With all of the build up leading to this year’s NBA draft, I decided to put together my list of the best rookie seasons the Hawks franchise has ever seen. The Hawks have drafted many legends and hopefully, future legends.
#10 Josh Smith
Josh Smith was selected by Atlanta in the 1st round of the 2004 NBA Draft with the 17th overall pick. Smith was drafted straight out of Oak Hill Academy, a high school known for producing NBA talent. He was a 6’9″ forward who could jump out of the building. Fans loved him because of his highflying dunks and monster blocks. He was even entered into the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest during All Star Weekend in his rookie year. He scored three perfect 50s in a row to win the Slam Dunk Contest. His stat line for his rookie year consisted of 9.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. That was enough to add him to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team.
#9 John Collins
The Atlanta Hawks selected John Collins, a 6’10” forward from Wake Forest, with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Just like Smith, Collins is known for his leaping ability and emphatic rim stuffers. In his rookie season, he didn’t have much of an outside game. He mainly stayed in the post or did pick and rolls with our point guard at the time, Dennis Schröder. John was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. Now, Collins has proven to be a steal in that draft, being picked five spots outside of the lottery. He will be a focal point for this team moving into the future.
#8 Stacey Augmon
Stacey Augmon was selected with the 9th overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft by Atlanta. Augmon was a 6’8″ shooting guard/small forward. He started all 82 games for Atlanta in his rookie year. Stacey, nicknamed “The Plastic Man,” averaged 13.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. Augmon earned his nickname due to his athletic ability. He was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team.
#7 Al Horford
The Atlanta Hawks selected Al Horford with the 3rd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Horford is a 6’10” Center out of the University of Florida. Horford started the majority of his games played during his rookie year. He nearly averaged a double-double. He had 10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. For an undersized center, Horford held his own down low. He averaged 0.9 blocks per game and 0.7 steals per game. He was selected to the All-Rookie First Team for the NBA. Al Horford helped Atlanta continue their long stretch of playoff appearances.
#6 Lou Hudson
“Sweet” Lou Hudson was selected by the St. Louis Hawks with the 4th overall pick in the 1966 NBA Draft. All though not in Atlanta, the St. Louis Hawks are apart of the same franchise. Hudson was a 6’5″ shooting guard who averaged 18.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Lou made the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team for the 1966-67 season. Lou represented the Hawks six times in a row in the NBA All-Star Game from 1968-1974. After his rookie year, Hudson was called to serve in the U.S. military. When he came back the following season, the franchise had moved to Atlanta. He also became teammates with another Hawks legend, Pete Maravich for years.
#5 Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins, “The Human Highlight Film,” was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 3rd overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. Wilkins had no interest in playing for Utah. They decided to trade Wilkins before the start of the season to Atlanta in return for John Drew, Freeman Williams, and $1 million. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Atlanta won that trade as Dominique went on to be Hall of Famer and probably the best Hawk of all time. In Wilkins’ rookie year, he averaged 17.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steals. That was enough to land him on the All-Rookie First Team.
#4 John Drew
John Drew was another steal by the Atlanta Hawks on draft night. Drew selected with the 7th pick in the 2nd round of the 1974 NBA Draft. In his first professional season, he averaged 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. Drew played power forward and small forward even though he was undersized for those positions at 6’6″. This was Drew’s only season of his career averaging over 10 rebounds a game. Drew also made the All-Rookie First Team.
#3 Pete Maravich
“Pistol” Pete Maravich was selected by Atlanta with the 3rd overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft. Maravich is another icon in Atlanta sports. He was known for his very flashy handles and passes. He was one of the first players to use the behind the back pass. His rookie season saw averages of 23.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. Maravich, as expected, made the All-Rookie First Team. Maravich was given his famous nickname of “Pistol” because of his unique shooting form. His shot started at his hip, much like a gunman pulling his pistol from its holster. He even wore “Pistol” on the back of his uniform instead of last name.
#2 Bob Pettit
Bob Pettit was selected my the Milwaukee Hawks with the 2nd pick of the 1st round in the 1954 NBA Draft. Pettit’s rookie year was spent in Milwaukee until the team moved to St. Louis where he spent the rest of his 11-year NBA career. Pettit was an all star every single year of his career. Pettit came into the league dominating. In his rookie year, he averaged 20.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He was named Rookie of the Year and even made the All-NBA First Team! It was tough putting him at #2 on this list, but he played in the 50s and 60s when there was very little tough competition. That’s not taking anything away from him; Pettit brought this franchise their only Championship.
#1 Trae Young
One of the most recent additions to the team is nun other than rookie sensation, Trae Young. The Atlanta Hawks had the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. They selected Luka Dončić but eventually traded him to the Dallas Mavericks who selected Trae Young with the 5th overall pick. There were many critics saying Trae would fail miserably in the NBA. They said he was too small and made poor decisions. Trae definitely proved all of the critics wrong. He finished the season averaging 19.1 points, 8.1 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game. Trae is also in the running for Rookie of the Year against Luka Dončić and Deandre Ayton. Trae had kind of a rough start to the season. He was averaging about 16 points and 6 assists, but his shooting percentages were very poor. After the all star break, a switch seemed to be flipped. He was shooting the ball more efficiently while averaging around 25 points and 9 assists per game! Those are MVP caliber numbers. Trae proved to be a great scorer and a great playmaker. He had many high scoring games and high assist games, but no game compared to his 49 point, 16 assist outing against Chicago. Trae Young is the future of this franchise and will lead us going into the future. He has all of the potential in the world and is the best rookie the Hawks have ever seen.
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Jared Schmehl | @SchmehlJared Twitter | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG
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“Jen.” St. Louis Walk of Fame, 14 Jan. 2019, stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductee/bob-pettit/.