So today I was telling Larry Drew it looks like the team’s decision on which of the young point guards to keep is an important one. Because that player is likely will actually have to take on a significant role on a team looking to the playoffs until Kirk Hinrich returns.
I guess my usual reporter’s stoicism was betrayed by my skeptical expression.
“I’ve got my hands full,” Drew said. “Is that why you are giving me that look?”
Yeah, he got me. The candidates are a second-round pick who hardly played last season, a rookie free agent and a D-League star. It could be that one of them is a player but it’s not the best situation for a good team looking at a break-neck schedule to start the season.
But unless the Hawks eventually decide to add a veteran, this is where they stand. I can tell you Pape Sy, Brad Wanamaker and Donald Sloan all have looked strong at times during training camp, but what happens when the Hawks actually need them to help win real games?
We may soon find out. The Hawks get two exhibition games to evaluate them and then it’s time to start the season.
“Right now we are staring at one of these younger guys being the backup,” Drew said. “Yeah, you can swing Tracy [McGrady] to a little one and Joe [Johnson] can bring the ball up, too. That’s not something you are looking to do on a permanent basis, a 66-game schedule. We can’t ask that of Tracy or Joe. So we are really taking a look at the young guys: Sloan, Wanamaker and Pape.”
The good thing is all three players are aggressive going to the basket, though their styles differ.
Sy seems most comfortable catching the ball on the swing and then going hard to the hole before the defense can rotate and react–remember how many times Drew pleaded with his regulars to do that instead of shooting Js last season?. Sloan is explosive off the dribble and would be the only Hawks player other than Jeff Teague you could say that about. Wanamaker uses his strength to get in the lane and pre-draft reports rated him as more of a passer than Sloan.
I’m not sure how to evaluate their defense given that there’s not much to go on. In Sy’s case, it’s those cameos from last season and for Sloan and Wanamaker it’s a few minutes during these intrasquad scrimmages.
The rookies are smart, too.
Sloan: “Coming in I tried to grasp it right away that, ‘I need to be giving this man the ball, I need to be giving this man the ball.’ That’s my job, and coming in with a lot of energy.”
Wanamaker: “In order to make the team I’ve got to show Coach I know where the players belong and where their comfort zone is.”
Sloan tore up the D-League last season but he said it didn’t take him long to figure out this is different.
“It’s very physical, I will say that first and foremost,” he said. “The talent level is unbelievable, which I knew that coming in. You’ve got All-Stars like Al and Joe and even Josh [Smith] and guys like that. I am just taking it day by day and trying to learn something new each time I step between those guys, even Teague. It’s just a learning process.”
I liked Wanamaker at Pitt–I remember how he got in my Cards a couple times. His first step is ordinary but he looked good muscling by guys in college and is doing the same thing in camp. I’m curious to see how he does against bigger NBA guards–maybe we’ll see him vs. Gerald Henderson at some point on Monday.
“I have a nice body so I tend to use it a lot when I have an angle on the guy,” Wanamaker said. “Getting in the lane and making a play is my job, so that’s what I do.”
Both Sloan and Wanamker said they realize the Hawks are looking to keep a young guard. The Hawks have 12 players under contract, with all but Magnum Rolle and Sy guaranteed. But they’ve already invested a significant sum of cash in Sy–remember, they paid about $125,000 to buy out his contract with the French club and he made $473,604 last season.
Wanamaker said “competing for a job makes it funner” while Sloan said the decision is out of his control.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and Wanamaker, guys like that,” Sloan said. “To come in and adapt to change fast and take in everything they’ve been given us and execute at the same time. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that. The decision will be on them at the end.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat