Face Off: Hawks need to get the point — and it’s Rafer Alston

See this guy? He was the starting point guard for a team in the finals. And he's available.

Rafer Alston is giving the thumbs down to staying in Orlando.

Read Mark Bradley’s view: Say goodbye to Marvin Williams, hello to Caron Butler

There is a point guard who just started for a team that reached the NBA finals — and he’s available. He also comes with a contract considered Atlanta Spirit budget-friendly. Hello?

The Hawks shouldn’t re-sign Mike Bibby. They should trade for Orlando’s Rafer Alston. He requires less of an investment than Bibby and might get them further in the playoffs. Look what he just did for the Magic?

I know. The Hawks finally got good again. The last thing you want to do is blow things up. But this isn’t a razing as much as it’s a needed remodel. (See ajc.com photo gallery.)

There’s a pretty good chance that we’ve seen as far as this Hawks team can go. They survived a seven-game series with Miami in round one. But they were waxed by Cleveland in the second round, and it turned out the Cavaliers weren’t nearly as dominant as everybody believed. Something needs to change.

Bibby, who is about to become a free agent, will not get a contract close to the $15.2 million he made last season. But he still will require a longer and more expensive commitment than Alston (one year left at $5.25 million), who is likely to be traded. The Magic needs the payroll relief so it can re-sign Hedo Turkoglu. The team acquired Alston in February only because they needed to replace the injured Jameer Nelson.

Even Alston suspects a trade might be coming — and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. That’s probably Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy made the questionable decision to give the just-rehabbed and rusty Nelson extensive playing time in the finals. “I always think I’m going to be traded,” Alston said (but then he has changed teams five times). “I don’t know. I think [teams] don’t respect my point guard abilities. That’s every team I’ve been on.”

After being traded by Houston, Alston started the rest of the regular season for Orlando and all 23 games in the playoffs. The Magic took out Philadelphia, then Boston and then the expected unstoppable force, Cleveland, in six games. In the key Game 4 win, when the Magic took a 3-1 series lead, Alston contributed 26 points, four assists and two steals. He also scored 20 points in Orlando’s only finals win over Los Angeles.

The Hawks probably have a core. We’re just not really sure what it is. Al Horford is a definite keeper. Josh Smith should be a definite keeper, drama and trade rumors notwithstanding. Joe Johnson will be going into the final year of his contract. But he had another disappointing post-season and this isn’t the time for long-term commitments.

Alston does not possess Bibby’s scoring ability. But he’s a better defender and can penetrate, which is what the Hawks need. And unlike the scenario of re-signing Bibby to a multi-year contract, acquiring Alston affords management flexibility after next season. A trade wouldn’t be difficult because Alston is 32 and expendable. Even then, they have pieces to move, starting with Marvin Williams. (One suggestion: Keep hope alive with Acie Law for one more season.)

Bottom line: If the Hawks really want to see how much this three-man “core” can accomplish, it makes more sense to do it with Alston than Bibby.

125 comments Add your comment

Fuffar

June 17th, 2009
11:33 am

i LIKE THIS IDEA, WE SHOULD OFFER THEM JUST ACIE LAW FOR ALSTON. I THINK ORLANDO WILL TAKE THAT BECAUSE THEY NEED JUST A BACKUP GUARD AT THIS POINT.

The Dust

June 17th, 2009
11:36 am

JOSH SMITH MUST GO!

hmmm...

June 17th, 2009
11:37 am

don’t you think the hawks need a center? Why not bring in a wallace and slide everyone down a spot well AL and josh. and trade marvin and/or acie. when does speedy’s contract expire??

HawkKingBibby

June 17th, 2009
11:41 am

Speedy and pick #19 matches up perfect salary wise and save Orlando some payroll both on Speedys insurance and paying pick 29 ( I think thats Orlando’s pick) is less than 19.

