A modest proposal: Flip free agency and the NBA draft

Rick Sund makes a good living, OK? (And he’s doing a nice job, OK?) But Rick Sund is an NBA general manager, and NBA general managers have it tough, logistically speaking. They have to draft players to fit a team that might not be their team at all.

The Hawks have the 19th and 49th picks in Thursday’s draft. In a perfect world, the GM would target positions of need. But the Hawks also have four key players who will become free agents July 1. One’s a backup center. One’s a starting small forward. One’s a starting point guard. One’s a backup combo guard. How can you fill so many potential holes with two picks? How can you know which potential holes will become actual holes?

Even with Jamal Crawford apparently on board, if Mike Bibby (starting PG) oe Flip Murray (backup combo) decide to sign elsewhere, the Hawks will need another guard. But, as Sund said Monday, “Let’s say Zaza [Pachulia] doesn’t re-sign with us and Al Horford gets hurt next year. In hindsight, I’ll be wishing I drafted a center.”

And here Sund hopped on his hobbyhorse. “We need to do like football [meaning the NFL] does,” he said. “Have free agency before the draft.”

Should the NBA change and hold free agency before its draft?

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Imagine if Thomas Dimitroff operated on the NBA’s calendar. He wouldn’t have gone into the NFL draft knowing the Falcons needed replacements for defensive starters — alphabetical order here — Michael Boley, Keith Brooking, Domonique Foxworth, Grady Jackson and Lawyer Milloy. Instead Dimitroff would have had to guess and throw figurative darts. (As opposed to drafting seven new defenders.) But the NFL stages its draft after free agency, almost three months after its championship game.

Wanting to piggyback on its finals, the NBA doesn’t wait two weeks. If it makes sense PR-wise — strike while the ol’ iron is hot — it makes none when it comes to optimum team-building. The Hawks don’t know what Zaza or Bibby or Flip or Marvin Williams is thinking: NBA teams can’t begin to talk to free agents (even their own) until a week after the draft.

This hasn’t been a local issue lately because, to be candid, the Hawks haven’t been good enough for it to matter. But now they’re coming off a 47-35 season and they’ve got a Round 1 pick that needs to be made as surgically as possible, and they’re operating without smocks and anesthesia and overhead lighting. So what’s a GM to do?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but … take the best available player and hope there’s a place for him.

Or, failing that, just grab Shelden Williams. That always works. Doesn’t it?

42 comments Add your comment

Ric Roc

June 23rd, 2009
9:45 am

Draft, then free agency…yep…that’s about as bass-ackwards as it gets…

Good luck to Rick Sund and staff…I have no faith in the NBA Draft anyways…there are typically only about 7-8 worthwhile players in any draft anyways…hence why it lasts only two rounds.

And as much as I want to leave the Shelden Williams-over-Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay-draft alone, I just can’t. It hurts too bad.


June 25th, 2009
6:59 am

It makes sense and there is a precendent with football doing it that way. If you have late picks, you simple go the BPA route and hope for the best.

I do expect more from the Hawks next season…


June 25th, 2009
2:47 pm

Doesn’t flipping the two just reverse the question, though? To me, it’s all po-tay-to, po-tah-to.


June 25th, 2009
2:59 pm

Mark your’re really going hard on these blogs today!!!! Nice work!!

And, what’s wrong with Schultz blogs?

Najeh Davenpoop

June 25th, 2009
3:05 pm

The last thing I want to hear Sund talk about is “wishing he drafted a center”. I’ve been having nightmares about Saer Sene and Robert Swift ever since the Hawks hired him.

SWAT Native

June 25th, 2009
3:06 pm


I’m loving the near-constant updates from you, Schultlz and Sekou on the draft!

I get your point on comparing the NFL to the NBA, but you used a bad example. Dimitroff would have known that Boley, Brooking, Grady, Lawyer and probably Foxworth wouldn’t have been here because any of that group could still be here if he had really wanted them.

