Thursday, June 29, 2006

In Defense of Billy Knight

I need to take a quick break from dousing myself in World Cup hysteria to engage in a pet cause of mine - maligned Atlanta Hawks' GM Billy Knight.

Eschewing all clever puns - I need to get down to business here. I know years of mediocrity, followed by years of losing, has caused many a slumbering Atlanta Hawks fans to froth at the mouth, and apparently fancy themselves the Basketball Schuerholz.

You see, they all claim they would have drafted Chris Paul, even though most NBA experts tabbed Marvin Williams was the 2nd best player in the draft. They also would have held on to Boris Diaw (ignoring the fact that he's presently the product of playing on a supremely talented team) scuttleing the trade for the only legit NBA star on the Hawks 2006 roster. Remember - winning Slam Dunk competitions doesn't make you a star, right Kenny Walker?

After reading the morning-after analysis of the Hawks' draft in the comments section Sekou Smith's blog on this morning, I'm convinced Hawks fans would give your average Ole Miss fan a run for their money in the I.Q. department.

Sekou does a great job covering the Hawks, there is no doubt about that, but the folks who choose to comment on his on-line blog have clearly spent too much time buying crack around Philips Arena, and less time actually watching the basketball team that calls it home.

In case you didn't know, the Hawks are apparently only a rookie-Point-Guard-in-a-decidedly-weak-draft away from making the NBA playoffs, and Shelden Williams is the same player as the Joshes and Marvin.

Mind you, The Landlord probably outweighs Marvin and Childress combined, is built like an NFL Tight End, and relishes his role playing post defense. That is somehwere the Hawks were constantly outmanned all of last year, and one of the biggest reasons they were 20th in the leaugue in rebounding, and 26th in team defense. Of course, most of these Fire Billy zealots don't even have enough synapses pulsing to realize that those 3 current Hawks are more suited for the 2-3 positions, while Shelden fits snugly in the Power Forward role. In this era of few true NBA centers, his large frame also should allow him to be the 5 during certain periods of play. Considering the lack of depth behind Zaza, this is something that cannot be discounted.

Don't let that stop the hate, though. These "fans" are all convinced that Randy Foye and Brandon Roy were all we needed in Atlanta, because ESPN's Insiders (never known for overstating things) called Foye the player in the draft "most like Dwayne Wade". Yeah, well I'm the guy on my Trivia team most like Ken Jennings, but don't expect me to rule Jeopardy(!) anytime soon.

To pile on - the AJC's Mark Bradley, who has developed an increasing propesnity to annoy me, criticized the Hawks in his column today. His complaint? The Hawks didn't listen to the fans who wanted to draft Dee Brown with their 2nd Round pick. I didn't think someone could one-up the feeble thoughts of the commenters, but here's someone who thinks those same vacuous souls should have a hand in populating the roster. It's bad enough to have the national media constantly taking their tired, cliched, pot-shots at the Hawks leadership, but to have the local media be so equally clueless is infuriating.

Now, more than ever, I want the Hawks to do well. I've gone on record as being excited about where this team is going. With all these insufferable morons wasting the local bandwidth with their fool-proof solutions on how to fix the team, I really want Knight to be able to shove it back in their face come April of 2007. The best thing about him, though, is that I know he won't.


Jamie said...

They still play at the Omni, right?

Anonymous said...

Dee Brown will be the one who got away, his breakneck style will fit in great in the "new" NBA

Mac Thomason said...

Bravo! It would have been nice to get a point guard, but there just weren't any worth taking in the lottery -- as everyone in the NBA knew. Drafting another 2 or 3 would have ridiculous (if Hawkslike) and Chad Ford is a fool for suggesting it. Well, he's a fool for lots of reasons.

Anonymous said...

You mention that winning slam dunk contests doesn't make you a great player. Maybe you'd like to mention that to your boy Billy Knight, who drafted Josh Smith, thus far only known for dunking over Kenyon Martin a couple years ago in the contest.

But you're right, Diaw hasn't done anything to impress anyone. Except this year in the playoffs...and where was Billy Knight's team at playoff time again?

You can find better things to spend time doing than defending Knight.

WeRDevos said...

Wow. Who knew there were passionate Hawks fans?

Matt said...

First of all, there are some of us who advocated taking Chris Paul.

