Take a seat and find your happy place as we delve into what we might believe are the greatest player disappointments in Atlanta Hawks history.
Surely you have a name or two to share -- and so do we -- so come on in if you can stomach the heartache.
Finally, a part of the summer SBNation Hoop Series that the automatic answer isn't Dominique Wilkins! (Or is it?)
The Peachtree Hoops team had a good behind the scenes discussion about this topic -- enough to where, sadly, we didn't have to focus on just one disappointment! Hooray for crushed hopes and aspirations.
Let's get to it:
Guess we couldn't quite get away from 'Nique on this one anyway, eh?
Pete Babcock thought he was getting a young, on the rise player for his aging Hall of Famer (and free agent) to be when he sent Wilkins to LA for Danny Manning.
Manning had been to consecutive all-star games, was the centerpiece of a rising Clipper team and seemed to be a good fit for Hawks head coach Lenny Wilkens.
What could go wrong?
First, Manning was also a free agent at the end of the year and the Hawks did not have an agreement beyond the remainder of Manning's deal.
Second, the Hawks were the best team in the East at the time of the deal so, despite Wilkins' pending free agency, it was an unusual time to alter the chemistry of a squad, even if they were getting Manning.
Manning instantly looked warmed over upon his arrival in Atlanta, producing some of the most pedestrian efficiency numbers to that point of his young career. He looked uncomfortable, as you would expect a laid-back player like himself to be when replacing a jaw-dropping, franchise defining legend to the city of Atlanta as Dominique was.
Babcock had the right move on paper, but he failed to add-in these intangibles when completing the deal.
After the season, Manning did not re-sign with the Hawks, taking a shady minimum contract for one year with the Suns before re-upping with them the next season for a large contract, a practice the NBA halted soon after.
This left the Hawks with nothing to show for Wilkins, though they did use the money a season later bringing in Dikembe Mutombo, the hope that the Hawks had by bringing in one of the brightest younger players for their signature franchise players had already dimmed and the Mookie Blaylock/Steve Smith/Mutombo era failed to ignite any serious passion in Atlanta or render itself relevant nationally despite their high winning percentage.
The 1975 and 1978 Drafts
The Atlanta Hawks had grand plans back in the 1970's -- but they always came up a bit short on executing. They drafted Pete Maravich, signed Julius Erving (but lost him in a technicality) and they manipulated themselves to get two of the top three picks in the 1975 draft.
This draft featured one of the most explosive players on the planet at the time, North Carolina State's David Thompson. They picked Thompson with the top pick and Marvin Webster, the big seven footer from Morgan State, with the third pick.
Here is what I wrote in 2009 about what happened next with signing Thompson:
The Hawks drafted the dynamic North Carolina State star #1 in the 1975 NBA draft, but couldn't overcome some obstacles (real and mythical) to bring the star of the 1974 National Champs (NC State) to the ATL.
For one, the lure of the ABA was strong for a player of Thompson's flair. The NBA very much had the image of the stodgy ultra-conservative style of play in the NCAA that rubbed players like Thompson the wrong way. Even in Thompson's last season at NC State, baskets were being taken away if being executed as dunks.
The ABA, by contrast, was a league that prided themselves in being the anti-NBA and Thompson's athletic expressions would not be potentially penalized, but celebrated.
Secondly, the Denver Nuggets pulled at Thompson's sense of "home" by leveraging their coach, Larry Brown, a member of the North Carolina basketball family (yes, Thompson went to State, but it's all NC) and the signing of Thompson friend and point guard on Norm Sloan's championship team, Monte Towe.
The Hawks allegedly offered Thompson more real money sooner, but the Nuggets countered with a deferred payment schedule that ultimately looked at least close enough for Thompson to follow his comfort and head to Denver.
Sidenote: There is a fabulous story of the Hawks wining and dining Thompson at a McDonald's as a tale of either the Hawks arrogance or ignorance regarding the importance of wooing Thompson.
We have never gotten any Hawks source to confirm that bit of lore for us, but we believe it's a likely a bit of myth because the Hawks sorely needed Thompson (and #3 pick in the draft Marvin Webster, who also went to Denver) to bolster the team's fortunes since the loss of Erving and Maravich had left the Birds in a bad (read: losing) way.
Had the Hawks secured Thompson, the most exciting player in the NBA might not have become Dr. J a couple of seasons later, but rather the explosive Thompson-and the Hawks would have had the marquee player they had been seeking to change their fortunes-and maybe wouldn't have sold the team to Ted Turner the following year.
Missed again. Thompson AND Webster both went to Denver and the Hawks were left with nothing for their 1975 draft.
In 1978, they tried it again, taking two of the top players in the NCAA Tournament in the first round, Kentucky's Jack "The Goose" Givens and Marquette's Butch Lee. Much was made about bringing in two collegiate stars, but Givens played two seasons in the NBA (156 games) and he was done and Lee played even less (96 games, three teams).
You can toss in the Jon Koncak, Adam Keefe, Shelden Williams draft picks but, alas, among most Hawks fans there is a single answer to the biggest disappointment in Atlanta Hawks history.....
This is a two-part disappointment. One part is the player himself, a #2 overall pick that had the label of future superstar that couldn't find his groove on the court. The other part is the opportunity cost of selecting Williams, when needed point guards and current all-stars Deron Williams and Chris Paul were available for the Hawks to choose.
After Williams was selected, it was obvious that he wasn't going to step in and dominate at the NBA level. Having come from North Carolina as the sixth man on their championship team, Williams now found himself in a logjam of Billy Knight swingmen with Joe Johnson, Josh Childress and Josh Smith, all in their NBA youth.
Williams played a good season before becoming a restricted free agent, having picked up his range and adding an effective three point shot, there were times when his presence was felt as a positive, even garnering a standing ovation when he returned from injury due to the void left when he was out of the lineup.
Unlike Josh Smith, Williams was given an extension without an offer sheet from another team during his restricted free agency, as the Hawks hemmed up their own free agents on their growing team. But in the seasons that followed, Williams lost all momentum on the court, seeing his productivity drop and that old, familiar waywardness reappear. Williams had lost his place and identity again on the team and, in this past season, lost a starting job.
Meanwhile, Paul and Deron Williams are All-NBA caliber players, with Deron recently getting his 100 million dollar deal from Brooklyn while Chris Paul cashes in next summer. Both play the key position the Hawks have craved since trading for Mookie Blaylock during the Lenny Wilkens era.
That Marvin never developed into a superstar from the #2 pick is hardly extraordinary -- there have been more than a few that have never panned out -- but the combination of that fact plus what the Hawks missed out on makes it doubly disappointing and what we call the greatest disappointment of all.