At first glance, the Atlanta Hawks appear to have punted during last night's draft. Holding the #15 pick, the Hawks chose to trade down to #19 while picking up a 2016 and 2019 second-round choice from the Washington Wizards. When it came time to make the 19th selection, the Hawks traded the pick to the Knicks for guard Tim Hardaway. That was the headline of the night for Atlanta. If you read the back page, the Hawks added two players in Marcus Erikssonand Dmitiris Agravanis who will likely be stashed overseas for one or more seasons.
Atlanta entered the night with three draft picks and a commitment to paying 1.6 million dollars to the #15 pick. In a draft that was heavy at the top and much weaker approaching the back end of the lottery, the Hawks were unlikely to acquire a player to help their rotation next season. The perception is that Atlanta did nothing to help their chances at winning a championship next season--and gratefully that is now the reachable star for this franchise. However, the Hawks acquired a player last night who is more ready to help next season than anyone that was available and whose salary creates a small amount of flexibility to aid in free agency. There is plenty of fair questions to be asked about how much Tim Hardaway will be able to help Atlanta in 2015-16 but acquiring him over the prospects available is not a move away from a title.
Hardaway has shown the potential to be a strong perimeter shooter with a good handle for a wing player. He is unique as a shooter in his ability to make threes from the angles (a shot that Atlanta has been woeful at making when taken by anyone other than Kyle Korver) more than from the corner three. Hardaway has knocked down more than 80% of his free throws in both NBA seasons which is a typical indicator of a player who should become more accurate with proper development. The Atlanta front office is betting on this type of growth once Hardaway gets into the Atlanta system.
While Hardaway should improve his shooting, it is the defensive end that will determine his greater impact in Atlanta. Hardaway gave uneven effort during his time at Michigan but flashed potential at the collegiate level when playing games that mattered most. He showed defensive promise during Michigan's 2013 run to the title game. However, at the professional level he has mostly looked disinterested. He has terrible balance both in sliding and backing down, blindly swings his short arms at defenders and gets lost on screens easily. If he plays together with Mike Scott, it is possible they could end up covering each other for at least a possession a game (that is only funny until it actually happens). Getting Hardaway to be an average defender will be a great challenge for Budenholzer and his miracle workers. However as our own Jason Walker reminds us, fans should suspend disbelief given the recent success Atlanta has had with developing young veterans.
As someone who spends all year evaluating prospects, it is a challenge for the draft to end with no one from my final draft rankings donning a Hawks jersey. While there is a level of personal disappointment that Atlanta could not move up to grab Justise Winslow as he unexplicably fell to the Miami Heat at #10, I wanted Atlanta to move down from 15 to both save money and pick up more assets once Winslow went off the board. While I would have liked adding Justin Anderson at #19, I also would have been comfortable if Atlanta moved down again. No player on the board after Winslow was selected had much of a chance to contribute to Atlanta's rotation next season. I am not sold that Hardaway will make an impact in Atlanta but he still does not turn 24 until next March. We got a more experienced prospect on a 2-year deal for $300,000 less than the 15 slot would have cost.
A lot of teams drafted new cars last night that will have already peaked in value and will slowly be exposed over the next year--much like Adreian Payne last season. Atlanta selected a used car with very little mileage that needs a spark plug. It may not be anything to brag to the neighbors about but that has been the summer theme for Atlanta. Coming off an injury-plagued run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks are not punting on getting closer to a title. They have just decided against slapping the new lime green pinstripe on a vehicle that has not been test driven.