Second of all, the biggest problem with drafting Shelden Williams is that NBA execs, who you mentioned said that Marvin Williams should've been picked #2 and that there were no decent point guards in this draft, were all suprised that the Hawks took Shelden with the 5 pick. The Hawks should have been able to trade down and still get their man, and maybe some added value. That being said, NBA execs draft like idiots and good guards have been undervalued in the draft for a few years. Are you really going to be suprised when Marcus Williams turns out to be Jason Kidd light in 6 months?

Finally, I don't know about the future of Dee Brown in the NBA, but the guy we drafted has no future on the Hawks. He looks he's not going to be better than Josh Smith or Marvin Williams any time soon, and he plays the same position. That guy's not going to see much playing time, and we could've used that pick instead on a gamble at guard.

Neil said...

It's great to hear another Hawks fan excited about the team rather than down on it for a supposed lack of competence in the front office. I have spent too much time reading articles about the Chris Paul and Boris Diaw "debacles". In five years, I think we will recognize Marvin Williams as the best player in the 05 draft despite Paul's rookie year. Boris Diaw has the advantage of playing for the perfect system on a great team in Phoenix. We may have overpaid Joe Johnson at 12 mil a year and giving up next yrs 1st round pick, but I don't mind it, because he carried us last year. I'm not crazy about the Shelden pick, but he fills a need, and if we get a free agent PG like Cassell or Claxton, we're in pretty good shape. The Hawks should be a force in the SE division even with improvements from Orlando and Charlotte expected.

This is the first time I've seen your blog, but if you post more Hawks (or Falcons) material, you've got a new reader. Not to mention you seem pretty knowledgable, which is rare in a city of self-hating sports fans.

Eric said...

Apparently, the 2nd anonymous guy needs to re-read my blog.

As Neil mentioned, Diaw plays so well because he's the Suns system, which fits his style of play...and features two of the best all around players in the NBA. If you somehow think keeping Diaw would have gotten the Hawks to the playoffs, I sincerely wonder what sport you're watching.

He is not a star, he's a good role player, and when surrounded with exceptional talent...looks all the better. The Hawks were several years away from supplying the kind of talent for Diaw to be useful to them.

Matt - who would have given the Hawks their draft pick, and supposedly another pick, to move up to the Hawks spot, and not expect a Hawks player in return? Trading down is not as easy as you make it sound.

Salomon Jones is a 6'10" PF...Josh Smith and Marvin Williams are both better suited as swingmen. Just because they are all considered "forwards" does not make them the same type of forward. If you can't see the difference, then I can't help you.

Last year, when Zaza would take a seat on the bench, the Hawks were often left with a lineup where Josh Smith was left guarding the post. This means drafting two players capable of playing the post is a bad idea? Didn't think so.

BTW, thanks to everyone for commenting. Even if we disagree, I hope to see you back here!

KB21 said...


I don't know who you are, but I would have thought I wrote this blog spot. You put into words everything that I have been thinking about Hawks fans, the Atlanta media, and pundits like Chad Ford all along. I just haven't been able to put them into words as well as you have.

When Billy Knight drafted Marvin Williams, he only did what every other GM in the same position would have done. There wasn't a GM in the NBA that would have taken Chris Paul over Marvin Williams in the 2005 draft.

Basically, Billy gets criticized for drafting potential over need in 2005, and he then gets criticized for drafting need over potential in 2006. Go figure.

The fans that criticize Billy for trading Boris Diaw are the very same fans that criticized him for drafting Diaw over Josh Howard. Go figure.

These same fans criticize Billy for drafting Josh Childress over Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala when there is no statistical evidence that Deng or Iguodala are currently better than Childress. These are also the same fans that were on Hawks message boards before the 2004 draft stating that they would be very mad if the Hawks drafted Luol Deng. For whatever reason, there is a lot of Duke hate in the Atlanta area.

As far as the Shelden Williams pick goes, he fills the Hawks greatest need and will probably be a lot better than many people think. The last two post players to be drafted from Duke are Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer. I think Shelden will fall in somewhere between those two players....not quite the star that Brand is, but a better overall player than Boozer. And before people start saying that Boozer is a bumb, this is a player who has averaged right at 16 PPG and 9 RPG over his last three years, and as a starter for Utah this past year, he was putting up 21 PPG and 10 RPG. Those are splits numbers and not his overall numbers from 2005-2006, but that's what he averaged as a starter.