Coach Paul Johnson just got mugged outside of the stadium

June 25th, 2009
3:11 pm

Enter your comments here

C money

June 25th, 2009
3:15 pm

Nice work MB (and all the ajc guys)…keep up the great blogs. To see Schultz’s blogs, go here: http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/ or click on his blog and then click on his name.

I am hoping Zaza, Marvin, Bibby and Flip are wanting to stay on a winning team vs. making big time $$$. Draft a PG in round 1 to backup Bibby, a big in round 2.


June 25th, 2009
3:17 pm

It makes so much sense, why hasn’t this been changed? And, is there any outcry to. There should be.

Oh, and hope you enjoyed lunch with the birthday girl.

Craig Claxton

June 25th, 2009
3:24 pm

Rick Sund is a chump that can’t evaluate talent, just ask Billy Knight!!


June 25th, 2009
3:25 pm

(Preface: Under Woodsons’ System)


I think there are few differences between drafting before or after the free agency market for the NBA.

1. It would be a headache for college recruiting, because the NBA draft process and NCAA rules on returning to school.
2. The salary cap in NBA makes free agency and trades more restrictive than the NFL
3. NBA draft is much more of a sure thing than the NFL, so essentially you know what you are getting. (relative statement)
4. NFL can cut rookies who don’t cut it relatively easily outside the first round.
5. NFL rosters are 55 players and it takes atleast 30 good players to be a playoff team.

With that being said, I’m not a proponent of the drafting process either.


June 25th, 2009
3:26 pm

Good point Mark(thats twice today), but don’t the players have something to say about that? The veterans probably like the leverage they have currently. Isn’t this part of their labor agreement? Or am I out to sea on this one?

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
3:31 pm

It probably is part of the labor agreement, Mudcat — a bad part, IMHO.

And if I’ve made two good points in one day, I’m two ahead of every other day in my life to date.


June 25th, 2009
3:39 pm

That’s three!


June 25th, 2009
3:43 pm

funny how it always seems the rich keep getting richer in the NBA while the poor keep struggling. I know the Hawks have improved over the last two seasons, but now they may fall back because they lose key players to free agency. Do not believe the lakers or the magic are to worried about losing key personel

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
3:46 pm

The hat trick! Yeah!

Actually, the Lakers and Magic have some issues on the free agency front — Lamar Odom and Heko Turkgolu and Trevor Ariza. But guys tend to stick with winners, and the Hawks just had a winning season themselves.

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
3:47 pm

Sene and Swift and Sund. Oh, my!


June 25th, 2009
3:54 pm

The NBA needs a new CBA. Salaries are too long and big to have such guarentees. Speedy Claxton crippled the Hawks. Eddie Long is crippling the Knicks. Making mistakes in signing players is the death of you franchise. You can absorb contracts ala MLB, or cut players ala NFL. They have a salary cap and guarenteed contracts which require player salary matches.


June 25th, 2009
4:06 pm

You are dead on MB!! The Crawford deal is awesome!!
We are not constrained by the AJC in our comments, check out our Hawks stuff out at intheatltoday.com

Thanks man…………

Jonathan Swift

June 25th, 2009
4:12 pm

Another proposal, how about a freakin’ salary cap for MLB?

Rumor Mill:

June 25th, 2009
4:18 pm

Rumor: Milwaukee is making salary cap space to sign Carlos Boozer. They are set on picking Tyler Hansbrough with the #10 pick in the draft. The Hawks will be picking Ty Lawson or Brandon Jennings with the 19th pick for Milwaukee.

The Hawks and Bucks have agreed to do a sign and trade of Charlie V. for the 19th pick (Lawson or Jennings) and Mo Evans.

Johnny Hazeltine

June 25th, 2009
4:24 pm

I love this idea!

The NBA offseason asks these questions: ~ Is my team gonna compete next season? Are they pushing for a playoff spot? Are they pushing for a title?

The draft answers none of those questions. Free Agency does.