Chea

June 17th, 2009
11:41 am

I’m not sure about this one. The reason Acie Law never played is because Woody runs no pick-and-rolls and needs his guards to be great spot-up shooters. Alston is not one, so I don’t see how he’s going to replace Bibby in Woody’s system. Replace Woody, and then we can talk about PGs with suspect jumpshots.

Brendan

June 17th, 2009
11:44 am

I love this proposal Jeff! Let’s hope Rick Sund makes it happen!

scoopj

June 17th, 2009
11:45 am

this is an excellent idea and a great place to start

dap01

June 17th, 2009
11:48 am

Good idea, please don’t sacrifice the future of the hawks by signing a diminishing PG like Bibby.

gdg73

June 17th, 2009
11:48 am

What is this “another disappointing post-season for Joe Johnson” crap you have been spewing for the last couple of days. When was the first disappointing postseason. i asked this question the other day and still haven’t gotten a response from you. Could it be that you have no clue.

Jonathan

June 17th, 2009
11:52 am

Schultz I really would like to know why u keep saying Joe Johnson had ANOTHER bad postseason well I don’t know about u but I think without Joe there would be no postseason. And although Joe didn’t have a great postseason this year he had a great one last year (that is why I don’t understand why u keep saying another bad postseason Joe did great last postseason vs Boston). So basically my point is u let go Joe no more playoffs for the hawks (Atlanta sports teams love to get rid of stars Domonique, Deion Sanders, All of the great Braves Pitchers, Mike Vick, Andrew Jones, and Brett Favre Can we for once keep a good player in Atlanta gosh)

HawkKingBibby

June 17th, 2009
11:57 am

OOPs nevermind Orlando doesnt have a 1st round pick. Still give them Speedy and pick 19.

edward

June 17th, 2009
12:00 pm

No way do I want Rafer Alston on the hawks unless its to be our backup point guard and only for Acie Law. The 19th pick too? Sorry HawkKingBibby, that is WAY too much. Wouldn’t mind though for us to draft Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor and maybe have Alston starting until Lawson or Maynor are ready. Alston might have had a couple good games, especially game 4 vs cleveland, but look at the rest of the games he played in the playoffs. He does not shot the ball well and there is a reason teams have traded him so much.

darrell starks

June 17th, 2009
12:05 pm

We have acie law.
GO HAWKS!!!!!

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
12:07 pm

FUFFAR: Don’t know if Orlando would do that deal straight. But obviously it depends on the trade market. Could be other teams interested, given Alston only has only a year left.

THE DUST: Why?

HMMM: Yeah. I think the Hawks need a center. But I refuse to campaign for one until the Thrashers get one!

HAWKKINGBIBBY: I think there’s a real chance Speedy might come into play here. Insurance would pay salary next year and Magic gets an expiring contract (which teams love).

BRENDAN, SCOOPJ, DAP01: Thanks.

E. Tampa Ironworse

June 17th, 2009
12:09 pm

At the end of the day…the Hawks actually HAVE all the role players they need. They need the ONE star. Joe…nope. Josh…see Joe. You put a big time player with these current Hawks…you put a LEADER with the Hawks and they can go a long way. When they Woodson, during the playoffs, who would lead this team…he didn’t have a “one guy” answer. So like quarterbacks…when you have 2, you have none. When you have 5 guys that MIGHT be leaders, you don’t have any leaders. So until they get one, there’s out in the cold. Oh, to have Chris Paul right now.

Najeh Davenpoop

June 17th, 2009
12:09 pm

When has Rafer Alston ever been a reliable starter? Even this year as soon as someone challenged him for playing time he started whining. He’s always had questionable shot selection and has never been the steady hand you need at the point guard position. On a good team, he really should be coming off the bench. When Bibby and Jason Kidd are free agents, it makes no sense to go after Alston to fill your point guard needs.

