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, 2005, 2006
ATLANTA HAWKS DRAFT: 2007
Through the power of lucky bounces the Hawks, who had promised another first round pick to Phoenix in the Joe Johnson deal (they had sent the pick that the Suns sold to the Celtics that had become Rajon Rondo the season before), the Hawks could only keep it if was in the Top 3.
The Hawks weren't the worst team in 2006-2007, but they were close as they were the 4th worst team in the league. Only the Celtics, Bucks, and Grizzlies could say they were worse record wise.
Being fourth worst meant the Hawks would have to get lucky in the lottery, and there was good reason to hang onto that pick in this draft. The 2007 draft featured Ohio State titan Greg Oden, Texas phenom Kevin Durant, Oden's point guard teammate Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian from China, Jeff Green from Georgetown, and three marvelous Gators coming off back to back NCAA championships, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Al Horford.
The Hawks still needed help as they had missed on back to back lottery picks with Marvin Williams (jury was still out, but it was clear he wasn't a superstar) and Shelden Williams (verdict was in on the Landlord already) and losing a first round pick would be detrimental to the growth of a team that had invested a max contract and draft picks by bringing in Joe Johnson and two young forwards Josh Childress and Josh Smith, who were improving annually.
When the lottery was announced, there was joy when Hawks fans saw Boston and Milwaukee's name come up before the Hawks, meaning that they had made it into the Top 3 and got to keep the pick.
Lucky enough to keep the pick, now Hawks fans wanted to see if they could get a chance at the universally anointed top 2, Oden and Durant. They didn't. The Hawks would pick #3 and set the tone for the remainder of the first round.
LEADING UP TO THE DRAFT:
The Hawks worked out the following players prior to the draft (via Hawks.com):
|Wednesday, June 20
Acie Law (G, 6-3, 195, Texas A&M
Consensus First Team All-America ... 18.1 ppg and 5.0 apg last season
Javaris Crittenton (G, 6-5, 198, Georgia Tech)
Tied for team lead in scoring (14.4 ppg) ... Also averaged 5.8 apg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 spg
Jamon Gordon (G, 6-3, 212, Virginia Tech)
Third Team All-ACC last season ... Put in 11.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.5 rpg
Brandan Wright (F, 6-10, 210, North Carolina)
ACC Rookie of the Year and All-ACC Second Team ... 14.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg (.646 FG%)
|Friday, June 22
Joakim Noah (F/C, 6-11, 232, Florida)
12.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg in ‘06-‘07 ... Most Outstanding Player of ‘06 NCAA Final Four
|Saturday, June 23
Rodney Stuckey (G, 6-5, 205, Eastern Washington)
Seventh nationally in scoring last season (24.6), after 24.2 ppg as a freshman in '05-‘06
|Monday, June 25
Al Horford (F/C, 6-10, 245, Florida)
Third Team All-America last season (13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg) ... First Team All-SEC
Mike Conley Jr. (G, 6-1, 180, Ohio State)
First Team All-Big Ten by media ... 11.3 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.2 spg (.518 FG%) in 39 starts
From the start, it was clear the Hawks were targeting a big with one pick, and a guard with the next. But in what order?
Many, like then Hawks beat writer, Sekou Smith, that were firmly in the Conley camp, finally ready to pull the trigger and get this franchise a point guard it sorely, sorely lacked.
Others wanted the sizzle of Jianlian, who would bring the international flavor and the hope of a Dirk Nowitzki like production being a slick shooting seven footer.
Early reports were that the Hawks were looking at North Carolina big man project Brandan Wright, meaning that the Hawks would likely select between Acie Law, Javaris Crittendon, and Rodney Stuckey as the point guard at #11.
I was firmly in the camp of drafting the surest thing the Hawks could buy at #3, a big man who had played in the post and been a leader for his team in college. A player who had already seen what it took to win and win again.
There were more than a few people in the same frame of mind, but other worried that he duplicated the skill set of Shelden Williams. But those that saw Horford knew that he could shoot better than Williams, defend better than Williams, and played above the rim much better than Williams. In short, he was the power forward Billy Knight wanted when he steadfastly refused to budge a draft season earlier.
As the time drew nearer, it looked more and more like Knight was not going to let his miss on Shelden impact selecting Horford.
Still, as draft night approached, it could still go any which way.
Greg Oden went, as expected, to Portland, and then Durant to the Sonics, which left the Hawks to start the remainder of the draft at #3.
Would it be Conley? Wright? Jianlian?
It would be Horford.
As the draft moved on, Conley, Wright, and Jianlian would be quickly snapped up, as would Green and Brewer as well. Thoughts turned to the Hawks second pick at #11, the pick generally considered to be slated for a point guard, and at this point, only Conley was gone.
Noah went #9 to Chicago, ending my quick dream that the Hawks could get both Gator big men, as Noah's size, motor, and instincts, meshed with his tenacity, made him a fantastic NBA center prospect.
Still, he was gone, and then went Spencer Hawes, the 7 footer from Washington.
Now the Hawks were back on. With no center to distract them, it was fairly assured the Hawks would pick a point guard.
With Law, Crittendon, and Stuckey all still there, the Hawks went with the seasonsed Law, who had a great collegiate career at Texas A & M, but who didn't exactly carry the label of "pure point guard" like Conley.
Law never made it as a Hawk, whether it was the transition to the NBA game that left the skills Law had succeeded with as an Aggie moot at this level or if the lack of point guard development from Mike Woodson leveled Law's confidence, Law never got up to speed as a Hawk and was sent with Speedy Claxton to the Warriors for Jamal Crawford before the 2009-2010 season.
Horford, on the other hand, became a fan favorite. Hard working, hard finishing, and full of charisma, Horford made his presence felt immediately, scoring nearly a 15 PER and besting Shelden Williams' rebounding rates from a season before.
Horford was an essential piece of the puzzle that got the Hawks back into the playoffs for the first time since Pete Babcock broke up the Mookie-Smitty-Mutombo band in the 1999 offseason.
Since then, Horford's stature and production have increased, finishing with a career high 20.7 PER in 2010-2011. Al has played in two all-star games and is the team's best defender, and arguably the best overall player the Hawks currently employ.
Knight went one for two, but he got the right pick right by nailing the #3 pick in the draft. Horford still has room for improvement, something that was stunted by a lack of responsibility and development under Mike Woodson, who saw fit to treat Horford like a second round find rather than try and bring anything further out of Horford's skills.
The Hawks are definitely better off for getting lucky with the lottery in 2007. Al Horford is a terrific player who can still get better. Knight drafted a 2-time all-star, which is more all-star games than any player in the draft except for Durant.
Knight didn't let the Shelden pick get to him and made the right call.