I’d have preferred Eric Maynor, but I’m not going to gripe. The Hawks took the guy they liked at the position of greatest short- and long-term need, and at this point I’m disposed to give Rick Sund and his chief aide Dave Pendergraft the benefit of every doubt.
The Hawks greeted the week not knowing if they’d have anyone to handle the ball next season. They’re covered now. If Mike Bibby and/or Flip Murray signs somewhere else, they’ll be OK. If Bibby stays, they’ll be better than OK. Heck, if they handle Marvin Williams properly, they just might catch and pass Boston as the third-best team in the NBA East.
Jamal Crawford was an inspired acquisition, one of those there-has-to-be-a-catch coups: A guy who scored almost 20 points a game last season for two guys who barely played. And Jeff Teague was only the slightest of reaches with the draft’s 19th pick.
Maynor, who went one spot later, is older and more refined and a truer point guard, but Teague is the greater talent. He spent two years under Dino Gaudio at Wake Forest, meaning he was only lightly coached. Teague has, as they say in the trade, an upside.
There was no big man in the draft apt to offer immediate help at No. 19. B.J. Mullens of Ohio State is at least two years away. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in a so-so Big Ten. To borrow a description once made of Mean Joe Greene vis-a-vis a lesser defensive tackle: Al Horford would knock B.J. Mullens down and stand on him.
The Hawks loaded up at the place they could conceivably have been understaffed, and now the emphasis shifts: Marvin Williams becomes a greater priority than Bibby (or Flip), and that’s another bit of good fortune/great planning. Because Marvin is a restricted free agent. The Hawks can keep him by matching any offer. Bibby and Flip — and Zaza Pachulia — are unrestricted. They can just up and leave.
But they should — “should,” I say — get something for Marvin. (Let’s not forget they should have gotten something for Josh Childress last July and didn’t, but I’m thinking that was a one-off.) The worst that should happen is a sign-and-trade. The more likely outcome is that Williams signs a one-year qualifying offer to remain a Hawk and then becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, and that wouldn’t be bad, either.
Retaining Marvin would mean five of the top seven players off a 47-win squad will stay together, and then factor in Crawford and Teague. And let’s assume the Hawks find the means to keep either Bibby or Flip. That’s not just stability. That’s a clear upgrade. And there was, given the looming personnel issue, no guarantee headed into the summer that the 2009-2010 Hawks would be nearly as good as their immediate predecessor.
And we’re seeing now that the best move the Hawks have made over the past 13 months had nothing to do with a player. Hiring Sund as general manager was generally viewed as a safe choice — not bad, but not brilliant. He started badly by letting Childress flit off to Greece, but every move since has been expertly handled. (Even the Hawks’ Round 2 pick — Sergiy Gladyr, a 19-year-old shooting guard from the Ukraine — could hit big in a couple of years.)
I’ve lived in Atlanta a quarter of a century, and much of that time I’ve devoted to tweaking the Hawks. But I’m not carping now, not even about the choice of Teague over Maynor. I’ve been given reason to believe this franchise is in capable hands. I’ve been given reason to believe in the Atlanta Hawks.
Yes, it feels a bit weird. But it also feels … nice.