WeRDevos said...

I'm curious what you Hawks fans are willing to give up to get Iverson?

John said...

From what I gathered reading through the posts on the AJC website, the biggest issue fans had with SW was that he was drafted WAY too high. You mention a few posts up that the Hawks couldn't have traded down... are you serious? Teams can ALWAYS trade down, as long as they don't ask too much... I'm talking swapping the 5th pick for, say, 15 and some NBDL nobody, b/c THEY STILL COULD HAVE GOTTEN THEIR GUY AT 15, and then would have only needed to pay him 15th pick money, instead of 5th pick money. I'll grant that BK really thought SW was the best player in the draft for the Hawks, but we're all so pissed b/c you don't take somebody at 5 who's biggest upside is a long, OK career, you take somebody with the potential to be a franchise player (like Marvin last year, you know, how we took the best available player, rather than filling a need). If Billy didn't think there was another potential franchise guy like that, he should have traded the pick, simple as that.

Eric said...

John, I can understand that they might be mad about taking him "too high". I would also argue, like many folks, that this draft had many players with same upside/ratings.

True, Shelden Williams could have gone anywhere from 5-15...but so could have a number of players. I trust that Billy Knight was aware of the possibility that other teams might want to trade up and take Shelden, or draft him if the Hawks traded down.

I agree with you that you can "always trade down", but the question is whether or not that creates a favorable situation for your team. If not, you shouldn't do it. I think that's what happened here.

Werdevos...I really couldn't tell you what the Hawks would give up for AI. If we could sign and trade Harrington and a future 1st rounder, I think they could probably get him.

The benefits of a trade like that, however, are questionable. I don't know that putting AI on a team full of impressionable youngsters like Atlanta could bear much fruit.

John said...

Eric, thanks for your response. I just wanted to add one more reason most Hawks fans are pissed at Billy Knight right now: inconsistent draft strategies. Last year, we took the best player available (M. Williams), while this year, we took based on need. Lets see what would have happened had we reversed those strategies. Last year, we would have gotten Chris Paul, and this year, we would have selected either Roy, Foye, or Gay. Even if BK really wanted a big, any of those 3 could have been great trade bait to get one. Gay was enough to pry the nearly untouchable Battier from the Grizz, so we couldn't have traded one of those 3 for someone at least as good as Sheldon? Please.

To sum up, I'm anti-BK right now b/c 1)he took SW too high, and 2)he gives off an appearance to the casual fan of having no vision for the future by employing inconsistent draft stratigies. Why Billy?

Neil said...

First of all, there was good reason to believe Shelden would have been drafted in the 7-10 area (be it by trade or otherwise), and I don't know anyone who would have let him fall to 15. The T'Wolves and Celtics right behind the Hawks even showed interest (whether you believe it was a bluff is up to you). The point is I think if we wanted Shelden our best chance was to take him at 5.

As to the inconsistencies of draft strategy, I personally don't see your point. Childress, Smith and M. Williams you might say fit the best player available mold. I don't have a problem with drafting this way when any position is a need for the team. With that core built, Knight drafted a good post player/defender. You're right, he's probably not the BPA, but he also wasn't too far off. The only players I had higher were Foye, Roy, Gay, and Brewer. It seems to me that Billy would have drawn much more ire from Hawks fans for staying consistent and drafting BPA, as Gay, Roy, or Brewer would take minutes away from Johnson, Childress, Williams etc. This was an instance where BPA would not have worked.

My only minor disagreement with the pick is because I think Foye would have fit in well. He and JJ in the backcourt could be pretty good. Still, we would have had a glaring need inside for rebounding and defense, but I would have been psyched to get Foye.

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KB21 said...

Neil, that's exactly right. The chances of Shelden lasting till the 8th pick weren't that great, much less the chances that he would have been there at 15. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the New Orleans Hornets wanted to move up into a position to take Shelden Williams. They wouldn't have drafted Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons before taking Shelden.

The proverbial BPA is a relative term, and it is all relative to the person making the decision, the long term potential of the player, the fit on the team, and the needs of the team.