I’d feel much better knowing that the Hawks were drafting their PG for the future, if I knew what was going on with Bibby!

Plus, it’ll make the NBA closer to a 12 month sport, like the NFL. The gap of time that people won’t be talking NBA will shrink dramatically.


June 25th, 2009
4:34 pm

Mark, is there anything to the Mo Evans plus our 19th pick to the Bucks for Charlie Villanueva?


June 25th, 2009
4:37 pm

Please let the AJC IT guy know that there appears to be a technical problem with Jeff Schultz’s blog posts. Every time I try to click on one, all I get is his name and picture with the following underneath: . From looking at Jeff’s Twitter account, others seem to be having the same problem.


June 25th, 2009
4:37 pm

Wow I still can’t believe the Suns gave away Shaq for nothing…We didn’t have any expiring contracts to give away to get into that sweepstakes?Amazing…not because Shaq is still a dominate Dude like he was …but dang know they are saying they want to trade Staoudamire so they can rebuild around Nash?Are you serious?Nash is what 36?plays like he’s 40 and you want to rebuild around THAT guy?Bradley any chance the hawks can get their hands on STATS?would you give up Josh Smith for him?


June 25th, 2009
4:57 pm

Eddie Long is crippling Atlanta too!


June 25th, 2009
5:07 pm

ZaZa going, going, gone to the San Antonio Spurs who’ve targeted the Big Georgian for the MLE $5.6M at 12:01 AM July 1st…


June 25th, 2009
5:08 pm

The hawks have shooters, now they need an inside presence. Go out and try and get Villenauava and forget about Bibby and go out and get Jack. Whit these two picks they would build for now and the future.


June 25th, 2009
5:10 pm

Magic just got Vinsanity for Rafer Alston and 2 free passes to DisneyWorld.

Dhani Jones

June 25th, 2009
6:07 pm

Vince Carter is going to pester the Hawks ALL SEASON!!!

Dhani Jones

June 25th, 2009
6:12 pm

45 minutes until TOTAL DESTRUCTION!!!


June 25th, 2009
6:47 pm

I like Tyler Hansbrough. Not the most gifted player in the world but a fighter. Reminds me of Mark Madson with a little more ability. We need toughness inside to help Hordford. There are PG’s out there and Crawford can carry some of that load. I know he doesn’t knock your socks off, but think about a guy like Luke Walton and what his role means to the Lakers. We’ve got stars now we need role players!

Mark Bradley

June 25th, 2009
6:53 pm

I’ve heard the Madsen comparison before, but Hansbrough is much more talented, IMHO.


June 25th, 2009
7:00 pm

It really doesn’t matter who they get in the draft or free agency. Unless Rick Sund can find a way to get Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwyane Wade on the team next year, Mike Woodson’s coaching (or lack thereof) will still run the Hawks into the ground.

trout slapper

June 25th, 2009
7:13 pm

We’re one All-Star (and NO, Joe “I’m tired” Johnson is NOT an All-Star) away from an NBA Finals appearance.


June 25th, 2009
7:24 pm

It is my hope that Sund is the kind of GM we have been waiting so long for and if ownership is going to allow him to get what we need( True center, and point guard and resign the good players we already have). To go retail for once instead of clearance sales and flea market, yard sales. Please gentlemen of the Hawks ownership if you are unwilling to spend for a championship team please call Mr. Blank. (He has made the offer)


June 25th, 2009
7:30 pm

Blake Griffin

June 25th, 2009
7:43 pm


June 25th, 2009
8:01 pm

what’s with all the low cut suits and loud a$$ ties?

Buy a suit that doesn’t make you look like a dumbass!


June 25th, 2009
9:26 pm

No Center!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


June 25th, 2009
10:04 pm

Schultz’s blog is still FU’d at this hour; can’t read his last three posts re the Hawks. Doesn’t anyone at the AJC [or MB or JS] read this blog?

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June 26th, 2009
4:25 pm

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