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Hawks' Bailout Plan? See Mike Bibby

Over the last couple of days, I have been taking another look at the 2007 NBA draft. During that draft, I wanted GM Billy Knight to take a point guard first and then a big man with the #11 pick. Maybe, pick a Mike Conley and Spencer Hawes combination. Knight went in another direction and took Al Horford and Acie Law. With some hindsight, it would have been one of the great drafts of the last ten years if Knight would have taken Rodney Stuckey with the 11th pick instead of Law; but the Horford pick has set the tone for this franchise. Horford’s stellar play last season (he should have been 2008 Rookie of the Year) raised expectations enough that the Atlanta Spirit Group signed off on the trade for Mike Bibby. Getting Mike Bibby has set the stage for the Hawks to become a respectable team this season, and possibly a great team over the next five years.

Something special must have happened to Billy Knight on Valentine’s Day last year. He must have had a great meal in Buckhead or called Bibby’s father and asked him about Mike’s health. You have to give him credit for stealing Bibby from the Kings. On February 16, the Hawks traded Shelden Williams, Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright, and a 2008 second-round draft pick to Sacramento for Mike Bibby. With the 42nd pick, the Kings drafted Sean Singletary and then traded him to Houston with Ron Artest for Bobby Jackson and some loose change. The Rockets promptly traded Singletary to the Phoenix Suns for D.J. Strawberry. At this point, no players selected after Singletary really have made an impact in the NBA. Is Bibby really worth five players? Yes, with these five guys, you could have kicked in Salim Stoudamire, Mario West, and a hamburger franchise and still came out ahead.

Although the Hawks have had some injuries and adversity, they are 11-6. This team is in better shape than a bunch of other teams. Bibby is a big reason why. He is a veteran presence that is providing a quiet leadership for this team. His 3 point shooting has been invaluable and the great shooting has spread like a good plague to some teammates. The Hawks are leading the NBA in 3 point percentage shooting. Last night against Memphis, Bibby was clutch in the 4th quarter. He is not afraid to take and make big shots. He also has been more of a playmaker and assist man than I thought he could be this year. He is healthy and has been able to penetrate and beat his man, because everybody is flying out to challenge the jump shot. Okay, I have been railing about his defense all year. It is true that Bibby has trouble guarding the elite point guards, but how many of those are there in the Association? Six? You don’t think that the Miami Heat would not kill for Bibby right now. Yeah, they are playing Chris Quinn in the 4th quarter with the game on the line.

If Bibby stays healthy, the Hawks are in good shape. He is only 30 years old, but has been in the NBA since 1998. His body is pretty old. The Hawks will make the playoffs. The drop off to Acie Law and Flip Murray is like dropping off a cliff. Flip Murray could run the point, but he does not want to--he is a score and shoot first guy. Acie is serviceable. Here is the dilemma for GM Rick Sund. Keep Bibby, have a great year, maybe win a playoff series, and lose him in free agency; or on the other hand, trade Bibby to a contender for a proven point guard with another skill set, a high draft pick, or a couple of up and coming role players. In February or March, Bibby might be worth a 1st round draft pick to a team like the Lakers, Jazz, or Spurs.

I want Sund to keep Bibby and make a run this year. If Bibby walks, Sund can use that money on the free agent market. The problem is if you let him go for nothing, who knows if the ASG is going let you use part of Bibby’s money to sign someone. They might just pocket the playoff profits. I have not looked at the salaries, but what if the Lakers offered Sasha Vulacic and Luke Walton for Bibby. That is the kind of deal that will be hard for Sund to pass up. You can then move Walton or Marvin Williams for a point guard of the future.

Bibby is the key to the Hawks’ season and to the future of the franchise. The team is solid and good if not great. The Hawks can beat anyone on any given night this season. I cannot wait until the NBA season really starts to heat up after the New Year. And, I have not even starting thinking about how the Hawks’ can clear enough cap space to sign Dwayne Wade in 2010.

Here is something you might not know about Mike Bibby:

The Hawks’ #10 has a MLB pedigree. Bibby’s uncle, Jim Bibby, was a professional baseball player with 111 major league victories. He was an important pitcher for the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979 and a National League All-Star selection in 1980. Bibby threw a no hitter in 1973 as a member of the Texas Rangers. In maybe a more amazing game against your Atlanta Braves in 1981, Bibby gave up a lead off single and then proceeded to retire the next 27 batters in order—as close to a perfect game as you can pitch.


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