Trade Winds, Vol. 1: Atlanta Hawks

Basketball-Reference.com recently added a section allowing users to view the entire trading history of every team in the NBA, by partner. This series will run down each team’s trading record, ranking the best and worst deals in all 30 franchises’ histories and pulling out anything else I find interesting along the way. I may switch up the order, but for now I’m going alphabetically, which means the Atlanta Hawks are first up.

The Hawks’ track record of trades leaves a lot to be desired. The five trades I’ve selected as their most embarrassing are a diverse array of past and future Hall of Famers, while most of their “good” ones are of the “Well, this draft pick turned out to be pretty good” variety (Josh Smith) or involved giving up a significant asset (the Rondo pick in the Joe Johnson deal).

(Note: these trades are listed chronologically and are not meant to be ranked for superiority, although on both lists the earliest one is the clear winner.)

Most trades with: Detroit (16)

Least trades with: New Orleans and Toronto (0)

Top 5:

Photo via thestartingfive.net.

 

September 2, 1982: The Utah Jazz traded Dominique Wilkins to the Atlanta Hawks for John Drew and Freeman Williams.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz | Basketball-Reference.com

By my judgment, this is the only trade with major names involved that Atlanta has ever won outright. Utah had taken Wilkins third overall in the 1982 draft, but were forced to deal him both for financial reasons and by his own disinterest in playing for the Jazz. The Hawks pounced, and were rewarded with what became their signature player for eleven-plus seasons afterward. ‘Nique doesn’t need an introduction: he was one of the most exciting scorers (not to mention dunkers) of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a part of the WCB Gold Medal-winning Dream Team II in 1994, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

Photo via basketusa.com.

 

November 3, 1992: The New Jersey Nets traded Mookie Blaylock and Roy Hinson to the Atlanta Hawks for Rumeal Robinson.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets | Basketball-Reference.com

One of the more dynamic point guards of the 1990s, Blaylock made two All-Defensive first teams, four All-Defensive second teams, and one All-Star appearance during his seven seasons in Atlanta. Not too shabby, considering all the Hawks gave up was journeyman Rumeal Robinson.

Photo via edthesportsfan.com.

February 19, 2004: In a 3-team trade, the Atlanta Hawks traded Rasheed Wallace to the Detroit Pistons; the Boston Celtics traded Chris Mills to the Atlanta Hawks; the Boston Celtics traded Mike James to the Detroit Pistons; the Detroit Pistons traded Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a 2004 1st round draft pick (Josh Smith) to the Atlanta Hawks; and the Detroit Pistons traded Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter and a 2004 1st round draft pick (Tony Allen) to the Boston Celtics.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons | Basketball-Reference.com

Barely a week before this trade, Atlanta sent Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau to Portland for the talented but temperamental Wallace, whom they promptly flipped to Detroit after playing just one game in a Hawks uniform. It’s hard to get too excited about most of the players involved in this trade on all fronts (Sheed proved to be the missing piece to the Pistons’ championship puzzle, but we’ll save that for the Detroit post). But the first-round pick Atlanta got from Detroit was used on Josh Smith. Not a franchise-changing move, but the wildly inconsistent, occasionally electrifying Smith has become an integral part of the Hawks’ present identity.

Photo via hittheboards.com.

August 19, 2005: The Atlanta Hawks traded Boris Diaw, a 2006 1st round draft pick (Rajon Rondo) and a 2008 1st round draft pick (Robin Lopez) to the Phoenix Suns for Joe Johnson.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns | Basketball-Reference.com

For better or worse, Johnson has been the face of the Hawks since this trade. His reputation has been damaged in recent years by a couple of horrific contracts, but that’s not really his fault. Nobody put a gun to GM Rick Sund’s head and forced him to give Johnson $127 million last summer, and nobody in the world would blame Johnson for taking that money. He’s still one of the better two-guards in the league, and the cornerstone of a perennial playoff team (albeit a perennial second-round-and-out team, but still). Even so, this trade comes with an obvious caveat: ask any Hawks fan, or any basketball fan in general, who has been forced to watch Mike Bibby on this team the last several years if they wouldn’t love to have Rajon Rondo running things right now.

Photo via peachtreehoops.com.

June 25, 2009: The Atlanta Hawks traded Speedy Claxton and Acie Law to the Golden State Warriors for Jamal Crawford.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors | Basketball-Reference.com.

Crawford’s reputation throughout most of his career has been that of an overpaid ball-hog, but he flourished in a bench role upon being traded to the Hawks, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2010 and helping Atlanta to playoff berths both seasons since the trade. He figures to be one of the more attractive free agents on the market whenever this stupid lockout is resolved.

