Atlanta Hawks' All-Time Dream Team

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IMarch 15, 2013

Atlanta Hawks' All-Time Dream Team

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    Originally known as the Buffalo Bisons, the Hawks took more than two decades to finally settle into their current home of Atlanta.

    While the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Francisco Warriors and New York Knicks seemed to dominate the headlines in the early days of the NBA, the Hawks were also one of the league's more prominent teams in the start-up portion of organized professional basketball.

    The Hawks existed as the Bisons for one year in 1946. They became the Tri-Cities Blackhawks in 1946, playing in the town of Moline, Illinois. They moved to a major city five years later and became the Milwaukee Hawks for four seasons.

    The team then resided in St. Louis for 13 seasons, which featured the most prosperous years of Hawks basketball to this day. In 1958, Hall of Famer Bob Pettit led the Hawks to their first and only NBA championship with an upset over a juggernaut Boston Celtics team that featured three eventual Hall of Famers in the starting lineup. 

    Over the course of 67 years, the Hawks have acquired some historic talent, including forgotten legends who were propping up the franchise as a title contender throughout the 1950s and '60s. 

    Since the team has existed for nearly seven decades, there was difficulty in narrowing down the final all-time roster, as well as a few inactive players on the "injured reserve," to just 12 men. 

    The Hawks, whether they were in St. Louis or their current location, have experienced success in seemingly every era of basketball. Unfortunately, they were rarely able to persevere against the elite teams, with the exception of that giant-killer of a Hawks team in '58. 

Starting PG: Mookie Blaylock

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    Acquired in the deal that sent Rumeal Robinson to the New Jersey Nets, Mookie Blaylock played the majority of his career in an Atlanta Hawks uniform and produced some of the best numbers of his career.

    While playing for Atlanta, Blaylock led the league in steals per game for two consecutive seasons (2.7 and 2.6 in 1997 and '98, respectively). He made his first and only All-Star game in 1994, when he averaged 13.8 points, a career-high 9.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals.

    Blaylock's hands were as good as anyone's in the league in the '90s. He averaged at least two steals in 11 of his 13 NBA seasons, recording at least 2.5 steals per for six consecutive seasons.

    As a result of his quick hands, Blaylock was selected to two All-Defensive first teams and four All-Defensive second teams.

    Blaylock was also one of the league's better perimeter threats. He averaged as many as 2.9 threes per game on 37 percent shooting in 1996 and averaged at least 2.5 threes in three consecutive seasons.

    On two occasions, he finished second in three-pointers made overall and hit a career-high 231 in 1996.

Starting SG: Pete Maravich

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    Before he became the superstar we know him as with the New Orleans Jazz, Pete Maravich was originally a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks.

    Taken third in the 1970 draft after four years at LSU—where he averaging at least 43 points per game—Maravich earned All-Rookie first-team honors following a first-year campaign that saw him average 23.2 points, 4.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds.

    Maravich's numbers would dip due to an injury that caused him to miss 16 games, but he would bounce back with a career season in his third year. Maravich had career highs across the board, including dropping 26.1 points and dishing out 6.9 dimes per contest.

    The scoring numbers would continue to rise, topping off at 27.7 points per game in his final season with the Hawks. He was sent to the Jazz the year after as a part of a deal that brought Bob Kauffman, Dean Meminger, two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick to Atlanta.

    Maravich played on two All-Star teams in his four years with Atlanta.

Starting SF: Dominique Wilkins

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    The most polarizing player to play in Atlanta, Dominique Wilkins was the face of the Hawks for the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s.

    Not only did Wilkins' ferocious and gravity-defying slams bring some attention to basketball in Atlanta, but his overall game brought the most success the franchise had seen since the days in St. Louis.

    Unfortunately, the Hawks could never get past the second round of the playoffs, constantly meeting roadblocks in the forms of Larry Bird's Boston Celtics, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and Isiah Thomas' Detroit Pistons.

    The Celtics alone were responsible for three of the Hawks' early playoff exits, including the Game 7 thriller in 1988 that featured a classic duel between Wilkins and Bird.

    Wilkins helped to lead the Hawks to a franchise-record 57 wins on two occasions, which both resulted in second-round postseason departures. However, Wilkins was traded halfway through the 57-win season in the 1993-94 campaign.

    As far as individual achievements go, Wilkins was quite the scorer for his time. He averaged at least 20 points in 11 consecutive seasons and won a scoring title in 1986 after averaging 30.3 points per game. He would set his career high two years later by averaging 30.7 points.

    The most impressive stat, however? Wilkins averaged 29 points per game and netted a career-high 1.7 three-pointers as a 33-year-old in his 11th season.

    "Nique" finished second in MVP voting in 1986, made it on one All-NBA first team and two All-NBA second teams and represented the Hawks in nine All-Star games.

Starting PF: Bob Pettit

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    The only Hawk who can boast a league MVP, Finals MVP and an NBA championship, Bob Pettit was a Hawk before the team began playing in its current home of Atlanta.

    Playing at the 4 for the majority of his career and as a center for two, Pettit played 10 seasons as a member of the St. Louis Hawks and a rookie season with the Milwaukee  Hawks. He was one of the league's first superstars.

