Peachtree Hoops is taking a look at past drafts from 1999-2010, with pick analysis, draft day stories, and anything else associated with what has historically been a day of broken dreams for the ATL.
Proceed with Caution.
Previous Rewinds: 1999, 2000. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
THE WHIFF OF WHIFFS: ATLANTA HAWKS DRAFT--2005
This was this Hawks Watchers generation's big miss. This would be the draft that current NBA fans would joke and kid their Hawks fan friends about. This was the draft that caused heartbreak to their fans and sent the fanbase spirally down a staircase of "what ifs".
The previous generation endured a similar verbal ribbing from the Hawks blunder in 1985 when, with the fifth pick and such players such as St. John's Chris Mullin, Washington's Detlef Schrempf, Virginia Union's Charles Oakley, and Louisiana Tech's Karl Malone, the Hawks took Jon Koncak from SMU.
Koncak, a good guy and a legit 7 footer, was rated highly due to former St. Louis Hawks' GM and then NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake's premise that "you can't teach height."
But Koncak would be a double edged sword for Hawks fans. Not only did he duplicate the great Tree Rollins and never come close to living up to his fifth overall pick slot, he was the subject of a high stakes free agency game of chicken between the Detroit Pistons and the Hawks in the 1989 offseason.
The Pistons, having lost Rick Mahorn in the expansion draft, went looking for a replacement and set their sights on the Hawks' Koncak. The numbers, though meager by today's standards, sent shockwaves through the NBA and pioneered a significant raise in salaries in the NBA. The Pistons offered a 1 year, 2.5 million dollar contract and the Hawks, not wanting to lose their investment and see it move to their closest competitor, moved quick to sign Koncak to a 6 year, 13.2 million dollar deal.
Back to 2005.
LEADING UP TO THE DRAFT:
The Hawks were by far the worst team in basketball in 2004-2005, but there were some bright spots on the horizon of Hawks GM Billy Knight's rebuilding plan. Their two first round picks from the year before, Josh Childress and Josh Smith were already their most productive, efficient players. The two swingmen started their rookie season, even though playing on a woefully talent challenged team, and posted over 15+ PER.
Also, Knight looked to upcoming free agency to bolster the team further by targeting Phoenix Suns guard Joe Johnson to add to Childress and Smith.
Surely the Hawks were set at the swingmen quota. Even with Billy Knight's fetish with 6-8 to 6-10 players, having three 25 and under players would suffice, right? Right?
Despite being the worst team, the Hawks only got the second pick in the draft, as the Milwaukee Bucks landed the top spot and immediately focused on Utah's center Andrew Bogut.
The players mainly in the mix for the Hawks at #2 were Wake Forest's Chris Paul, Illinois' Deron Williams, and North Carolina's supersub freshman standout Marvin Williams.
Draft pundits had touted Williams persistently,even arguing that Marvin should be the #1 pick overall.
Said ESPN's Chad Ford regarding Milwaukee's pick:
A mock draft is supposed to tell you who the Bucks are going to take ... not who they should take. I still believe that Marvin Williams should be the No. 1 pick in the draft, but all the chatter I'm hearing out of Milwaukee is that the Bucks are leaning strongly in Bogut's direction. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad pick. Bogut has the chance to be special and he's a low-risk player. But I'm still not convinced it's the right decision.
and about Atlanta's pick:
There's talk that the Hawks want Deron Williams and are flirting with him at No. 2. He's a great point guard, but he's the wrong Williams at No. 2. If the Hawks really want Deron, they should swap with the Blazers or Hornets, both of whom would love to get their hands on Marvin. Otherwise you take Marvin and trade the other guys on the team that play the same position.
Most Hawks fans wanted a real point guard--after years of dying since Mookie Blaylock left, this critical piece of the team had too long gone ignored and now, with a couple of swingmen already in tow from the previous draft, this would be a great time to get a floor general to help that blossom.
Of the three main point guards available (Raymond Felton of North Carolina being the third), the Hawks, as Ford accurately depicts, were most interested in Williams due to his strength and in part due to their concerns over Paul's smaller stature.
Anyone who watched the games saw Chris Paul carry Wake and though Deron was brilliant in getting the Illini to the title game, where they lost on a Marvin Williams go-ahead basket for Carolina, Paul looked special--a true leader.
During the workouts, Paul made it known he liked Atlanta because it was close to home, but not too close, and he wasn't afraid of the atrocious record the season before. He liked the idea of the Hawks being a young, running team. Certainly thoughts of tossing lobs to Smith and Childress had some fine points.
When the bell tolled, the Bucks took Bogut and the Hawks were on the clock.
Despite the long standing need for a point guard and the fact that the Hawks already had two swingmen in the fold from the previous draft, and the talent difference between the top players being negligible, the Hawks took Marvin Williams anyway with the #2 pick.
Almost immediately, there was a feeling of a whiff. A big whiff. A "when will we ever get a point guard if we didn't get one in THIS draft" whiff.
Answer: We're still waiting.
The pain was almost immediate. Williams, a fresh faced 19 year old, looked awkward on the court from the very beginning, like a duck trying to figure out what to do in a new pond. He was not an embarrassment, but it was pretty clear he wasn't going to be a superstar like his pre-draft hype almost guaranteed.
Chris Paul, on the other hand, was electric in his first season and only 20 himself, posted an all-star level season for New Orleans. His 22.1 PER was astounding and despite battling injuries, he has proven to be a superstar level player in the NBA. His 2008-2009 season, at 23 years old, was MVP caliber. The Hawks haven't had a season like that since Dominique.
Williams was good-natured and improved year over year, but nothing to the levels of Paul or even Deron Williams raised to. Williams' best season was in 2008-2009 when he posted a 16 PER and average 14 points and 6 rebounds. He was even missed when he had to miss time with a bad back, getting a standing ovation at Philips Arena when he returned. It was a far cry from the "could have had" murmurs that always accompany Marvin.
That offseason, the Hawks signed the forward to a 5 year, 40 million dollar extension, but Marvin almost immediately regressed, falling back to a 13 PER and losing his mojo and spot on the court. Marvin is good at getting to the free throw line, but lost his instinct to attack after the extension, settling for many more jump shots and losing his offensive efficiency in the process. His defense, which on the Hawks is a missing link, is usually a plus, but it seemed to leave him as well during the playoffs in 2010-2011.
Marvin will be entering his age 25 year, and the statistics show there isn't much between where he has been the last two seasons and where he was in 2008-2009, when he had his best. There is still a chance he could get back on top of things and pick up where he left off then. Hawks fans can hope.
But, no matter what, wherever he does or doesn't get to, it won't matter, much like Koncak before him, because he'll likely never achieve the heights already reached by Paul and Williams, leaving him always playing in the shadows of "what might have been" for this generation of Hawks fans.