A few days before the draft, Hawks general manager Rick Sund sat in a conference room down the hall from his office, beaming about the franchise’s present and future.
“I like where are right now,” he said. “We’re one of the youngest teams in the league and we have the 19th pick. That’s generally a player who has a bright future and can play for you right away, or he can fill in if somebody gets hurt.”
Remember those words when Jeff Teague comes to town. He needs to be somebody who can contribute. He needs to be somebody we remember, because Sund may have taken a slight risk when he drafted the Wake Forest point guard Thursday night, passing on Ohio State center B.J. Mullens.
“I feel like when you look back down the road, I’m going to be the best point guard taken in this draft,” Teague said.
When informed of that quote, Sund said, “He said that? Good. I hope he’s right.”
Teague doesn’t have to be that good. He doesn’t have to be Chris Paul good – another former Wake Forest point guard the Hawks passed on, the biggest in their blur of mistakes at point guard. He just has to be good enough so that the franchise isn’t haunted by passing on the 7-foot Mullens.
Some viewed Mullens as a project, and Teague certainly is the safer choice. But talented 7-footers don’t come around very often. Sund wouldn’t comment on Mullens directly, but he said, “We basically had our pecking order of who we would take. It was pretty much aligned with what we thought. We got who we wanted.”
NBA teams are allotted five minutes per pick in the first round.
But Sund said, “We turned the name into the league right away.”
The Hawks obviously believe Teague is a player. He’s 6-2, quick, excels in transition and averaged 19 points a game. And this might be the time to give the Hawks the benefit of the doubt. They are coming off a 47-win season and won their first playoff series in 10 years. They have pieces. Usually, drafts are when they fall to pieces. But two years ago they got Al Horford.
This is not an organization that generally celebrates draft days. It mourns them.
But this is how well things are going now. Two selections before the Hawks were scheduled to pick at 19th overall, Teague, North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson, UCLA point and shooting guard Jrue Holiday and Mullens were still on the board. Philadelphia took Holiday. Minnesota took Lawson at 18 (and traded him to Denver). The Hawks had good choices.
The last time the Hawks actually drafted an All-Star was Kevin Willis in 1984. It’s the longest such drought of any team in the NBA. It might be the longest drought of any team in professional sports. But when I called the Elias Sports Bureau for confirmation, I was told they would need days to research the stat. But put it this way: They’re in the argument.
The last 24 drafts have covered 76 players and 26 first rounders. But for every Al Horford, there have been five Cal Bowdlers. Or Ed Grays. Or Shelden Williams.
But they believe they have another piece now. We’ll find out soon enough.