Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Horrible Dominique Trade

The first post goes to our namesake, Dominique Wilkins.

On February 24, 1994 the Atlanta Hawks made one of the worst trades in the history of the NBA. In honor of 'Nique, I'm going to document exactly why this trade was the Jump To Conclusions Mat of NBA trades with a bullet point breakdown. (Why, oh why weren't Samir and Michael Bolton in the meeting when Pete Babcock brought up the idea to trade 'Nique?)

The Hawks were in first place in the Eastern Conference at the time. They were 36-16 at the time of the trade, tied for first place in the Central Division with the Jordan-less Chicago Bulls. Why in God's name would you trade a go-to scorer when you have a legitimate shot at earning a No. 1 seed (which they eventually did).

The Hawks included a No. 1 draft pick in the deal. It's almost like they got confused in their negotiation tactics and drove up the price on themselves. I'm convinced the Clippers initially asked for Stacey Augmon and a second round pick, but the Hawks talked them out of it. When you get taken to the cleaners in a trade with the Clippers you know you've slipped into some kind of alternate transaction reality.

• Both Wilkins and Manning were in the final year of their contracts. The Hawks would have to attempt to re-sign either one. So why not make that attempt with your best scorer and the face of the franchise?

After the season, Babcock admitted that he had no expectation of re-signing Manning. This was his quote in an AJC article by Steve Hummer dated August 4, 1994.

"Lenny [Wilkens] and I are disappointed Danny is not coming back. But we were prepared for it. We made the trade with the understanding he wouldn't be back."

This means that they made the deal strictly because they thought Manning would be an upgrade over 'Nique on the court. With talent evaluation like that, it makes you wonder how they got to the top of the Eastern Conference heap in the first place.

The Hawks were viewed as a legitimate contender in the East before the trade. After the trade, they continued to win, but their status as a contender in the playoffs took a major hit. And of course, they quietly bowed out in the second round (sound familiar?) to Indiana.