Are You Joshing Me? Childress Over Luol Deng and Smith Over Jameer Nelson!

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Atlanta Hawks went Joshing last night, selecting Stanford wingman Childress at the sixth spot and high school small forward Smith over such still available players as Luol Deng and Jameer Nelson. Is lacking a head coach causing the Hawks to have less flexibility in selections? Were they unable to adjust to the surprise availability of players expected to go earlier?

Despite saying he would have withdrawn from the draft if he wasn't guaranteed a top-five spot, then staying in, Deng dropped into Atlanta's lap after being passed over by the top pickers. Unfortunately, since he expected to be a top-five pick, Deng never worked out for the Hawks.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, that is. Still without a head coach who could have leaned over the GM Billy Knight and said, "Please take Deng," Knight went with the player they were expecting to be available and whom they had actually seen in workouts. On the other hand, Andre Iguodala was still available, too, and the Hawks had seen him just three weeks ago in a workout. So perhaps -- gasp! -- they really liked Childress more than either of them?

Childress is a talented 2/3 with a long wing span and will surely be starting next season. He is the highest Stanford player ever drafted after being the first Stanford player ever named Pac-10 Player of the Year. Indeed, he may prove to be a wise choice. To be clear, he's not a bad choice: it just seems as if the Hawks were not as flexible as they could have been.

With their seventeenth pick, the Hawks took Josh Smith, a somewhat local high schooler who has been described as a left-handed Dominique Wilkins. Meanwhile, Player of the Year Jameer Nelson was still available. Nelson and Jason Terry (if not traded) and Childress could have formed an imposing back/middle court on par with anyone in the league. Instead, they have a project on their hands. A project who could be either a sleeper or, as analyzed live on TV last night, "the biggest bust in the draft." Smith says he will use that comment as motivation to prove all his doubters wrong.

Knight says the player's origins had nothing to do with the choice, that they would have taken Smith if he had been from Mars instead of Georgia. It's just a little hard to believe.

June 1, 2004 was an important day for the Atlanta Hawks. That day, Josh Childress and Josh Smith worked out together for the Hawks, along with undrafted Brandon Mouton and Bryant Matthews.

With their desire to parlay their three second round picks into a late first rounder foiled, the Hawks selected Donta Smith 34th, Royal Ivey 37th, and Viktor Sanikidze 42nd, and immediately traded Sanikidze to the Spurs for a future second round pick and cash considerations.


Michael Lee ofThe Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwrites: By the end of the first round, he [Billy Knight] was smiling proudly after drafting two 6-foot-8 players named Josh, expecting the pair to be the foundation of the team's future.Knight selected Stanford junior Josh Childress with the sixth pick and used the 17th to snag the other local high school player in the draft, Josh Smith, who played for McEachern High School in Cobb County before transferring to a Virginia prep school his senior year. "If you would have told us before the draft started, these are the two players we'd end up with, we would have said, 'We'd be happy with that,' " Knight said. "We certainly think they can go inside, go outside . . . they can play above the rim. We like the versatility that these players provide. They're the foundation, certainly." The Hawks' night wasn't a total success. Knight tried to turn a trade that would have packaged Atlanta's three second-round picks into another first-rounder. He also had hoped to add taller players to the roster.

GoStanford.comwrites: Childress becomes the highest Stanford player taken in the NBA Draft.Childress was picked sixth overall in Thursday's two-round draft. Rich Kelley was the seventh overall pick by the New Orleans Jazz in 1975. Childress also becomes the ninth Stanford player to be picked in the first round. Childress also is the Pac-10's highest first round selection since UCLA's Baron Davis was the third overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1999. During the 2003-04 season, Childress was named to nine All-America teams, including six first team choices. Childress, who averaged 15.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, became the first Stanford player to be named Pac-10 Player of the Year (2004).

The Associated Presswrites: Josh Smith, who decided to give up a college career at Indiana, was chosen by the Atlanta Hawks with the 17th pick in Thursday night's NBA draft. Smith signed with the Hoosiers last fall and was the top prize in a class some ranked as the nation's best. This spring, Smith, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward, decided to skip college and enter the draft. The Hawks rewarded Smith, a native of Powder Springs, Ga., by keeping him close to home. Smith will earn $1,058,400 next season as a rookie. Steve Smith, who coached the forward at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, said he considered Josh Smith the best athlete he'd ever coached and that included Carmelo Anthony, the No. 3 pick last year.The two Smiths are not related. 

Sam Smith ofThe Chicago Tribunewrites: Atlanta, Josh Childress, 21, F, 6-8, 210, Stanford. Another big loser, though we expect that from Hawks.They wanted Atlanta product Howard. They wanted point guard, but top two went before them. Smart player, but question is toughness. And he'll need it with that team... Atlanta, Josh Smith, 18, F, 6-9, 210, Oak Hill (Va.) Academy Well, they got that Georgia high school guy, right? Wrong one. He's one of those big time athletes who knows little about playing NBA game or what he's getting into. Perhaps the perfect Hawk.

Dwight Chapin ofThe San Francisco Chroniclewrites: At one point in the run-up to the draft, Childress had been regarded as only a borderline lottery pick (the top 14), but after workouts for several NBA teams, his stock rose quickly. Many recent projections had him going somewhere around the top 10, but his selection at No. 6 still was a bit of a surprise. "It worried us all that his stock would go down," his mother, Teri, said in a television interview after his selection by the Hawks, one of the teams for which he had worked out. Childress himself said, "If it wasn't for Atlanta, I think I might have slid."

Jon Wilner ofThe San Jose Mercury Newswrites: After worrying that he would fall out of the top 10, Childress leaped into his mother's arms when the Atlanta Hawks made him the No. 6 pick in the NBA draft Thursday."I've been sitting in my room the last few days dying inside with all the trades and everything," Childress told ESPN. "I'm happy to go to the Hawks." Childress became the highest Cardinal draftee ever, eclipsing center Rich Kelley, who went No. 7 to New Orleans in 1975. He's also the highest pick from a Bay Area school since Cal's Shareef Abdur-Rahim went No. 3 to Vancouver in 1996. Childress will be paid about $7 million over the next three years. He plans to buy his mom, Teri, a house, buy himself a car -- "I want as much car as I can get for as cheap as I can get it," he said last week -- and invest the rest.