Saturday, December 10, 2005

SPORTS: Babcock no Knight-mare

Fans here in the Toronto area love to express their opinion that Mike Babcock, the Toronto Raptor GM is either an idiot or the devilspawn. Methinks he looks nothing like Adam Sandler, but I'm definitely in the minority here in T.O. That said, he's no Billy Knight.

Now, Knight happens to be a good guy. I've talked to him a couple of times and he's a good guy. A pretty good player in his time. But he's the nadir of NBA GMs, without a doubt. In fact, unless Steve A Smith gets a GM job, Knight might be the worst GM of all time. One caveat, he's often made decisions forced on him by management, but there's a limit any GM should do just to keep collecting a paycheck. I mean, even Elgin Baylor has managed to keep getting talent before sending it away at the behest of The Dentist.

The worst moment will come next summer when somebody from the Atlanta organization passes a card to Commish Stern that announces the Hawks have traded the number one pick in the draft to ... well, it doesn't matter at this point. Why is that going to happen? Because the consensus pick come warm weather will be Rudy Gay, a wing from UConn. And wings, the Hawks have. Point guards and tall rebounding types, not so much.

And it could have been really different down in the deep South. The Hawks had their chance this past summer. A team with a plethora of young and athletic wing players had the second spot in the draft. In that draft slot sat Chris Paul, an almost local product that had played one state over in Carolina at Wake Forest. A ready-to-start NBA point guard. Not necessarily an all-star in the making, but Steve Nash wasn't all-star ready out of the college mould either. Paul was the obvious choice to get the ball to those wings.

But the pretty girl at this baller's ball was Marvin Williams. The SIXTH man of the NCAA champeen Tar Heels of North Carolina. Couldn't start for NC, would have to be one of a half-dozen good athletic and young wings in Atlanta, but possessing the most pure talent in the draft. The spectre of Michael Jordan being passed over for needs in his draft year scared Knight into making the nightmare pick. He passed over Paul and took Williams. And he sealed Atlanta's fate for the rest of this decade.

Naturally, having screwed up that deal, he went out and gave max money to ANOTHER wing, Joe Johnson because, as we Toronto fans know too well, he finally found a player that WANTED to come to his town. He never found out if that desire would have existed at half-the-price, he just doled out the max dollars and fought with the lone bright light in management to keep that precious "Wants to be a Hawk" player. Muttered something about playing Johnson at the point.

Now we know. Paul's going to be an all-star some day. Johnson's a great complimentary player that can't lead and can't play the point more than 10 minutes a game. Williams plays the kind of minutes Rafael Araujo plays here in Toronto. Josh Childress, the real victim of all this, has regressed mightily. And Al Harrington crosses off the days until his trade out of purgatory in the New Year. Dunk champ Josh Smith should be playing big minutes, but isn't. And there are other wings who could play too, but don't.

Harrington's not the only one who should be outward bound in a trade. The smart money would have Childress and Smith going elsewhere too. But it will be a buyer's market and the return will hardly be all-star calibre points like Chris Paul. Bottom line, the Hawks have to divest themselves of at least two and maybe three of these players in order to rebuild their roster. And the Hawks certainly can't add Rudy Gay to the mix this summer. That's why the trade, hopefully for the pick a few back of theirs to take Texas guard Daniel Gibson, will be a requirement. After that, the Hawks will owe Phoenix draft picks from that ill-fated Johnson acquisition. That means the Hawks won't be able to get the other two studs they need to compete until 2008 or thereabouts. That's how bad of a job Billy Knight has done.

Makes me appreciate Mike Babcock a lot more.

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