We begin the next installment of the SBNation NBA Summer Post Series with a heavy disclaimer.
If we were to answer almost any of the questions or topics posed by the collective during these posts, we would almost arrive at the same answer for all things Atlanta Hawks.
That answer is #21, forever and always, the Namesake (formerly), The Human Highlight Film, the number one don't mess with him else you mess with yourself, Dominique Wilkins.
It is with that knowledge that we approach this summer series by placing Wilkins on the throne far above these discussions, knowing that, really, we could just always answer Dominique as easy as your Sunday School answer always being Jesus, so we'll forego that answer from here on out and focus on the rest of the field.
Nique did indeed come from Utah that fantastic September 2nd day for John Drew, Freeman Williams and a pretty famous million dollars that then-GM Stan Kasten found between the cushions in Ted Turner's proverbial couch after begging him to keep it. So, obviously, that's the best deal.
But after that? We polled our elite group of staff writers, accountants, psychics and chefs and came up with the following pair of deals:
November 7th, 1994: Kevin Willis and a first round pick (Walter McCarty) to the Miami Heat for Steve Smith, Grant Long and a conditional second round pick.
At the time, the Miami Heat were disappointed with young Smitty. His knee injury early in his career sapped the uber-athleticism from his youth and he never matched up to the Magic Johnson comparisons coming out of Michigan State.
Kevin Willis, meanwhile, was a fan favorite, a big man and a tenacious rebounder, currently residing as the fourth best defensive rebounding rate among all Atlanta Hawks who have played more than 200 games as a Hawk. He was also the last drafted Atlanta All-Star until Al Horford came along.
So why was this a good trade for the Hawks again?
Pete Babcock, the Hawks GM at the time, was always keen on trading older assets before they began to seriously depreciate or leave in free agency. Willis was 31, but coming off a pretty good 93-94 campaign and had one more year on his deal after that one.
Steve Smith was still on his initial rookie deal and going into his Age 25 season. His best seasons were still ahead of him.
Smith slid very nicely into the core of a highly successful, record-wise, Hawks team of the late 90's while it took only a year for the Heat to grow tired of Willis, complaining about his attitude, selfishness and less than expected play.
As for Long, he was considered a toss-in for the deal, a workmanlike power forward who had a good reputation, something he maintained as a stellar member of the Hawks. Long was slightly above replacement value during his run in Atlanta and was a popular guy with the fans as well.
Overall, the Hawks did just as Babcock intended, dealt a (relatively) expensive, aging player at just the right time for two key pieces of a successful core that played at a .600 clip during their times as Hawks.
As good as that was, this next one was just as important to that same team:
November 3rd, 1992: Rumeal Robinson to the Nets for Mookie Blaylock and Roy Hinson
At the time of the deal, Rumeal Robinson was not yet the criminal that stole the house out from under the woman who raised him and made that house his home growing up. Rather, he was a coming into his own point guard on a winning team and national name coming out of his national championship at Michigan.
He was "Meal Time" and had just completed a second season in a part time role, but became the starter. Problem was, he didn't play defense the way Lenny likes defense and rubbed the vets like Nique the wrong way, so this young star, if you will, was packaged up for Blaylock, who was stuck in a jam after the Nets drafted Kenny Anderson, who quickly became favored by new coach Chuck Daly, according to this CNNSI recollection.
For the Hawks, this was a steal befitting the best Atlanta Hawk in that category (Steal%)-- here was the take after the deal according to Peter Vecsey, then of the USA Today from the same above link:
What a score for the Hawks and eyesore for the Nets!
All Robinson accomplished during his two-year Atlanta stay was to alienate teammates. Particularly Dominique Wilkins, who resented being ordered around and critiqued by someone still smelling of milk.
How did Blaylock do? Well, in my humble estimation, he became one of the top five Atlanta Hawks of all-time, scoring high in PER, tops in Assist Rate and Steal Rate, was top five defensive efficiency rating and one the top win share rates of all time in Atlanta.
Also he, along with Steve Smith and Dikembe Mutombo, formed a formidable core that won a lot of games. Blaylock did alright in the postseason, too -- his only stinker being a team-wide stinkfest in 1999 against the Knicks.
As a final value to the team, he was dealt in a Pete Babcock deal-em-before-they-fade special to Golden State after the 1999 season. The Warriors felt they were on the playoff cusp and swapped drafting places with the Hawks, leaving the Hawks with the #10 pick in the 1999 draft where they took Jason Terry.
As for Meal Time? He never again reached even the modest peak he attained in his second year as a Hawks, playing part time for four more seasons before dropping into the deep, deep abyss that led him to steal from his own family.
Two great trades, timed very well given the assets traded, that built the foundation of a team that lured Dikembe Mutombo, the last great Atlanta free agent signing, to the Hawks and won a boatload of games and built on the Dominique legacy, but ultimately couldn't get past the Chicago Bulls, a fate the felled many teams at that time.