Art Vandelay

June 17th, 2009
12:10 pm

For the life of me, I can’t understand all the passion in these comments for keeping Acie Law as our starting PG. Sure, he’s probably capable of more than Woodson has let him show, but let’s get real here — Law is a borderline NBA player at best, and not in any position to be a starter on a team with hopes of real success. I agree that Woodson has probably been a little too heavy-handed with him, but from what I’ve seen, Acie hasn’t really earned much playing time, either. I’d be fine with him sticking around as a backup (either to Bibby, or to Alston as Jeff suggests), but the day Acie Law IV is the Hawks’ starting PG is the day I finally accept the fact that this franchise has no hope.

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
12:16 pm

GDG73: The first disappointing post-season was last season (save one game vs. Celtics). The second disappointing post-season was this season. Look at the numbers. Whether Joe was worn down or injured, I dunno. But he did not distinguish himself as a difference-maker in the playoffs, and when I’ve written that most readers have agreed. But I have no problem with you disagreeing. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Joe as a player. He’s just not up in the class of centerpiece player. My opinion.

JONATHAN: See above.

EAST TAMPA: Sure, the Hawks can get Chris Paul. All they need to do is give up…um…well …no, they can’t get Chris Paul.

ART VANDELAY: I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I’d just like to see Acie Law play more to see what he is. I have no idea. But I wouldn’t be crushed if he was dealt, either.

Long Lost Hawk Fan

June 17th, 2009
12:25 pm

The problem with the 3 man “core” is that 2 of that core fit the same role. Horford and Smith are both best suited for #4 role. If Horford is really the best building block on the roster, given Josh’s perceived attitude issues, then you have to find a way to get your best player slotted where he best fits. That means a center is priority target. If you find a good center available for trade, and it takes Josh to get it done, pull the trigger and you really accomplish 2 goals with that move. I personally love Josh’s huge potential, but Horford looks more the team player with more attainable upside. That would still leave you exposed at point, but some suggestions on here make sense, even using Marvin as trade bait for that piece. If you cannot locate a top tier center, you still find some way to get Horford out of the 5, with an atleast serviceable center, and put all your efforts into the point guard with a great shot, but Josh would be off the table in that scenario. Horford and Josh playing together as dual #4’s could be interesting but only if you have some serious outside shooting to free them up near the basket.

adam

June 17th, 2009
12:27 pm

Trade for Alston, and take SG Jodie Meeks at 19 in the draft. Meeks is capable of becoming a big time scorer on the wing alongside Joe Johnson. Alston is younger and is a better distributor than Bibby.

Mac

June 17th, 2009
12:27 pm

Uh, Jeff. Speedy Claxton. Hello? Point guard solved and use the Bibby money for something else … you know, Spirit legal fees or something.

Mark C.

June 17th, 2009
12:27 pm

I like Alston, but the Hawks need a PG that can knock down open shots from outside. That’s not Alston’s game.

John

June 17th, 2009
12:32 pm

Jeff,

One problem. Bibby was the only consistent kick-out shooter the Hawks had during the post season. Without his shooting, the Hawks lose to the Heat in round 1. Without a legitimate 3-pt threat, teams will pack the lane forcing more Josh Smith jump shots and traffic for JJ to navigate – neither is an appealing scenario. Clearly, anyone who watched the Magic-Lakers series will agree that Rafer Alston is not a legitimately consistent long-range threat.

Now – if can combine the Bradley scenario (Caron Butler for Marvin Williams) and sign Rafer Alston to less money than Bibby – I think it makes sense. However, never know what kind of team chemistry issues that creates.

Mac

June 17th, 2009
12:33 pm

You know, one of these days Woodson and Sund are going to open a broom closet at Phillips Arena, see Speedy Claxton there behind the mops and do a V-8 to their foreheads. Billy Knight can’t have been wrong about Craig.

Pete Orr

June 17th, 2009
12:39 pm

Are you going for the all knucklehead team?

