With the 6th pick in the 2004 NBA draft the Atlanta Hawks selected Josh Childress. With the very next selection the Chicago Bulls selected Luol Deng, whose production of 7.1 wins in the first 41 games this season ranked third among all small forwards. With the 9th pick in 2004 the Philadelphia 76ers turned to Andre Iguodala, who produced 6.5 wins in the first half of the current campaign.
Childress only produced 4.2 wins in the first half of 06-07. This lack of production, though, was due to injury. When we turn to his Wins Produced per 48 minutes [WP48] we see a mark of 0.255. This surpasses the per-minute marks of both Deng (0.229) and Iguodala (0.194). In fact, if we look at the careers of these three players up until the mid-point of this season, Childress has posted the best WP48 (0.219 for Childress versus 0.216 and 0.192 for Iguodala and Deng respectively).
Childress, though, was ignored for the Junior All-Star game in both 2005 – when he was a rookie – and 2006 – when he was a sophomore. In contrast, both Deng and Iguodala were named starters for each of these teams.
Seeing someone else start has been common for Childress throughout his career. In 190 career games, he has only started 54 times. This year Childress has yet to start, often sitting behind the player taken with the second pick in the 2005 NBA draft, Marvin Williams.
M. Williams has thus far played 3,206 minutes in his career and produced 4.4 wins. This translates into a WP48 of 0.065, which is below the average mark of 0.100. If we compare the per-minute numbers of Childress and M.Williams, we can see where the latter’s deficiencies lie. Relative to Childress, M. Williams has difficulties with rebounds, turnovers, and hitting his shots. Consequently, his overall production is substantially worse.
It’s important to remember that the Hawks selected M.Williams in 2005 over Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and several other players who have thus far been quite productive (see the discussion of the junior all-star game posted three weeks ago). Thus far this choice has not quite worked out.
If we look at the Hawks in 2006-07, we see a team that has won 22 games after 55 contests. Given that this team only won 26 games all of last year, Atlanta looks like an improved team. This look is a bit of an illusion, though. In terms of offensive and defensive efficiency the Hawks should have won about 28 games last season. This year the team, given their offensive and defensive efficiency, should also be on pace to win 28 games.
Despite this lack of improvement, the Hawks are not without a few bright spots.
In addition to Childress, both Joe Johnson and Josh Smith have been above average performers this season (although Childress has offered more than both). Shelden Williams, the team’s lottery pick in 2006, has been one of the few rookies whose productivity per 48 minutes eclipses the 0.100 mark.
After these players, though, the roster has little to offer. At center, both Zaza Pachulia and Lorenzen Wright are below average. The same could be said for every single point guard on the roster, a fact that might cause Atlanta fans to wonder why the team passed on both D. Williams and Paul in 2005.
The weaknesses we see on the Hawks this season are identical to the weaknesses we saw in Atlanta in 2005-06 and 2004-05. In fact, since Jason Terry left in 2004, the Hawks have not had an above average point guard. And since Dikembe Mutombo left in the midst of the 2000-01 season, this team has not had a productive center.
Perhaps in the summer of 2007 this team will finally address the problems at each of these positions. Then again, given Atlanta’s propensity to collect 6-8 and 6-9 players, perhaps not.
By the way, for those keeping track, the only teams I have yet to comment on this season are New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Denver, and Philadelphia. Hopefully I will get to the Hornets and Bucks this next week. And then I will offer some thoughts on the Nuggets and 76ers.