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.”
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?