Josh Smith and Alston in your starting 5 with Woodson as coach?? If you want to write how one of them is pouting every other week when something doesn’t go their way or question Woodson(which is understandable), then it would be a good trade.

Dan

June 17th, 2009
12:43 pm

Problem we need allstars not someone elses backup to be our starter? Look we are not getting to the finals with scrubs..

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
12:44 pm

LONG LOST HAWK FAN: You wouldn’t like Josh at the 3? He’d dominate small forwards inside (assuming you stop letting him shoot outside).

MAC: Funny visual. And did you say Billy Knight couldn’t have been wrong about something?

PETE ORR: We’re not talking long-term commitment. For one year I think Alston would be fine because he’d be in a contract year. KEY factor.

Darrin "The Vent King"

June 17th, 2009
12:45 pm

I said this same thing about Rafer Alston to a friend of mine during the Finals. I agree totally. But how would Woodson affect this is what I wonder about. Would accept Alston? Does it matter if he’s not going to be here long term? I think outside the point guard issue we have, dealing with the coaching situation is 2nd on the list.

Cleveland

June 17th, 2009
12:50 pm

I definately like you idea better thatn Mark Bradleys. I agree Bibby should go and the team needs to be more up tempo. I still think that Law is the answer at point. Given playing time he could be as good as many of the point guards in the game. He may not be the three point treat, but is a better defender and is capable of gettin to the hoop.

We shoulg go after the Orlando backup center, move Harford to the four and make Josh Smith to sixth man. What team in the east can match him with a bench player if he is play in the four.

Starters == Law/Murrary at point, Joe at two, Marvin at three, Harford at four, Gartin at center.

Bench == Law/Murrary, Josh Smith, ZaZa, Mo Evans

Hedo Fan

June 17th, 2009
12:53 pm

Why isn’t anyone talking about the Hawks signing Hedo Turkoglu?? The guy was clearly Orlando’s best player in the playoffs (Howard included) and is a match-up nightmare for opponents. As between re-signing Bibby for $10M (he made $15M last year) and signing Turkoglu for $10+M (he made 7.3M last year), I’ll take Hedo any day. That signing also gives us the flexibility to let Marvin walk.

ATL_LOVE

June 17th, 2009
12:55 pm

PG problem: I’m fine with experimenting with Acie and Lawson at the one if we can find a bonafide center. I’d hate to break the bank with Bibby knowing that JJ will be a free agent next year along with Bosh, Kobe, Lebron, Wade.

Center problem: If we can save $$ at PG then we can contend for a good center. If we want the problem fixed this year we can either package Marvin + Speedy and go after a decent one or wait for Bosh next year.

Coaching problem: Regardless of the top 2 moves, coaching can kill it all. We need to find someone cabable to taking this talent to the next level. IT’S NOT WOODSON.

scott

June 17th, 2009
12:55 pm

Jeff -

I don’t think it’s a good idea to get an oftentimes emotionally unstable an cranky guy to be the PG/floor leader for a young team.

This team needs veteran leadership at the point, not this guy. he succeeded in Orlando because he was surrounded by professionals like Hedo and Rashad Lewis. We dont need a guy more petulant than Zaza being our floor general.

Kmjs

June 17th, 2009
12:57 pm

Jeff – what happened to the ‘trade for Jarret Jack’ talk that was brought up immediately after our playoffs ended? Is that no longer a possibility?

Rick Sund

June 17th, 2009
12:58 pm

Hmmm – acquire a point guard via trade? I had not yet considered that as a feasible option. I was going to focus solely on the free agent market, since that’s how we signed our “point guard of the future” Speedy Claxton a few years back at the behest of Atlanta Spirit ownership (minus Steve Belkin – that guy’s such a goofball).

As it turned out, Speedy Claxton has been more like Broken Claxton – if only this were fantasy basketball, he would have hit the waiver wire already!! Anyway, I figured we would have better luck this time around since people are always saying there’s a 50/50 chance of things working out.

