I was attending my seven-year old son's second ever flag football game (he scored! Woot!) when I got the question.
"Should the Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs this year?"
This question has permeated the Twitterverse, Kris' Mailbag and every other place it's even possible to think about or talk about the Atlanta Hawks.
I have answered many times, but need to bring this out even further.
Of course the Hawks should make the playoffs.
That's why they play the game.
Most players and coaches aren't just in it for the country club lifestyles and fat paychecks, though there is no doubt if Peachtree Hoops were an NBA team, that's precisely why we'd be doing it.
Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and the like weren't signing or re-signing with the Hawks so they can work on their post-career real estate or car wash franchises. They came to win, be a part of a playoff culture and drive towards being part of building the foundation for a championship caliber Hawks franchise.
Let's talk about that culture. Let's see, tanked-out, bottomed-out franchise with no hope of getting back up to the top or perennial playoff team with the financial flexibility and draft picks to continue to add talent to push ahead towards that championship goal?
It's important to maintain playoff continuity -- it makes a difference when you are trying to get guys to take less to come play for you, avoid massive overpayments for role players, etc. When you are a terrible team, and you are not the Lakers in sunny Los Angeles, playoff caliber players aren't excited to join your squad.
The lottery is no sure thing
Tanking seems like a great idea when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are at the top of the lottery. Ask Cleveland how their years of struggling after LeBron left is going. And they had the #1 pick twice. Atlanta was terrible for the beginning of the century and they never got the top pick once.
Still, we see Cleveland going all-in and trading for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes. Why did they go all-in? To make the playoffs and try to keep the one guy they did get for all that badness, Kyrie Irving, to stay. And that's no guarantee, either. Cleveland is ready to get the heck out of the lottery quagmire. so why would the Hawks be so anxious to jump into it?
For every Oklahoma City Thunder, there have been a half dozen or more other franchises that didn't fare well through the tanking paradigm and they either had to tank again and start over or build a different ladder for which to climb out of the NBA lottery dungeon.
Drafting in the middle of the first round isn't like missing the draft
Right now the Hawks would pick 15th based on their current record. The last three years the following players have been selected at #15: Kawhi Leonard, Mo Harkless and Giannis Antetokounmpo (a.k.a. The Greek Freak).
You can still select an impact player for your franchise there without selling out any chance of goodness, much less greatness to get there. Picking down there in 2014 may even be as good as picking eighth or ninth.
In our Peachtree Hoops NBA draft section, there are a lot of exciting players available in the middle of this draft. The RedRev, Patrick Laney himself emailed me to tell me that picking eighth in this draft may only be an advantage over fifteen in the manner of being able to choose first from that pool, but that after the sixth pick, there is a lot of variance between 7-20.
Where the Hawks are as a franchise
Nobody doesn't want a shot at choosing the next Olajuwon or Jordan in the draft and those guys were taken #1 and #3 in that draft. But Karl Malone was #13, Kobe Bryant also was 13th, Tony Parker 28th, etc.
It's not a death sentence as a franchise, it just takes a savvy draft GM to make the most of those picks. The Hawks are in terrific financial and draft pick position. This administration cares about culture, building a team the right way, no shortcuts and establishing a basketball cornerstone in Atlanta, just as was done in San Antonio, a very unlikely destination.
To do that you have to establish a winning attitude and that's not an attitude that comes with tanking, an abundance of inexpierenced players and a half-decade in the lottery.
It's alright to make the playoffs, don't be afraid of it, it's a good thing.