It became clear the moment Mike Bibby arrived from Sacramento: This is how it’s done. You find a point guard and put the ball in his hands and live happily ever after. And that’s why, in a draft deep in nothing except point guards, the Hawks should take one with the 19th pick tonight.
Let’s assume the Jamal Crawford trade is consummated, and let’s even assume the Hawks re-sign Bibby: Even then, there’d always be a need for a distributor, and no team knows it better than the one that passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2004. It took the Hawks until February 2008 to find a real point guard, and once they did they were never the same.
With Bibby on the floor, they were transformed. They were creative. They were properly positioned. They were, for lack of a better word, good. They took the Celtics to Game 7 that spring, and they were even better in 2008-2009, winning 47 games and a Round 1 series. They know now what they should have known all along: Unless you have a superstar capable of making plays for others — LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe — you can’t win without a point guard.
There will be good ones available tonight at No. 19. That’s guaranteed. Eric Maynor of VCU could be there, and so could Ty Lawson of North Carolina. Either would be fine with me. Maynor is a better shooter, but Lawson runs the break expertly.
I prefer those two, you should know, to Jeff Teague of Wake Forest, who’s more a combo guard than a pure point and who was awful — seven turnovers — in the Deacs’ NCAA loss to Cleveland State. And I don’t like Jrue Holiday of UCLA at all. He’s not really a distributor, and he didn’t have much of a freshman season in a Ben Howland system that usually makes stars of its guards. (Think Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison.)
And what of Brandon Jennings, who bypassed college to spend a year playing in Europe and whom Chad Ford of ESPN.com has coming to Atlanta (link requires registration) even with Maynor and Teague available. Well, Jennings is a major talent, but I’d like a bit more polish in my point guards. Lawson played three collegiate seasons, Maynor four.
Rick Sund said this week, “We’re looking at every position,” but the upside on smaller men at No. 19 seems greater than that on bigger guys. Tyler Hansbrough will be a solid pro at best; B.J. Mullens didn’t average double figures in the Big Ten.
Apart from Blake Griffin and maybe Hasheem Thabeet, there’s a significant question regarding every big man in this draft. The point guards are simply better this year, and there are so many more of them.
The Hawks can subsist nicely with Al Horford at center the next five seasons. They cannot maintain their newly high standard without a young point guard coming down the pipeline. There may never be another opportunity to find one this good so low in the draft.
And we should prepare ourselves for that new paradigm: The Hawks aren’t apt to be in the lottery again anytime soon. They won 47 games last season. With Crawford, they should win more than 50 in 2009-2010. But a pick at No. 19 isn’t so much a pick for today as for tomorrow. At this moment, tomorrow looks bright for the Atlanta Hawks. Taking the right PG in Round 1 tonight will make tomorrow brighter still.