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8 Deadline Trades That Shaped the Hawks

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As the trade deadline nears, Peachtree Hoops looks back on eight of the trade deadline deals in the past 20 years that shaped the Hawks as a team.

A discussion of trade deadline deals for the Hawks always starts with 'Nique.
A discussion of trade deadline deals for the Hawks always starts with 'Nique.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline looming and Adreian Payne already out the door, Hawks fans are wondering if Atlanta will make any more moves this year.  Here are the eight noteworthy deals that happened in the past two decades.

1994 - Hawks receive: Danny Manning; Hawks give up: Dominique Wilkins and a 1994 first round pick (that became Greg Minor)

Any mention of a deal at the trade deadline for the Hawks in the modern era begins with THE NIQUE TRADE.  It has to be typed like that because that's the gravity it was given (and to some extent, is still given).  In the first and only time in history, a team in first place traded its leading scorer at the trade deadline.  Despite the dismay of the fans, the Hawks with Manning still went on to finish first in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Pacers in the conference semis.  After Dominique was gone, Kevin Willis became the team's leading scorer with Manning after him.  Though many felt the trade was made because Manning was more likely to re-sign with the Hawks than Wilkins, Manning bolted for Phoenix in the offseason, perhaps due to the lingering disagreement of Atlanta fans losing their franchise player.  Star power was not enough to sell to Atlanta fans.

1996 - Hawks receive: Christian Laettner and Sean Rooks; Hawks give up: Spud Webb and Andrew Lang

1996 saw the Hawks part ways with another fan favorite in Spud Webb as the Hawks tried to embrace a push towards youth.  Laettner was coming off of several good seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the aging Webb was on his second tour with Atlanta and hadn't made a real impact off of the bench.  Laettner finished the season third on the Hawks in scoring and followed it up with an excellent season where he garnered his first and only All-star selection.  In 1997-98, however, he began to lose his starting job to the promising Alan Henderson, and after a year of mostly injury he was traded to the Pistons.  Still, the youth mindset had taken root.

2001 - Hawks receive: Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff, and Pepe Sanchez; Hawks give up: Dikembe Mutombo and Roshown McLeod

The suffering Hawks in 2001 parted ways with yet another popular player, the finger-wagging Mutombo, and while Kukoc, Mohammed, and Ratliff all had serviceable Hawks careers, none lasted past 2004 and it was Mutombo who saw success as the 76ers went to the Finals behind his defense and Iverson's scoring.  A simple salary dump served as a lesson to the Hawks that while rotation players are necessary, winning has a need for a solid starting five.

2004 - Hawks receive: Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person; Hawks give up: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau

2004 - Hawks receive: Chris Mills, Bob Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, and a 2004 first round pick (that became Josh Smith); Hawks give up: Rasheed Wallace

While it seemed to be a one-sided deal, these two Rasheed Wallace trades provided an unlikely but pleasant outcome for the Hawks.  The one-day Hawk scored 20 points in his debut before being shipped off to win an NBA title with the surging Pistons.  The Hawks essentially turned Abdur-Rahim into Josh Smith, which further bolstered the youth movement of the late 2000s (and helped soften the blow of Josh Childress never truly living up to expectations).

2005 - Hawks receive: Tom Gugliotta, Gary Payton, Michael Stewart, and a 2006 first round pick (that became Rajon Rondo); Hawks give up: Antoine Walker

Antoine Walker's time with the Hawks was extremely limited and remarkably forgettable, so it was my inclination to leave this trade off the list, but when the Hawks dealt ‘Toine for the lifeless bodies of the Glove and Gugs and some chaff, clearly what they wanted out of this deal was that 2006 first rounder.  Looking at the pick, we all can agree that it would be an interesting prospect if Rondo had come up a Hawk: would he have been the same player?  Would the Celtics have won the title?  Fine questions, all of them, but former GM Billy Knight decided to deal the pick he received in this trade (along with Boris Diaw and another first rounder that became Robin Lopez) to the Suns for one of the most divisive players the Hawks have had in the modern era:  Joe Johnson.  Whether or not Joe's style was good for Atlanta in the long run, one cannot deny that he helped a young core turn into a team with a winning mindset.

2008 - Hawks receive: Mike Bibby; Hawks give up: Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams, Anthony Johnson, Lorenzen Wright, and a 2008 second round pick (that became Sean Singletary)

2011 - Hawks receive: Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong; Hawks give up: Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans, and a 2011 first-round pick (that became Chris Singleton)

These final two trades defined the Bibby Era.  The Hawks had made some progress over the Iso-Joe years and shifted from an up-and-coming team to a playoff team, and both Bibby trades signified the mark of a new confidence.  In 2008, Atlanta pursued acquired Bibby for has-beens (Wright, Johnson), never-would-bes (Williams), and cap relief (Lue, who was immediately waived by Sacramento).  It was a chance to take the team from the horrible dredges of the mid-2000s and make a playoff team.  No one expected them to be true contenders, and they weren't. Bibby played reasonably solid basketball for the Hawks, going to the playoffs every year he was here, but in 2011 as his skills were waning, he was jettisoned for Kirk Hinrich and a reasonably new frame of mind: let's build an actual contender.  A year later, Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams were traded, and the Hawks roster you see now began its true birth.