A friend of mine was outraged this morning that the Atlanta Hawks had killed talks about acquiring Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns for their third and eleventh overall draft picks. If they could do that deal, why not go through with it, he pleaded? Given, the Hawks are traditionally a dumb, disorganized franchise, so something stupid happening isn't totally out of the question with them.
Then, he and I discussed who they might potentially draft. Conventional wisdom had them taking Al Horford at the third overall selection. After some discussion, my friend settled on something that sounded like a move the Hawks would pull.
Yi Jianlian is a Chinese forward, who is roundly recognized as a good prospect with little assurance on how he will adjust to the NBA game. But, having (here comes the imminent draft-day buzzword) upside, he will go high. My friend basically landed on the idea that the Hawks were going to draft him since the Hawks didn't want to deal either of their picks. His justification (which, one again sounds like something the Hawks would do) was that the Hawks would select Yi to cash in on all the Chinese dollars that would come their way as a result of selecting him. Basketball skills be damned, this guy was a potential cash cow.
My friend was offended that a team would draft a player based upon potential revenue from afar and throwing team needs and basketball sense to the wind. He was offended, I found that I really wasn't. If a team wanted to take that risk player-wise, then why not? It's a business, they have every right to run it like they want to. If Yi turned out to be good, they would look like geniuses, both basketball-wise and business-wise.
Well, the Hawks didn't go that route, instead opting for the more basketball-sense route, which I believe, in the end will help to re-establish a better fan base in Atlanta by putting a higher quality product on the court. By selecting Horford, a great rebounder with athleticism, and Acie Law, a point guard with a winning pedigree and developed skills, they will hopefully develop something more permanent than a potential three-year project/cash machine in Yi. Plus, they wouldn't be stabbing the few fans they have left in Atlanta in the back.
Of course, Yi's desire was the be drafted to a team in a metropolitan city with a high Chinese population. Yi was drafted by Milwaukee. Umm, good luck there chief. More on that tomorrow.