This is not that different from when Billy took Josh Childress with the 6th pick. Most fans feel that Luol Deng was the best player on the board at that time. Of coures, a high percentage of those fans were also completely against taking Luol Deng with that pick because he was a Duke player and "Duke players don't play well in the NBA." That last line has been pretty much bunk since Elton Brand and Corey Maggette entered the league in 1999 and opened up the gates for Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, and now Shelden Williams.

There is also no objective evidence that proves Billy was horribly wrong for taking Josh Childress over Luol Deng. Josh even has a place on John Hollinger's All-Underrated team and has a higher career PER than Luol Deng to this point.

The only other player that was available at the 5th pick that made sense for the Hawks was Randy Foye, and even with him, there are doubts about his ability to be a point guard in the NBA. During the summer league, Randy Foye showed off his scoring ability, not his point guard ability. I think he was a decent fit because of the defense he plays on the perimeter, but he would not have filled the Hawks biggest need which was to get a low post defender and rebounder.

Plus, look at the exhorbitant prices mediocre post players are getting in the NBA today. The contracts for stiffs like Nazr Mohammed and Joel Przybilla are incredible, and some of the fans would have rather taken a veteran post player who is a stiff over getting a veteran point guard like Speedy Claxton, who was probably the best back up point guard in the entire NBA this past season and getting Shelden Williams.

Anonymous said...

The Hawks came into the Paul/Williams draft knowing they needed to fill two positions more than anything else - point guard and center. We were loaded at 3 and 4. It was the best draft in years for point guard talent and we had the second pick and the 31st pick.

So what do we do?

Draft Chris Paul? Deron Williams? Raymond Felton? Nate Robinson? or local GT star Jarret Jack?

No, we draft two players in positions we already have filled.

So the pundits say, "That's ok, Atlanta can just make a blockbuster deal with their 2,3,4 talent for a big name 1 or 5." We make a big trade alright...for another 2!

Look, Billy Knight is an idiot, because he refuses constantly to fill the crucial roles this team needs to be successful. Marvin Williams had the hype, but he had no experience as a starter. (You'll recall he was a sophomore 6th man at UNC.) We have a serviceable center, with no backup. (Shelden Williams is hardly center material - he's a short 4 as it is.)

I don't fancy myself as a Basketball Schuerholtz (sp?) in any fashion, but BK is doing a wonderful job of turning my Hawks into an even bigger laughingstock than they already were.

Delaphonta said...

I just wanna know if who ever started this blog frequents with the crack abusers that he so delightfully referred to in his blog. Sorry, but I think it is you who doesn't know basketball. Shelden Williams is not anything like the Joshes or Marvin Williams. He is slow, was replaced by a rookie, and now is in what the 10 or 11th place on the bench. We got all of that for the number 5 draft choice. Great...up date and Brandon Roy was stll available. I think he will be at the All-Star game this year. Shelden? Well he might be there too, of course he won't be getting in without a tix. Secondly, the GM has not manufacturer playoffs in 7 years. Name me one sport in which this does not warrant a proper firing? Shelden was a bust. He was not an assertive college player, he was simply the big body Coach K needed in the middle when his other 4 weren't shooting well. So, he was a final option in essence. I'm an avid Duke fan and even I knew he was not going to pan out in the NBA. The Boris Diaw thing pays off only because Joe Johnson has emerged as a monster, although we have recently seen that Phoenix is capable of making some pretty iffy trades lately (See Shaq for Marion & Banks). for the last 3 years everybody has been saying they are a point gaurd away. Hello get a point guard. No Tyrone Lue is not a playoff capable point guard. Is that really the name that is gonna lead the Hawks to the playoffs. Get serious. Yea we do have a rookie now, but he isn't playing, so what is being done for this spot on the floor? What about the big man? The hawks have been in the draft lottery at least 6 of the last 8 years. The most threating defensive force we have in the front court is a G/F (Smith). That is poor roster management, inability to trade, 1 track 6-8 to 6-10 althletic draft tendency, no playoffs in 7 yrs. You are absolutely right Knight should not be fired. He should volunteer to quit and be shamed publicy. I know 2 things. I could have been a better president that G W Bush and I could e a much better GM that Billy Knight. Maybe he should look into I don't know breeding animals since he likes a certain specimen so well

Eric said...

Wow...way to tell me how wrong I am a year and a half after I made this post. You truly are a visionary.