Posted Jan 14 2011 9:36AM
Most nights, he sits on the bench in big moments, chin resting on palm, waiting and wondering for his time to come. If it ever does.
He is Jeff Teague, backup point guard for the Hawks, and the latest attempt by the Hawks to erase their greatest sin.
You heard the old saying how a bad Draft decision can set you back a number of years? Well, for the Hawks, it's up to six.
That's how long the Hawks have tried to find a quality point guard, ever since they studied the Draft board in 2005 and determined it wasn't worth wasting their first-round pick on Chris Paul, Deron Williams or even Raymond Felton.
That's how long the Hawks have tried to make up for that terrible oversight, and unless Teague takes the next step, it will remain a curse.
Let's be fair: It's not like the Hawks have been sweeping the basement in the East. They've improved record-wise every season since that 2005 Draft and made the playoffs the last three. Once again they're on pace for 45-50 wins, and another postseason seems like a given. This is a good team.
Just the same, they're not a great team. They're not in the class of the Celtics, Heat, Magic and Bulls, and they possibly missed out on greatness because of that Draft. Their haste to turn a wrong into a right has been costly.
Check out the falling dominoes on this trail:
They used the No. 2 pick in 2005 on Marvin Williams, a workout wizard in the weeks leading up to the Draft, because Billy Knight, then the general manager, thought Paul was too small. And evidently, Marvin was a better Williams than Deron.
Don't forget that the Hawks, at the time, badly needed a point guard. That's why this decision, even then, was whack. They suffered through Kenny Anderson, Tyronn Lue, Royal Ivey and Tony Delk in 2004-05. To rationalize the Paul and Deron snub, they spent a high 2005 second-rounder on Salim Stoudamire.
He lasted three years as a bench player and is now out of the league. A bust.
In the summer of 2006, they gave a big free-agent contract to Speedy Claxton. He started 31 games in his entire Hawks' tenure. A bust, too.
In the 2007 Draft, still looking for a point guard, they used the 11th pick on Acie Law, passing on Nick Young, Jared Dudley and Wilson Chandler, among others. He stayed two years. Also, a bust.
Then the summer of 2008, they traded a handful of players, including 2006 Draft bust Shelden Williams (the No. 5 pick; Rajon Rondo went 21st) for Mike Bibby, who came with 11 years of tread and was beyond his prime, though still productive.
The Hawks figured Bibby would hold the position for only a few years, but were forced to give him a three-year, $18 million extension the next summer because Law didn't last and there was no heir apparent.
Finally, in 2009, they drafted Teague with the No. 19 pick. And for the second straight year, Teague is backing up Bibby, now the NBA's fourth-oldest starting point guard.
So here's the tally: two No. 1 picks and a high No. 2 spent on point guards, plus a pricey free agent in Claxton, plus Bibby, all were brought in to make up for 2005. Also, the Hawks gave Marvin Williams, the guy taken instead of Deron Williams and Paul, a five-year, $40 million contract extension two summers ago. And Marvin Williams, an underachiever, hasn't nearly approached the All-Star level of those point guards.
All told, the Hawks have burned through roughly $90 million on rookie point guard contracts, Bibby, Marvin Williams (his rookie contract plus the extension) and Claxton, all because they didn't take Paul or Deron Williams. That's a steep financial price for a franchise that must keep costs reasonable.
And guess what? They still lack a strong presence at point guard. Their search continues.
There is a small bright side.
In a bit of irony, Hawks GM Rick Sund dumped both Claxton and Law on the Warriors in the summer of 2009 to get Jamal Crawford, last year's Sixth Man of the Year winner.
But the point guard mistake of 2005 continues to ripple for a team that uses Joe Johnson for much of the ballhandling chores. Too often, Johnson chews up the shot clock trying to isolate, something that wouldn't be necessary with a playmaking point guard.
Passing on two franchise point guards isn't exactly the same as Portland skipping Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie in 1984. But when spring arrives and if the Hawks are a No. 5-seed, as expected, it will look like something you could see coming. Six years ago.
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