All in all, I have thoroughly reviewed your column and you do raise a very fascinating concept, Mr. Schultz. You AJC sports columnists have really stepped up your suggestions lately. Give your colleague Mark Bradley a high-five the next time you see him, on my behalf. I will consult with my management team (i.e. ownership) and look into the prospects of such a possibility (i.e. I need their sign-off on any expense over $10 because our ownership situation has been a bit hairy over the past few years).

Best greetings,

Richard Sund
General Manager, Atlanta Hawks

Jeff Schultz

June 17th, 2009
1:05 pm

DARRIN VENT KING: Coaches coach for today, not tomorrow, Woodson included.

CLEVELAND: For the money team’s paying Josh, he’s not going to be on the bench. Nor should he be. I’ll take him at the 3.

HEDO FAN: Hello, $$$$$$? Not happening here.

SCOTT: “Unstable” might be a little strong — cranky sometimes, yes. But like I noted above, I think there’s something to be said for last-contract-year motivatiion.

KMJS: I fully endorse the Jarret Jack idea. But I think this is more realistic from an ownership/management perspective, given finances and long-term commitment.

RICK: Mazel Tov!

bird

June 17th, 2009
1:06 pm

There’s got to be a better option out there other than Rafer Alston. He would make a great back-up though.

Hedo Fan

June 17th, 2009
1:10 pm

Jeff: Signing Hedo actually SAVES the Hawks $$. Hawks paid Bibby $15M last season and it will not take $15M to sign Hedo. Plus, with Hedo around, we don’t need Marvin and his contract anymore. A lineup of Acie/Flip, Joe, Hedo, Josh and Al would be a strong contender.

Daniel

June 17th, 2009
1:13 pm

Rafer Alston is NOT the answer at point guard for the Hawks. Just read your own article Jeff. Rafer is always being traded because teams don’t value his abilities at point. Yes, he helped the Magic get to the finals, but he was surrounded by a deeper more talented team than the Hawks currently have. I dunno one decent second half of the season with a few nice playoff games do not outweigh five years in the league as being a journeyman. This move screams Speedy Claxton to me. I know you are going to say but the contract is better. Well, yes but the contract doesn’t play, and this team needs to be better next season before the year of the free agent and the whole league gets turned upside down. We have to become a legit destination next year or we will be lost in mediocrity for another 5 years.

NoleRick

June 17th, 2009
1:18 pm

Hell bring in Hedo and Rafer…lol

a1andonly

June 17th, 2009
1:20 pm

Hey Jeff, what do you think about Wayne Ellington? Do you think he could fit somewhere into the future of the Hawks?

Hatertots

June 17th, 2009
1:25 pm

Jeff- I’m afraid you’ve contracted a severe case of Jannero Pargo Syndrome. JPS is a terrible affliction that affects thousands each year, convincing them that unproductive career backups can become successful starters, usually after witnessing a couple of anamalous high-scoring playoff game performances. JPS induces selective amnesia, causing forgetfulness of terrible performances like 3 pts on 1-10 shooting in the ECF or 13-45 shooting combined in four Finals losses.

My recommendation to you is a strong dose of Ramon Sessions, a Milwaukee second year PG and RFA who is not only better, bigger, and much, much younger than Alston, he’s also not expected to cost much more to sign than Rafer.

Here’s a sample.

jpmoney

June 17th, 2009
1:25 pm

Dummies, why do you want to break up what is working. If you can get Alston for little then make the trade, but not at the expense of losing your best players for a 32 yr old point guard.

T-Dogg

June 17th, 2009
1:26 pm

Jeff your idea is wack!!! Teams get better with time. The Hawks have gradually gotten better throuhgout the past three years, first making the playoffs in 08′ and then to the second round in 09′. They should try their best to keep all of the starters, get a dominant Center, move Al to PF, and get great role and bench players that understand the meaning of a team. If they were to make any trade they should think of acquiring the hometown boy Dwight Howard.

