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Figuring out Hawks general manager not easy

ATLANTA - The law of averages calls for the Atlanta Hawks to win the third or fourth draft pick in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery.

The Hawks finished 26-56 this season, tied for the third worst in the league with Charlotte. Atlanta will have the fourth most ping-pong balls - one fewer than Charlotte - in the lottery machine that determines the order for the June 28th draft.

The law of averages also explains the general managership of the Hawks' Billy Knight.

Knight is one of four general managers of major professional sports franchises in Atlanta. And since the Braves' John Schuerholz and the Falcons' Rich McKay qualify as geniuses, the law of averages calls for the other two to be less astute.

Or for one of them to be a total buffoon.

Knight is looking more and more like the Yang to Schuerholz and McKay's Yin. The day after the Hawks finished a playoff-less season for the seventh straight year last month, Knight told reporters his draft strategy would continue to be taking the best player available, regardless of team need.

He has reiterated that maxim in the Atlanta media in recent weeks and has even made condescending comments toward his critics. He preaches patience and points out the Hawks' improvement - they did double their win total this season over last.

Yet 13 multiplied by 2 still equals embarrassing over an 82-game season.

And the saddest part is Knight made the Hawks' struggles so predictable. By stockpiling swingmen and ignoring imposing centers and play-making point guards, he set the team up to fail.

Atlanta's starting center is Zaza Pachulia. Good name, average big man.

At point guard, the Hawks started Tyronn Lue after Knight passed on drafting Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Raymond Felton for the position.

Knight drafted Marvin Williams instead. The only place Williams fit in his rookie season was in the wardrobe department - at 6-foot-9, Williams could have shared clothes with teammates Josh Childress (6-8), Al Harrington (6-9), Joe Johnson (6-7) and Josh Smith (6-9).

Knight has turned the Hawks from a punch line into the joke itself.

Last May, the easiest way to get a laugh out of an Atlanta sports fan was to ask "What's 6-foot-8 but always comes up short? The Hawks."

Now, all an Atlantan needs to hear is "Hawks" to start

chuckling.

Expect some side-splitters following the draft lottery. The foolishness of the spectacle - determining draft order via logoed ping-pong balls - could be surpassed by Knight's decision-making in the draft, particularly if the Hawks end up picking in the top-five.

The players considered the best in the draft all fit Knight's preferences for forwards and swingmen. Like a bachelor who only dates blondes, Knight will find it hard to look past LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyrus Thomas, Adam Morrison, Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay - even with point guards Randy Foye and Marcus Williams likely available.

Knight, of course, could have the last laugh. He may be duping all of us. He could deal a few members of the long-and-lean crew for a star or sign a free agent like Allen Iverson, Ben Wallace or Sam Cassell.

Knight once was considered a sharp guy, after all. Jerry West, the NBA equivalent of Schuerholz and McKay, is among the references on his resume.

Plus, the law of averages says he'll make a wise move eventually - even if by accident.