Sund, for the most part, spends his time selling his team and the job he's done, which is what he's supposed to do, I guess. I mean he's not going to say things like, "Man, maybe I should have looked at a more finished product like Darren Collison or DeJuan Blair a couple of drafts ago" or "I sure wish I'd kept the receipt on Josh Powell."
Instead, he compares the franchise for which he's currently responsible to.....the San Antonio Spurs.
While the Hawks are exploring trade options, they truly believe continuity will be the key to getting out of the second round of the playoffs this season, must as continuity has helped the West-leading San Antonio Spurs.
"Chemistry is so important, and if you look at San Antonio, in some ways they're analogous to us," Sund explains. "They got through the first round last year and got swept in four. We got through the first round last year and got swept in four. They didn't really make any major changes and we didn't make any major changes. They're a more veteran team than us, we started the season with three starters who are 24 or younger in Horford, Josh and Marvin. Joe, Bibbby and Jamal are all in their primes, so that combination is good. But we think continuity and chemistry are important for us, just as they have been for San Antonio."
Oh, my. Well, if you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly, eh?
Let's take a look at the standout parts here:
1. San Antonio, a 50 win team, indeed got swept in the second round, but beat a (55) win Dallas Mavericks team with home court in round 1 in six games, and then got swept by a (54) win Phoenix Suns team by an average of (9) points.
Atlanta, a 53 win team, also got swept in the second round, but beat a (46) win Milwaukee team, without their best player, by far, in 7 games, despite having home court, and then got swept by a (59) win Orlando team by a historic (30) points per game.
2. Mike Bibby, in his prime. Even giving Joe and Jamal credit for remaining in that group, I can't stretch that truth for Mike, but it's nice of Sund to say. Defining a players' prime as such gives some insight to why he was very willing to give a 29 year old shooting guard a six year, maximum value contract.
3. San Antonio may stand pat, but they do so with a core that has won (3) Championships and, even in this advanced age, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have 17.5 wins created so far this season, compared to 15.1 for Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson.
Besides that, the Spurs add vital pieces to that core every season, which helps them stay in the playoffs in a conference where the (46) wins Milwaukee rode to the sixth seed in the East last year sends you home.
Players added for the Spurs:
2008-2009: Roger Mason (4.9 wins created), George Hill (R) (2.1), Drew Gooden (19 games) (0.9)
2009-2010: Richard Jefferson (6.0), DeJuan Blair (R) (4.6), Antonio McDyess (3.2), Keith Bogans (2.6)
2010-2011: Gary Neal (R) (1.9), Tiago Splitter (R) (1.1), James Anderson (R) (0.9)
Players added for the Hawks:
2008-2009: Maurice Evans (3.8), Ronald Murray (3.1)
2009-2010: Jamal Crawford (7.3), Joe Smith (0.9), Jeff Teague (R) (0.6)
2010-2011: Damien Wilkins (0.6), Josh Powell (0.2), Etan Thomas (0.1), Jordan Crawford (R) (-0.2)
San Antonio added more value to their roster every offseason, especially in the areas that continue to haunt the Atlanta Hawks, the draft and free agency.
In 2009, the Spurs didn't sell their second round pick, they used it to take DeJuan Blair, who has added 7.3 wins in his season and a half for the Spurs, while the Hawks first round pick in that draft, Jeff Teague, has added 1.3 despite being selected 18 picks earlier.
This past season, the Spurs added three first year players while "not making major changes", and they have added 3.9 wins compared to the Hawks 0.7 wins from their added players. The Spurs always seem to have the ability to pull players like Neal from the free agent bin, to fill a needed role with the solid Spurs, or from the international field, from which they pulled Splitter. They've also effectively used those areas and the draft (Blair, George Hill) to add cheap, controllable talent to their expensive core and rotation.
The Hawks have little to show in those areas over the past three seasons and have added only Jamal Crawford, via trade, over that time. And Crawford, 30, is a free agent at the end of the season--the fact that the Hawks haven't added any real production from the draft or any young talent in general means that the Hawks are going to either going to struggle to replace the modest production he brings or more likely take the safe route and re-sign the guard given their inability to find productive talent in other places.
Sund may put a lot of stock in pre-February records or consistent winning percentages month-by-month, and to be sure, it way beats the drudgery of most of the last decade, but ultimately franchises are judged by what they do in the playoffs, and the Hawks similarity to the San Antonio Spurs there doesn't get very far.
Rick Sund is a nice guy, so I'll be optimistic that his comparison shows what franchise he wants to emulate. Believe me, I would love to get to a point where we can honestly compare this franchise favorably to the Spurs, but we'll have to do better than hoping to speak the comparison into reality. There needs to be similar front office creativity and results to make the Atlanta Hawks become like the San Antonio Spurs: a consistent, championship caliber franchise.