Bottom 5:

Photo via sportsfandom.blogspot.com.

April 30, 1956: The Boston Celtics traded Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks for Bill Russell.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics | Basketball-Reference.com

Macauley was the Celtics’ centerpiece at the time, an All-Star who was one of the more highly-regarded centers in the league. He had family in St. Louis, and when his son took ill in 1956, he requested a trade to the Hawks. Red Auerbach was a huge fan of Russell, whom the Hawks had drafted second overall that year. A deal was worked out, with Boston also giving up forward Cliff Hagan. It was certainly a defensible move at the time, and Hagan and Macauley led the Hawks to a title in 1958 (both eventually were inducted into the Hall of Fame). Still, though. Bill Russell.

May 20, 1974: The New Orleans Jazz traded Bob Kauffman, Dean Meminger, a 1974 1st round draft pick (Mike Sojourner), a 1975 1st round draft pick (David Thompson), a 1975 2nd round draft pick (Bill Willoughby), a 1976 2nd round draft pick (Alex English) and a 1980 3rd round draft pick (Jonathan Moore) to the Atlanta Hawks for Pete Maravich.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz | Basketball-Reference.com

Upon being granted an expansion franchise, New Orleans gave up two players and five future draft picks for Maravich, then a rising star who had just completed his fourth season in Atlanta. Pistol Pete was an LSU legend, and immediately became a fan favorite in New Orleans. He continued his stellar career with the Jazz, becoming one of the biggest stars in the NBA, while none of the players the Hawks got back in the deal panned out. Two of the draft picks, David Thompson and Alex English, had Hall of Fame careers, but neither played a single game for Atlanta. And speaking of that English pick…

Photo via canishoopus.com.

June 5, 1975: The Atlanta Hawks traded a 1976 2nd round draft pick (Alex English) and a 1976 2nd round draft pick (Bayard Forrest) to the Milwaukee Bucks. Atlanta was penalized for signing Milwaukee draft pick Julius Erving in 1972.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks | Basketball-Reference.com

This one is only a “trade” in the technical sense of the word, but the story and names involved merit inclusion anyway. Here’s what happened: Dr. J began his ABA career with the Virginia Squires in 1971 before declaring for the NBA draft the following year. He was selected by the Bucks, but signed a contract with the Hawks. He attended Atlanta’s training camp in 1972 and even played in a handful of preseason games, but soon the Hawks, Bucks, and Squires became embroiled in a legal battle over Erving’s rights. Ultimately, he returned to the Squires, and the Hawks were fined $25,000 by the NBA for signing another team’s draft pick. Their punishment also involved giving up two future second-round picks to the Bucks…one of which Milwaukee used to draft English. So essentially, the Hawks lost out on one future Hall of Famer because they tried to illegally sign another. Ouch.

August 5, 1976: The Atlanta Hawks traded Maurice Lucas to the Portland Trail Blazers for Steve Hawes and Geoff Petrie. This trade was for the 2nd pick in the ABA dispersal draft.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers | Basketball-Reference.com

This one looked good on paper, but Petrie blew out his knee and was forced to retire before he could even suit up for the Hawks. Lucas, meanwhile, played a key role on the Blazers’ legendary 1977 championship team.

 

Photo via bballone.com.

June 27, 2001: The Atlanta Hawks traded Pau Gasol, Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley.

via Trades Between Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies | Basketball-Reference.com

My guess is that the Hawks would probably like a redo on this draft-day deal. Abdur-Rahim was the Grizzlies’ franchise player at that point and put together a few solid seasons for Atlanta (including his only All-Star appearance in 2002). But now that we’ve seen Gasol swing two Finals series (and an additional Western Conference championship) for the Lakers and become arguably the second-best big man in the NBA, it’s not hard to say which of the two players the Hawks would have rather had during the last decade.

In Atlanta’s defense, scouting of international players was nowhere near as prevalent ten years ago as it is today. Only the teams with the most forward-thinking front offices (San Antonio, for instance) were putting serious resources into finding foreign players at that point. So even though Gasol was a top-rated Spanish prospect going into the 2001 draft, the Hawks’ rationale, that giving up a relatively unknown European player with huge upside was worth it to get a proven NBA-level starter like Abdur-Rahim, wasn’t all that controversial at the time. This trade only looks terrible in retrospect, now that we know just how good Gasol turned out to be.

Next Up: Boston Celtics

Sean Highkin

Sean Highkin is a staff writer at Hardwood Paroxysm and a writer for the ESPN TrueHoop blogs Portland Roundball Society and Magic Basketball. He has also written for The Classical, among other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @shighkinNBA. He can be reached by email at highkin (dot) sean (at) gmail.