Friday , Jun , 01 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Letter to Billy Knight

The NBA Draft is upon us and you have the lucky fortune of having 2 picks in the top 11 of the draft. You have an opportunity to take the Atlanta Hawks from being an annual lottery team to an annual playoff contender. All the pieces are in place for you to make this a winning team. Do what it takes to get them there.

This is the most important draft for you during your tenure as Hawks’ GM. I say this not because your job is on the line this season, but because this team is one particular piece away from being a legitimate threat in the East. I understand that may sound like a drastic statement, but only in the East can a team make the playoffs with a losing record. This team, however, has the potential to make the playoffs with a winning record. How can this team do that you ask? It can be done with Mike Conley Jr.

There are two types of point guards. The first is the combo point guard, such as Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye, and Gilbert Arenas. These players are scoring point guards. Their respective teams need them to score in order to win games. The second type of point guard is the natural point guard, such as Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Chris Paul. Their teams need them to bring the ball up, set up the offense, and get their teammates involved. The big difference between the two sets of point guards is the fact that Kidd, Nash, and Paul aren’t needed to score 15-20 points a game in order to achieve victories. Conley Jr. represents the natural point guard. His ability to set up an offense and get all the talent on a team involved is what the Hawks need to win, and more importantly, it’s what you need to remain as this team’s primary decision maker.

Many people, including yourself I’m sure, believe that Conley Jr. is a tough pick at #3 with all the other talent on the board. It’s actually not as difficult of a decision as you may think. Let’s think about this for a second. After Oden, there is no true center worthy of such a high selection. Athletic swingmen are the last types of players that this team needs considering it has Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith. Now that leaves us with the PF and PG positions. Last year you addressed the PF position by drafting Shelden Williams. He certainly didn’t overly impress anybody, but you clearly held high expectations of him for the future by drafting him at #5. As process of elimination, that leaves you with the PG position and Conley Jr. Now that was easy.

Don’t go and try to get creative by selecting someone like Al Horford or Brandan Wright with the 3rd pick, and then select Acie Law IV or Javaris Crittenton with the 11th pick. It sounds like an excellent plan, but it’s really not. Law IV and Crittenton can’t utilize the talent around them like Conley Jr. can. That was seen by anybody who watched Conley Jr. lead a young Ohio St. team to the national championship game this year. As I said earlier, think Jason Kidd, not Gilbert Arenas. Go with the sure thing first, and with the 11th pick go with depth along the frontline such as Spencer Hawes from Washington or Joakim Noah from Florida.

In closing, you have clearly set this team back a couple of years after failing to draft the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, and Randy Foye. Don’t make the same mistake this year by not drafting Mike Conley Jr.

Sincerely,
Bill Flanagan