Did this just happen?
A Hawks’ highlight … on draft night?
This is the franchise of Cal Bowdler. This is the franchise of Doug Edwards, Shelden Williams, Roshown McLeod, Ed Gray and Priest Lauderdale.
It doesn’t end there. But if I mention more names, I believe it becomes felony verbal abuse.
Last year, Hawks general manager Rick Sund acquired Jamal Crawford from Golden State for Acie Law (another past draft mistake) and Speedy Claxton (a significant free-agent mistake). When the press release came out, we all figured it was some belated April Fool’s joke. Instead, it turned out to be the trade of millennium. Crawford was the biggest — possibly the only — reason the Hawks won six more games last season.
What happened Thursday night may not equal the Crawford trade in impact. But given the Hawks’ largely inglorious draft history — notwithstanding the grand slam of Al Horford and the wonder (though maddening) of Josh Smith — this draft qualifies as a significant highlight. Actually, it qualifies as a reason for a parade.
After a post-draft trade with New Jersey, the Hawks will end up with the one player, Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, who was still available in the draft who could significantly help them.
Jordan’s name had come up quite a bit over the past week. He can score. He can jump. He can hit jumpers with defenders in his face. The shooting guard — no relation to the Hawks’ other shooting guard named Crawford — averaged 20.5 points for Xavier last season. He averaged 29 points in three NCAA tournament games.
You may also remember him for YouTube “VideoGate”: He dunked on LeBron James in a summer camp last year. Nike officials immediately tried to confiscate everybody’s video. Fortunately, it lives on in Google. (Google is Kryptonite for spin artists. See video below.)
How high were the Hawks on Crawford? When I asked Hawks assistant general manager Dave Pendergraft about him the other day, he said: “I like him a lot. He’s a guy we’ve talked about quite a bit. But I’m afraid he might be gone before we pick.”
Surprisingly, he wasn’t gone.
Actually, Crawford lasted longer than the Hawks’ pick. At 24th overall, with Crawford on the board, Sund selected Texas forward Damion James. But reports immediately surfaced that the Hawks had worked a trade with New Jersey for the Nets’ 27th overall pick. That was pretty much confirmed when the Nets took Crawford. In the process, the Hawks were expected to pick up an extra draft pick.
It’s also an Atlanta Spirit-friendly transaction: The Hawks will save about $90,000 in salary by signing the 27th overall pick instead of the 24th. They also received the Nets’ 31st overall pick, center Tibor Pleiss of Germany, in the deal, then turned around and sold Pleiss to Oklahoma City for close to the league maximum of $3 million. The team’s preference is to use that salary spot for a veteran player.
Sund was elated to get Crawford. He and Pendergraft both were surprised the player was still there.
So why pass on him at 24? Sund admitted it was a calculated risk, but said: “We felt pretty comfortable he would still be there [for New Jersey at 27th].”
The Hawks also had two other players they liked if Crawford wasn’t there.
In the best-case scenario, Crawford gives the Hawks scoring depth. In the worst-case scenario, it gives them some help if they lose Joe Johnson in free agency and/or can’t re-sign Josh Childress, who is expected to return to the NBA from Greece.
The Hawks can’t afford to stand pat this offseason. Getting swept out of the second round for the second consecutive season.
“We finished the season as a really good basketball team,” Sund said before the draft. “We didn’t play as well in the second round against Orlando as obviously we thought we could. But we’re in a situation now where everybody obviously got a little taste of that and we’re hopefully more focused.”
“Hopefully we sign Joe. Hopefully we’ll add to this roster and look at some things that will make us better. We’ll see how it plays out.”
It’s a good start to the summer.
Once again, with feeling: Crawford dunks on LeBron
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