Two seasons ago, the Atlanta Hawks were on the verge of nailing the draft. They had skillfully traded back in the first round and still got the player they wanted at the time, shooting guard Jordan Crawford.
It seemed to make sense, draft the guy who might have been the best volume scorer left in the draft to potentially replace the volume scorer in the last season of his contract.
They also picked up the 31st pick of the draft, the first of the second round, perfect for taking low rent, low guarantee help for a team that had a lot of money spent on personnel already.
There was a sense of 'Yes! We are finally embracing building the roster through the draft'.
Then, almost immediately, the dream cloud began to rain.
The Hawks didn't use the 31st pick, instead selling the pick to Oklahoma City, ostensibly to "get free agent help for Joe Johnson", but ultimately to pay for the minimum wage, one year veterans that would ultimately fill out the roster.
Later in the season, the Hawks dealt Crawford to Washington to get Kirk Hinrich's sunset seasons. To be able to include Mike Bibby in the deal, the team included a throwaway sweetner, 2011's first round pick.
So a team that spent themselves over the cap on few players and had a roster to fill consistently treated the draft as an ATM and asset to accrue veterans who were quite past their primes.
To this I plead: Please, please stop.
Stop pretending players drafting at the end of the first round or second won't help the team. Please stop using second round picks as a euphemism for passing on the picks. Stop using the one asset that can help make the team better over time, cap-friendly young talent with improving skill sets, like a cash machine or a tool to bring in Proven Veterans who carry a higher price tag and much, much less potential and production.
There are a number of players that could help the Hawks in this draft, as indicated by outlets like Y! Sports, Sports Illustrated and DraftExpress, all of whom see front court help for a team that showed to be thin, at least roster wise, up front after Al Horford was lost for the season and certainly exposed when Zaza Pachulia joined him.
Looking at the guys the Hawks have signed and given minutes to behind Al and Zaza and you'll see a litany of last stops on the NBA road for Proven Veterans like Joe Smith, Etan Thomas, Josh Powell and soon to be joined by Jason Collins and Erick Dampier.
The players that buttress the current success and hope for the future? All Hawks draft picks: Al Horford (2007), Josh Smith (2004) and Jeff Teague (2009).
Good franchises, those that are well run, avoid the futility of dog-paddling when it comes to roster building. Good franchises use the draft to not only fill out the roster, but improve its overall talent level as the players they draft improve over time.
It's time for the Hawks to step forward -- not only as a team trying to raise the ceiling of this team beyond the first and second round of the playoffs, but as a franchise, doing the savvy, basketball related items that correlate with success beyond simple playoff inclusion.
We'll see if the team feels the same way.
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