Bibby Isn’t The Answer For Atlanta
I have a confession to make: Despite being a Raptors fan, over the past few seasons, I’ve watched in admiration as Billy Knight has deftly filled the Hawks roster with a plethora of young talent. He’s done a great job on draft nights adding Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford and Acie Law IV, and he made a nice move in 2005 to acquire Joe Johnson through a sign and trade with Phoenix.
All of these players will play a central role in the Hawks’ future, however it was his decision to draft Williams over point guards Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton in the 2005 draft which drew the ire of Hawks fans. After Paul was named Rookie of the Year two seasons ago and then Williams guided Utah to the Western Conference Finals last season, the frustration of the Hawks came to a boiling point as they realized that without a point guard, this franchise wouldn’t return to the playoffs.
In an attempt to fix this problem Knight made a blockbuster deal with Sacramento on Feb. 16, 2008 which saw Mike Bibby head to Atlanta in exchange for Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Shelden Williams, Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second round draft pick.
While Hawks fans were elated about this deal, the problem with adding Bibby at this stage of his career is that he brings more in terms of name recognition than he does results. Since the deal Atlanta is an underwhelming 11-12 and are barely hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
These aren’t the kind of results Hawks fans envisioned when this deal happened just over a month ago.
The main reason this deal hasn’t instantly elevated Atlanta over teams like New Jersey and Indiana is because Bibby’s never been the kind of point guard who looks to pass first. Don’t get me wrong, Bibby is a talented player, but he’s not a player who looks to make his teammates better which is a fatal flaw in the DNA of any point guard. A perfect example of Bibby’s selfish tendencies came during one of his first games of the season in a game against Toronto when he went 7-12 from the field and scored 19 points. Sounds like a great debut, right? Wrong. While looking at the rest of his stats you’ll see that he turned the ball over six times while failing to register an assist. The six turnovers are atrocious but it’s made even worse by the fact that he failed to register an assist. Granted, this was his first game back from injury, but there’s no excuse for a point guard failing to register an assist when playing 29 minutes and jacking up 12 field goals.
Sacramento would turn a blind eye to his selfish style of play, but this season the Kings were willing to deal Bibby because his individual stats dipped and the team was enjoying more success with Udrih getting extended minutes. This season Bibby is posting averages below his career mark for points, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point percentage. In fact, he’s failing to post averages above his career average in any significant category. Granted, part of this is due to Bibby battling back from injuries and adapting to playing with new teammates, but it’s also clear that age is catching up to him and he’s on the downward decline in his career.
What can Atlanta do now that they are saddled with a shoot first point guard who’s shots aren’t falling? They don’t have the cap space to bring another point guard into the mix and Law IV is still at least another year or two away from being ready to play 30-plus minutes. Besides, even if Law was ready for extended minutes there’s no way Bibby’s ego would allow a young player to steal his burn. Just look at how things were unfolding in Sacramento with Udrih challenging Bibby for minutes and the starting spot.
While many will point to Atlanta holding onto the eighth-seed in the playoffs as a sign this deal was beneficial for the franchise, I can’t help but think the team would have been better served using this cap room to sign another point guard this summer through free agency.
Now the Hawks are stuck with an overpaid point guard that’s battling not just opponents but Father Time.
So much for Knight’s master plan of building slowly with younger players.
Photo Credit: ICON SMI