Monday, May 18, 2009

2008-09 Season Review: Rick Sund

Considering both the ownership situation and his brief tenure I'm going to give Rick Sund the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I don't believe that's simply a matter of being fair. By signing Flip Murray and Maurice Evans for a combined $4 million he earned the benefit of the doubt. The veteran pair combined to ably back up three positions while helping to accelerate the team's transformation, one which started following last season's trade for Mike Bibby, from an offense incapable of making three-point shots into a more diverse and dangerous team to guard.

07-08 (less Bibby)35.314.5

While Evans was predictably solid on both ends of the court, Murray surpassed all reasonable expectations in posting, at the age of 29, career highs in every manner of shooting percentage and a career low turnover percentage. Murray deserves the bulk of the credit for his performance this season but it's worth mentioning that Murray's only two good seasons out of six in his career came five years apart for two different teams run by Rick Sund. Even if there is some element of fluke in the degree to which Murray succeeded, the fact remains that Rick Sund signed a player no other NBA team wanted and, in that single act, partially redeemed (for one season, at least) Mike Woodson's handling of both Josh Childress an Acie Law IV.

It's Woodson's philosophy regarding young reserves (both the ones on his roster and those that presumably choose to sign somewhere else in the hopes of playing) that makes evaluating the rest of Sund's transactions difficult. In the abstract, signing Randolph Morris to a two-year, $1.65 million contract is a small price to pay to see if the former High School All-American can hack it as a backup center. In reality, the signing is pointless if Morris is going to spend the season sitting on the bench behind the himself rarely used, limited in skill, but slightly more familiar and veteran-y Solomon Jones.

Unlike Morris (or Jones, for that matter), both Thomas Gardner and Othello Hunter were eligible for assignment to the D-League but instead spent the vast majority of the year not playing in Atlanta. Gardner, like Jones and Mario West, was a not especially good college basketball player on a not especially good college basketball team, so I'm skeptical as to the degree of development possible with him but Hunter could be a useful fifth man for an organization that needs every cheap asset on which it can get its hands and could, perhaps, have used the opportunity to play regular minutes to augment and/or consolidate his existing skills.

One can't make the argument that having a D-League affiliate in Anaheim is convenient for the Hawks but it's curious that a team with such a shallow rotation and a head coach with a poor record of developing and/or utilizing young talent would choose to keep players with the team but inactive when another option exists.

In the grand scheme of things, it's probably a good sign if the end of the bench is essentially the extent of one's concerns regarding a GM that took over a sub-.500 team less than a year ago so I'll wait until Sund acts to re-sign or replace Bibby, Murray, and Zaza Pachulia, makes a couple of draft picks, makes use of the rights to Childress, Law, and David Andersen, and populates (or doesn't) the end of the bench with real, live NBA basketball players (or at least real prospects) to make more forceful pronouncements regarding his stewardship of the Atlanta Hawks.


Unknown said...

Thank you to the Hawks for a great season and big improvement over last season. And thank you to Mike Woodson for bringing this far but i beleive it time for a new coach with a deeper pedigree deveopling a team and defense! Flip Saunders or even Avery johnson to the Hawks in '09?! Just a thought!

Bret LaGree said...

Flip Saunders is no longer an option. Check back tomorrow for the Woodson post.

Unknown said...

I've been thinking for a while now that the hawks will never be serious contenders as long as Josh Smith is on the roster, because his basketball IQ just isnt high enough. It seems to me that he's simply a more athletic Antoine Walker. Here's a trade i hope the hawks make this offseason. Trade Josh to the Grizzlies (they've got cap space to take on his contact and they also were the team who signed him to an offer sheet last year)the Hornets send Tyson Chandler (since they traded him to the Thunder for peanuts because they didnt want to pay for his contact) to the Hawks, while the Hornets get back a couple of players from both teams, which wouldnt have to be anything special since they're dying to get rid of Tyson's contract. Now the hawks have their first 7 footer since Preist Lauderdale, and they can move Al Horford to his natural PF position and watch him blossom into an 18 and 10 guy. Thats the first move i'd make this offseason if i were the GM, followed by signing Bibby.

Sorry for the novel.

rbubp said...

That's an intriguing suggestion, he is "configured" now, Josh Smith is certainly an expendable part. And with Marvin's development, re-signing him and having Al does make it seem as though Josh's loss could be pretty easily absorbed.

I'm not sure Al is an 18 and 10 guy right away, though. I'd have to see more proof of his offensive skills to believe that.

Bret LaGree said...

I think Horford's in danger of falling into the same evaluational abyss Josh Smith currently wallows. The team's refusal to make either player's existing offensive skills an important part of the offense leaves one stuck between wondering "Is this all there is?" and "How valuable would he be in different circumstances?"

Unknown said...

I meant to say that he could eventually turn into an 18 and 10 guy. I think he could be a David West type player, where he averages slightly less points, but averages more boards and plays much better defense.

Anonymous said...

The Hawks had a solid year and should only get better. Good post a few days ago on this site if you scroll down a few posts.

Also a good breakdown of the lottery tonight.

jrauch said...

Josh Smith has a 10 cent head.

Maybe he could be more consistent under another coach. Who knows?

There's moves to be made this offseason if Sund can be aggressive (Ramon Sessions anyone?), but somehow I think that's unlikely.