    He won Rookie of the Year after averaging 20.4 points and 13.8 points. In the very next season, he became an MVP, posting a league-high 25.7 points to go along with 16.2 boards.

    He won a second MVP three years later in 1959, winning the scoring title again with 29.2 points and 16.4 rebounds per game.

    Prior to winning his second MVP, however, Pettit helped lead the Hawks to their first and only NBA championship in 1958, defeating a powerhouse Boston Celtics team that included Bill Russell, Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy.

    That Hawks' championship represents the lone loss for the Celtics during their string of 12 championships between 1957 and 1969. Pettit's Hawks did drop four NBA Finals, however, all at the hands of the Celtics.

    Pettit averaged a career-high 31.2 points in 1962 and a career-high 20.3 rebounds in 1961. He also has an NBA-record four All-Star Game MVPs, which was tied by Kobe Bryant in 2011. He also made it on 11 All-Star teams and 10 All-NBA first teams.

Starting C: Moses Malone

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    Although he only became an Atlanta Hawk 15 years into his professional basketball career at the age of 33, Moses Malone still proved to be effective. With the exception of Pettit's two seasons playing at the 5, Malone was the best center in the history of the franchise.

    Malone's numbers weren't close to what he was putting up as an NBA champion and perennial league MVP in Philadelphia and Houston, but they were healthy for a player at his age and with his mileage. He averaged 20.2 points and 11.8 rebounds in his first of three seasons with Atlanta.

    He would average double-digit rebounds for the last time in his storied career the next season, averaging 10 in 1990.

    His final season, however, was a forgettable one. He averaged only 10.6 points and 8.1 boards.

    Despite his age and the natural wear and tear of playing in the NBA, Malone missed only two games with the Atlanta Hawks.

    His final All-Star game came as a member of Atlanta.

Reserve G: Doc Rivers

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    Playing alongside Dominique Wilkins during the Hawks' memorable playoff runs in the 1980s and early 1990s, Doc Rivers was the ornery floor general who helped turn the team into one of the league's most dangerous offenses.

    After being Atlanta's second-round draft pick in 1983, Rivers averaged a career-high 10 assists, 12.8 points and only 2.6 turnovers in 1986-87.

    It was the lone year that Rivers averaged a double-double. He would strangely never average better than seven assists per game in any other season, with the lone exception being the 1987-88, when he averaged 9.3.

    After 1988, Rivers' highest assist production was 6.9. He did average a career-high 15.2 points per game in 1991, converting one three-pointer per for the first time in his career.

    He also averaged at least two steals in five of his first seven seasons.

    Rivers played on one All-Star team.

Reserve G: Joe Johnson

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    Finally, we come across a player from the modern era of Atlanta Hawks basketball.

    A worthy candidate, too. If not for Pete Maravich, Joe Johnson could have been the all-time starter for a Hawks franchise that has roots in the early 1950s. Prior to departing for the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson had the most prosperous years of his NBA career as a member of the Hawks.

    In an injury-shortened 2006-07 campaign, Johnson averaged a career-high 25 points. He averaged at least 20 points in five of his seven seasons with the Hawks, including a consistent stretch of 21 points per game for three consecutive years.

    Johnson was, and still is, a feared perimeter threat. He made at least two three-pointers per game in 2007 and 2008, shooting 38 percent in both seasons. He would perform the same feat in his final season with Atlanta, averaging 2.1 three-pointers on 39 percent shooting.

    He was a perennial All-Star in his time with Hawks, making it six consecutive seasons. He also earned a nod to the All-NBA third team in 2010 after averaging 21.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds.

Reserve G: Lou Hudson

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    A first-round draft pick of St. Louis in 1966, Lou Hudson would help lead the Hawks to a few of their best seasons in franchise history.

    Aside from winning two Western Division titles, Hudson also led the Hawks to a franchise-record 56 wins in 1968, a mark that wouldn't be broken until 1987. With Hudson playing at shooting guard and small forward, the Hawks would make it to four Division Finals.

    Unfortunately, three of those matchups came against the Jerry West-led Los Angeles Lakers, all of which the Hawks ended up losing. The other matchup was a six-game loss to the San Francisco Warriors.

    While Hudson couldn't get the Hawks over the hump—something they still have trouble with to this day—he did have some of the best numbers a player has had with the Hawks. He averaged at least 20 points for seven consecutive seasons, including posting a career-high 27.1 points per game in 1973.

    Hudson ended his career averaging 20.2 points on 49 percent shooting. He spent his first 11 seasons with the Hawks, but eventually went ring chasing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the final two years of his career.

    He made it to six All-Star games and made an appearance on the All-NBA second team in 1970 after averaging 25.4 points on career-high 53 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Reserve F: Cliff Hagan

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    One of the first notable players along with Bob Pettit to don a Hawks uniform, the 6'4" Hagan provided the Hawks with a consistent scoring touch as well as a surprising knack for getting rebounds.

    Hagan averaged at least 10 boards in three of his first four seasons, despite being listed as the team's starting small forward.

