Are we believing this? The Atlanta Hawks, acting boldly? Acting smartly?
We should be believing. Because this long-tormented franchise just took another step up in class.
They won 47 games and a playoff series last season. They should break 50 next time. Trading for Jamal Crawford — assuming the deal goes through, and there seems no reason it shouldn’t — gives them more flexibility than the Hawks have had … well, since Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan were hoisting hook shots back in St. Louis.
Crawford doesn’t mean Mike Bibby is necessarily a gone goose — obviously the Hawks can’t keep both him and Flip Murray now — but it means the Hawks enter the 2009 draft and the even-more-important summer free agency bazaar knowing they have cover. Crawford isn’t a true point, but he can play the point. And he can score.
He has averaged 15.7 points over the nine seasons since he left Michigan, and he averaged 19.7 for Golden State last season. Think of him as an upgrade on Flip, and think of Crawford as the guy who keeps Joe Johnson from having to scored 25 every night and, even more important, having to work 45 minutes every night. Think of Crawford as the next piece in a team that was already pretty darned good.
To move onward and upward, the Hawks had to get away from having Johnson do everything and their iso-Joe offense. Because, to be frank, Joe can’t do everything. He’s good, but he’s not LeBron, not Kobe, not D-Wade. Crawford will help balance the backcourt scales, and if the Hawks can keep Bibby then Crawford would make an ideal third guard — capable of running the team for six minutes at a time, capable of scoring 10 points while Joe sits.
Best of all, the Hawks got him for nothing. Acie Law was never going to co-exist with Mike Woodson — that ship had not only sailed but sunk — and Speedy Claxton had become the white elephant on the payroll. In one swoop Rick Sund dumped two players who wouldn’t have helped for one who’ll help immensely.
This isn’t to say the work is done, or even halfway completed. There’s still the issue of a backup center — Zaza Pachulia is a free agent — and still the greater issue of what to do with Marvin Williams. (A sign-and-trade seems possible, but a one-year qualifying offer, which would enable him to stay a Hawk for the upcoming season but leave as an unrestricted free agent next summer, is more probable.)
And the great Bibby riddle is no longer so great. If he wants to take more money to play for a worse team, the Hawks can manage without him. The belief — always strong — that the Hawks will take a point guard in Round 1 is now stronger. If Bibby’s here, the rookie can back him up. If Bibby’s not, the rookie can apprentice under Crawford.
Soon the Hawks will need a new guard. Bibby is 32, Crawford 29 and under contract for two seasons more. Eric Maynor or Ty Lawson and maybe even Jeff Teague would fit nicely into this new rotation, but the greater point (pun intended) is this: The team that looked forever for a lead guard now has options galore at one of basketball’s two most important positions.
There was a time — not so long ago, as a matter of fact — we expected the Hawks to go splat come the draft. (OK, so Billy Knight did take Al Horford in 2007.) This first Sund move of a hugely important offseason isn’t a splat or anything of the kind. It’s a bull’s eye.