The Atlanta Hawks ping pong-balled their way to the third pick in this year’s NBA draft lottery last night and with that comes the decision of whom to draft or whether to trade the pick and leave that potential franchise-changing decision to another team.
The Atlanta Hawks (For all of the young people out there, the team previously played in St. Louis and moved here to start the 1968-69 season) have had the number three pick four times; twice before the lottery system was created in 1985 and twice since.
Of the four players they selected, three of them were or are all-stars.
This year’s draft will leave the Hawks and the team’s brain trust, including new head coach Lloyd Pierce, with a good chance to pick up a player that can immediately help the team get back to what was a comfortable playoff existence over the past decade.
The third pick in the draft has been good to Atlanta in the past. Here is a quick breakdown of past Hawks number three picks. The lottery is over, Atlanta has their pick and a little over a month to decide what to do with it. What could go wrong?
- 1970 Pete Maravich, LSU – If I have to tell you who Pistol Pete is then you’re probably too young to be online without supervision. Maravich remains the greatest college basketball scorer of all time and a hoops legend due to his style of play that was lightyears ahead of its time. Maravich, a Hall of Famer, played four seasons in Atlanta, playing on three playoff teams in the backcourt with hall of fame guard ‘Sweet’ Lou Hudson and making two all-star teams.
- The Pistol was traded to the New Orleans Jazz (doesn’t that just sound so perfect?) before the start of the 1974-75 season. Along with Hudson, arguably the two best guards in Hawks history (The list really isn’t that long: Hudson, Maravich, Steve Smith. See that’s not long at all.), Maravich averaged 24.1 points per game during his time in Atlanta, including 27.7 points per game in his last season with the franchise.
- 1975 Marvin Webster, Morgan State University – The 7’1 center was nicknamed ‘The Human Eraser’ for a reason but it was not to the benefit to the Hawks. Webster decided to play in the ABA along with the Hawks number one overall pick, future hall of fame guard David Thompson. A big what if Thompson decided to play in Atlanta comes immediately to mind followed by what if he and Maravich played in the same backcourt along with Hudson? Webster would eventually play in the NBA with the Sonics, Knicks, and Bucks. Not Atlanta.
- 2001 Pau Gasol, Spain – The six-time all-star, two-time NBA champ with the Los Angeles Lakers, four-time All-NBA selection and 2001-2002 Rookie of the Year never played a minute in Atlanta. The third overall pick was traded to Memphis for Atlanta area native Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who just so happened to be the third overall pick in the 1996 draft to Vancouver. Gasol is still playing at a high level for the San Antonio Spurs. Revisionist history leaves me to believe Gasol would have been a lifelong Hawks, a pillar in what is now a diverse community and the rock of a team that would have contended for at least one title. Abdur-Rahim retired in 2008 after a solid career. He did represent Atlanta at the 2002 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.
- 2007 Al Horford, Florida – Horford will go down as the greatest Atlanta Hawks draft pick with all due respect to Maravich (Dominique Wilkins was drafted by Utah and traded to Atlanta before ever playing an NBA game for a number of players in 1983), until further notice. Horford’s selection as the third pick helped usher in a new era of Hawks basketball alongside Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby, who came to Atlanta in a midseason trade with Sacremento that included current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams. The Hawks would make a decade-long playoff run and Horford was key to nine of those teams including the 60-win Eastern Conference Finals team in 2015. Horford remains key to his current team, the Boston Celtics, as they play in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.