Hawks still in rebuilding mode
By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor
(Sports Network) – Atlanta had a solid draft, as it grabbed North
Carolina’s Marvin Williams with the second overall pick and used its second-
round selection to pick Salim Stoudamire of Arizona. The Hawks, who finished a
league-worst 13-69 in the 2004-05 season and have not made the playoffs since
1999, have money under the salary cap to spend in free agency and are trying
to build a young and talented roster that can help them get back into the
Williams, who played just one season for the Tar Heels, is considered a small
forward and should get plenty of playing time during his rookie campaign,
while Stoudamire could be the starting point guard when Atlanta opens the
2005-06 regular season. The 6-9 Williams is still working on his overall game
and has much to learn. Stoudamire, who spent four years at Arizona, may have
been the best outside shooter in the draft and should be a solid lead guard
for the Hawks.
Forward Al Harrington, who was acquired by Atlanta from the Indiana Pacers
for Stephen Jackson in July 2004, had a solid first year with the Hawks. He
played in 66 games and led the club in scoring (17.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.0
rpg). However, the 25-year-old Harrington could find himself on another team
as he has value and he just happens to play the same position as Williams. The
Hawks could decide to play Williams and Harrington together, which would give
them an athletic and young duo at forward.
Former first-round picks Josh Childress and Josh Smith proved that they have a
future in the league during their rookie seasons. The 6-8 Childress, who the
sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, averaged 10.1 points and 6.0 boards in
80 contests, while the high-flying Smith, who won the Slam Dunk contest during
All-Star weekend, registered 9.7 points and 6.2 boards in 74 games.
The 22-year-old Childress shot 47 percent from the field and improved his all-
round game as the season progressed. The Stanford product is versatile, as he
can play shooting guard or small forward. Childress started slow, but seemed
to adjust as he became accustomed to the play in the NBA.
Smith, who was picked by the Hawks with the 17th overall pick in last year’s
draft, gives Atlanta another athletic forward. He excels in an up-tempo style
and fits perfectly into the type of roster that the team seems to be trying to
build. The 19-year-old Smith, who will turn 20 on December 5th, shot over 45
percent from the floor and recorded 1.95 blocks per game in 2004-05.
Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson allowed Childress and Smith to learn on the
court during their rookie season. Childress played just under 30 minutes per
game, while Smith saw over 27 minutes of court time per night. The experience
of playing rather than sitting on the bench should prove to be valuable for
both players as they enter their sophomore seasons in the NBA.
With plenty of money under the salary cap, the Hawks are attempting to sign
free agents who fit the mold of their roster. One problem Atlanta has is that
it has to sell the players that they are trying to sign on what they are
trying to do. There has not been a lot of success as of late for this
franchise and that makes it that much tougher.
In 2004, the Hawks were not successful in their attempts to sign any impact
free agents. Instead, they traded for Harrington and veteran Antoine Walker,
who was traded to Boston in February 2005. Atlanta does not want a repeat of
last offseason, as it needs to add a player or two through free agency that
can help them move forward.
Childress, Harrington, Smith, Stoudamire and Williams are the nucleus.
Harrington may have to be sacrificed in a trade if the Hawks get into a
corner with a possible move, but keeping the former Pacer may be the best
move that they make. All four players are athletic, young and could all be
major factors in the Hawks rebuilding process.
The Hawks are not ready to return to the playoffs. But general manager
Billy Knight seems to have a plan and is trying to put together a squad that
can grow together and eventually start to win.