play at the league average (you hope) for three seasons or pay Joe Johnson a six year max deal for the two decent seasons he might have left.

To trade back and get nothing more than some green for your bottom line when the opportunity was there to improve the depth of your roster and get one of the big men you had been looking at is a transparent money move for your entire fan base and the league to see.

This, on the heels of making another miserly decision on coaching, going with the extremely affordable Larry Drew versus Dwane Casey.

Spare us the script on how much money you spent on the roster last season. These are the types of moves that tell everyone whether you're serious about winning a championship, or that you would like to win a championship, if we can get it on sale.

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