Daniel

June 17th, 2009
1:31 pm

T-Dogg- you had me going until you got to the point where we should trade for Howard. Dude, you are right while we are at it lets get, Tony Parker, Lebron and Kobe too. Heck, let’s just take the entire olympic team and put them on the Hawks. Yeah, that is what we should do.

Manny

June 17th, 2009
1:32 pm

I liked the idea, but I wanted it to fester because I was seeing Skip2mylou doing good things in the Finals. But I like his game. He can bury the 3. He can penetrate. He can defend.

The downside is that he can break down mentally, and needs to constantly be coached up. And I don’t see him as a player that would work well with Mike Woodson. He’s too hot in the head.

But Rafer Alston would be a nice fit here, as long as we get a young big man that can run and can get Al and Josh to learn a post-up game.

Tyger

June 17th, 2009
1:34 pm

Just politely say NO! to Schultz’s rantings…

T-Dogg

June 17th, 2009
1:37 pm

Although I do like Rafer, we still shouldn’t get him because a point guard is not our weakness or main need. Besides Rafer is two years older than Bibby and that would only make us older, looking for another point guard sooner. We need more of a dominating center that draws the double team, which would allow for Joe, Mike, Marvin, Josh, Flip, and even Al gain better shots.

Manny

June 17th, 2009
1:37 pm

Doggone it, I just read more information on Rafer Alston. Rafer got a real bad temper, huh?

Uh, this is simple: if you get Rafer Alston, you must package in a Van Gundy at coach, because he can only perform well if there’s a Van Gundy as coach.

ReggieATL

June 17th, 2009
1:42 pm

Why doesn’t Woodson ever play young guards? Wasn’t Acie Law a first round draft pick? Why is he languishing on the bench?? That aside….

Mike Bibby’s an outstanding point guard. So the Hawks need three things (none include Skip to my Lou)
1. A CENTER (this isn’t rocket science. five years into the rebuilding project, we still have five power forwards and zero centers).
2. Another scorer. Josh Smith doesn’t have the work ethic to develop a full game. Marvin Williams is made of peanut brittle. Al Horford rebounds with the best but has the offensive tools of a benchwarmer. Bibby can score. Joe Johnson can score like crazy when he’s not triple teamed. You need someone else who can score to let JJ lose.
3. A new coach. Yeah, I said it. No one can run ‘n gun on a fast break like the soaring hawks. Have you seen their set offense recently? It’s literally embarrasing. Also, have you ever seen someone do a worse job at developing talent? The Hawks are a black hole for lottery picks…every year its the same story…look at all that potential, that scary talent, and then we’re throwing up 70 points in a playoff game. It’s ridiculous.

All I'm Saying

June 17th, 2009
1:46 pm

I agree with you Jeff but priority one has to be to get the big man in the middle problem solved first and then figure out the point. Why? Because there are far more options in the marketplace for the point guard we need than for a 7′ foot defensive oriented man in the middle we have to have to compete in the East given where Dwight Howard is now. We get a big man in the middle then we can slide Al to power forward. (Trade Marvin, Solo, and Speedy’s expiring contract to get either Tyson Chandler from NO (they tried to trade him once so don’t want him clearly), rights to draft Thabeet from Memphis or take Marc Gasol if they offer (Grizzlies need a Marvin type player more than another big man), or Adris Biernis [sp] in Golden State (new GM wants to deal)).

The Hawks have a real window of opportunity in the next couple of years and Acie is not ready so I like Rafer as an alternative. Rafer can definitely play better defense than Bibby (not a compliment), needs to work on consistency with respect to his outside shot but he is a legitimate threat to shoot and make the three, and his decision making on the fast break was suspect during the Finals but at least he now has Finals experience.

I’d keep the Speedy expiring contract option to get the big man in the middle we have to have as that is a valuable chip in the NBA.