    Scoring was Hagan's game, however. He averaged at least 20 points in four consecutive seasons, including a career-high 24.8 points on 46 percent shooting in 1960.

    Hagan was a five-time All-Star in the NBA. He also had an appearance in the ABA with the Dallas Chaparrals as a 36-year-old and was a member of two All-NBA second teams.

    He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting in 1959 and was a member of the 1958 St. Louis Hawks team that upset the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Reserve F: Kevin Willis

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    Complete with two of arguably the best nicknames in sports history, "Devo" and "Fresh," Kevin Willis was the Atlanta Hawks' heart and soul throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s.

    Willis was a first-round selection of Atlanta in 1984, but it took him a few years before he was able to provide a satisfying service for the Hawks.

    After only one double-digit rebounding season in his first six seasons, Willis stunned fans in 1992, when he averaged a career-high 15.5 boards and finished second in the league in total rebounds overall.

    He also averaged a career-high 5.2 offensive boards, also second in the league, and made it to his first and only All-Star game. He made the most of it with eight points on 10 shots and four rebounds in 14 minutes.

    Willis also earned All-NBA third team honors that season.

    He would average at least 12 boards in the next two seasons, while setting a career high in scoring at 19.1 points per game, but he was traded early in the 1994-95 season to the Miami Heat for Grant Long and Steve Smith.

    Willis would win an NBA title with the 2003 San Antonio Spurs as a 40-year-old. He played in 18 postseason games, averaging five minutes of playing time.

Reserve C: Dikembe Mutombo

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    It was with the Atlanta Hawks where Dikembe Mutombo began reaping the benefits of being a defensive stalwart.

    In the four-and-a-half seasons Mutombo played with Atlanta, he took home two of his Defensive Player of the Year awards. The Hawks were his fourth and final team winning the award after winning his first as a member of the Denver Nuggets. Another came as a member of Philadelphia 76ers, but he spent the first 49 games of that season with Atlanta.

    For some reason, the Hawks found it reasonable to trade "Deke" for Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed, Theo Ratliff and Pepe Sanchez.

    Seriously. Pepe Sanchez.

    Mutombo was a four-time All-Star with Atlanta, as well as a member of three All-Defensive first teams and one All-Defensive second team. He also made his first appearance on an All-NBA team, making it to the third team in 1998.

    Dikembe led the league in rebounding for two consecutive seasons, posting up a career-high 14.1 in 2000 and 13.5 the next season with Philadelphia. The second time he won the rebounding crown was actually weighed down by a decline in his numbers with the 76ers.

    Mutombo even earned some MVP honors, finishing 13th in 1997.

Reserve C: Al Horford

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    It's only been six seasons, but it's obvious from his multidimensional offense and ability to hit the boards that Al Horford is going to be a perennial All-Star.

    He's already made it to two, somehow missing out on this year's festivities despite  averaging career highs across the board at 17.3 points and 10.1 boards. That's quite the improvement considering he only played in 11 games last year due to a shoulder injury.

    Horford has steadily seen his scoring increase since his rookie season, where he started out averaging 10 points, as well as 9.7 rebounds, and made it on the All-Rookie first team as a result.

    Horford has a firm grasp on consistency, too. If the season were to end on March 14, Horford will have shot 55 percent from the field for the fourth consecutive year. This despite his fluctuating field-goal attempts, which have been as high as 13.9 per game and as low as 9.4 in the injury-shortened season last year.

    He was selected to the All-NBA third team in 2011.

    At only 26 years old, Horford can expect more accolades to come.

The Inactive List

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    Josh Smith

    A deserving All-Star the past two years—Luol Deng, seriously?—Josh Smith has continued to play solid basketball on both ends of the court, despite not gaining the recognition he deserves from the league.

    Smith has played with the Hawks for all nine years of his career since being drafted out of high school as a 19-year-old in 2004. His numbers had been up and down due to playing with All-Stars in Joe Johnson and Al Horford, but he recently had a career season, when he averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 boards.

    He has been a notable defender throughout his career. At 6'9", Smith has averaged at least two blocks per game on four occasions, including three times in his first four seasons, which includes a career-best 2.9 in only his third season.


    Steve Smith

    Acquired in the deal that sent Kevin Willis to Miami, Steve Smith had the best individual years of his career with Atlanta.

    Smith would average a career-high 20.1 points in 1997 and 1998 while dishing out 4.2 and 4.0 assists, respectively. His offensive repertoire led the Hawks offense throughout the second half of the 1990s, but it never translated into a winning formula.

    He ended up winning a championship with the 2003 San Antonio Spurs. Coincidentally, Kevin Willis was on the same team.


    Tree Rollins

    He wasn't much of scorer, but nobody expected that out of Tree Rollins when he was drafted by the Hawks in 1978.

    Rollins made a name for himself on the defensive end of the floor. He blocked 2.7 shots per game in his rookie season and would go on to average at least two blocks per in his first nine seasons.

    Rollins led the league in blocks with a career-high 4.3 in 1983. He earned All-Defensive second team honors that year and would earned All-Defensive first team honors the next season after averaging 3.6 blocks.