Thursday, July 05, 2012

Once More, With Feeling: Reviewing Marvin Williams' Years in Atlanta

Previously: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Larry Drew, Rick Sund

In retrospect, Marvin Williams' time with the Atlanta Hawks never made more sense than the night he was drafted. Oh, in hindsight it was a mistake to take Marvin ahead of Chris Paul or, to a significantly lesser* extent, Deron Williams, but it was a mistake 28 other teams likely would have made. It's only in pairing hindsight with selective memory, forgetting Deron Williams' college playing weight, forgetting how bad Wake Forest was defensively, forgetting the final two weeks of Chris Paul's college career were lowlighted by both his punch to Julius Hodge's groin and a second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament as a 2-seed, that drafting Marvin Williams becomes a singular, spectacular act of incompetence.

(I understand you may disagree. For me to take you seriously, you'll need to cite your work. An unsupported "I knew back then" is not convincing. Here's mine. There is much wrong within.)

There were questions about Paul and Williams. Marvin Williams was potential. He didn't fulfill much that potential as an Atlanta Hawk. It's unclear how much of that was due to his limitations, unrecognized during the 22 minutes a game he played during his lone season at North Carolina, and how much was due to organizational dysfunction.

*In hindsight, Utah made a pretty sizable mistake in taking Williams ahead of Paul, too, though that generally goes unmentioned.

On his rookie deal, Williams often played ahead of the superior Josh Childress. Once the Hawks, quite reasonably, chose the younger Williams over Childress and signed Marvin to a sizable extension, the team, quite inexplicably, became disillusioned with him almost immediately. Despite the sizable extension and Williams being the only legit small forward on the roster, he found himself in a reduced role that never gave him a chance to justify the contract. Not that he would have justified it, given the chance. His almost tragically poor playoff performances added to the impression that Williams was not one to seize the moment.

Williams took grief for being an okay player drafted two spots ahead of an all-time great. For being offered a long, large extension despite being, in his brighter stretches, no more than a useful player. For his usefulness coming in ways likely to be unappreciated. In Atlanta, Marvin Willliams came to tick many of the boxes on the list of ways to be an underrated player: an efficient, low-volume scorer who didn't turn the ball over, a slightly above average defender, and a fine rebounder who played only 30 minutes a game.

Much like Joe Johnson, but at a lesser cost, Marvin Williams couldn't hope to match the organization's over-investment in his talents, especially given how he was utilized. Exactly like Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams is not his contract, nor is he what might have been had the Atlanta Hawks never acquired him. Marvin Williams is an adequate player who, in fresh circumstances, could, in his age-26 and age-27 seasons, justify the final two years of his contract. For his sake, I hope he gets that chance in Utah.


Jonesy2x4 said...

I feel Marvin will have his best season next year on a team that needs his skills more than the Hawks ever did. He'll finally have a defined role, something he never got for Atlanta since he was drafted

Unknown said...

I wasn't blogging then, but there's no one who wouldn't tell you that I was firmly in the Deron Williams camp. Thought Paul was too small and injury prone to put him ahead of Williams, but regardless - I never got into Marvin Williams as a player. Nothing about him said superstar and we didn't even need him. So, as far as I'm concerned - you may have had those concerns, but I did go to the draft that year and the boos I heard that NIGHT (though nothing close to what happened when Shelden got picked) - say that it's not all hindsight that thought it was a bad move.

CoopDaVill said...

Born and raised two hours away in Augusta, the hawks were all I knew growing up. Now approaching 30, I would have to rank drafting Marvin Williams (not the passing on Deron, Chris, or even Brandon) in the top 5 all time bad moves by the hawks.

Was trading Nique to the Clippers for Danny Manning bad? For some not really; for me--heart-breaking.

What about trading the rights to Pau Gasol? Didn't seem horrible at first. But looking back, in hindsight, as you have highlighted, that was pretty bad.

What about ASG as a whole? They get two spots in the top 5 just because. However, like all Hawks fans right now...their latest moves (Mr. Danny Ferry and stepping back) have me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Honestly, one more big move and I will vote for Mr. Ferry for President. It's taken years to "ruin" the Hawks and Mr. Ferry took a week to change things around...imagine what four years in office could do.

One of those changes, was spending Marvin Williams away. I have nothing against Marvin. I have rooted for him, though he never gave me or any other fan much cause to root for him outside of the occasional corner three and surprising poster dunk. You say that you can't take those who say "I knew he was bust" serious without citing proof. Well consider the fact that Atlanta didn't need another swing man. That is a fact (Smith, Childress, and Johnson). Obviously Atlanta WANTED PG...hence the drafting of Salim Stoudamire later with the first pick of the second round. I can't understand why a franchise would use 2nd overall pick to draft a player that fits the mold (and I only mean the mold) of players they already have. If you don't like the players available, trade the pick for other assets. You don't draft a player that wasn't even a starter for his college team. I understand potential...but it's essentially like car insurance...what if nothing happens? You would've spent all of that money for nothing. There were a number of ways the Hawks could have went that night...drafting Marvin Williams with the number two overall pick was the worst of those options. And instead of accepting that fact...ASG allowed a GM who will not be named to extend his contract, while at the same time disrespecting the better player at the same position (J. Smith).

Bottom line...if anyone applauded that pick on draft night...they were excited about potential; they were hyped on faith; they were infatuated with something they had never seen (a dominate, franchising changing basketball player). Thus, they could not cite a reason Marvin DESERVED to go number 2 or a reason Atlanta NEEDED to take HIM at number 2.

Unknown said...

I was a pretty big supporter of Marvin under the "Woodson was awful at developing young players" and "given the opportunity to be a go to player Marvin could..." theories of support. Can't argue with economics. I still don't think Woodson could develop a Polaroid.

Stefan Turkheimer said...

I don't if it truly matters if random Hawks fans knew in 2005 that Marvin Williams was a terrible pick. I very much wanted Chris Paul, but I went to Wake Forest so my reasons were far from objective. The problem was ht pick was emblematic of their draft problems in the past (DerMarr Johnson etc) long, supposedly athletic swingmen whose gifts were never realized.

If they had problems with Chris Paul at the time for purported defensive liabilities and conduct issues (but really, who wouldn't hit Julius Hodge in the groin), the solution was to trade the pick. If you look at the history of trades in the NBA (and the NFL for that matter) trades of picks before the draft almost always command more value in return then those players actually drafted immediately after (ignoring those trades that were draft-and-trades where the team receiving the draft pick chose who would be drafted).

The Hawks too often have used their pick when it should have been traded.

Mark Phelps said...

I have been one of Marvin's most ardent supporters during his time in Atlanta. I believe he has taken nothing but grief just because the guys behind him turned out better, even though as you mentioned, he's a serviceable player (though perhaps not the star his draft position indicates).

I do agree that at the time, we needed a PG instead of another forward, so I might not have taken him either, but then again, we took Shelden Williams after that and we didn't give him near the grief that we gave Marvin.

I still think he has tons of potential, and with a clearly defined role and minutes, hopefully he will find that. Good luck, Marvin!

(PS I am glad we have the cap space, and Devin Harris also has lots of potential, should he stick around)

jrauch said...

Having watched both Chris Paul and Marvin Williams with my regular ACC basketball obsession, I thought both had the potential to be superstars.

(Julius Hodge deserved way worse than a punch to the groin.)

Even at Wake, Chris seemed to playing chess when everyone else was playing Connect 4.

But even in a reserve role for the Heels, Marvin was a key contributor on that 2005 title team. The Heels don't win against Illinois without Marvin, plain and simple. And the glimpses that he showed that year -- really rare athleticism, a sweet jumper that you could definitely build upon, and some aggressiveness on both ends of the floor -- signaled he had the potential for a lot more.
And that's what the draft is about, right? Finding guys with the highest ceiling, and hoping they get there.

Whether it was the Hawks, the coaching, the NBA or the space between Marvin's ears, he's never seemed to be able to put it all together.

As a long-time Heels fan, these last few years he's been unrecognizable compared to that springy, gangly kid on the 2005 squad.

Unknown said...

I always thought that Williams was too much of a tweener to really make an impact on the NBA. He's like Drew Gooden or Derrick Williams--a player that is good at everything, but not noticibly great with any particular thing.

Huevos McGringo said...

i'm a lifelong UNC fan, and i loved marvin on that 2005 title team. i thought he would be good pro. but there was never any reason to think he would be a star.

chris paul was the best player in the ACC the moment he stepped on the floor as a freshman. he didn't have optimal size for the nba, and his outside shot wasn't great in college. but he looked like a prototype PG, and he fit the hawks need at the time perfectly. and i don't remember their being ANY problems with his defense, other than the fact that he wasn't that tall. that said, after watching his ncaa tournament performance that year... i might have taken deron over paul. def wouldn't have taken marvin though.

Mr. Kent said...

How come we haven't seen any commentary on the recent Hawks transactions? I feel like I can't get any info or analysis on it. I would really like to hear B's opinion on them.

Adam Malka said...

Agreed with Mr. Kent. Would love to see more commentary on this busy offseason!

Bret LaGree said...

Thanks for the interest, but I don't have much to add to my published thoughts until Ferry makes the next move(s) to turn flexibility into a franchise player.

As the roster stands, the Hawks have an excellent frontcourt rotation but could be terrible defensively despite Smith and Horford. I don't see why they'd enter the season with Teague and Devin Harris and Lou Williams or Jenkins and Morrow and Korver.

That's a group of perimeter players to cause you to consider DeShawn Stevenson as a useful option. That shouldn't happen.

I'll wait to be wrong about the team when its 2012-13 form takes me certain shape. Until then, non-specific optimism abounds.

Buddy Grizzard said...

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Buddy Grizzard said...

Guess a link would probably help: