Links: The Darko Dilemma

by July 06, 2007

by Lang Whitaker

I knew this was going to happen eventually. Earlier this week the Orlando Magic renounced their free agent matching rights to Darko Milicic, meaning the formerly restricted free agent is now unrestricted. (The Magic said today they’d like to keep Darko, although after Darko’s agent Marc Cornstein publicly labeled Orlando GM Otis Smith a “liar,” you have to assume there’s not a lot of love there between the two gentlemen.)

That’s right, Darko is free to chase the most money he can across the NBA landscape. And which team is sitting there a few million under the cap and in need of a center? My Atlanta Hawks.


Hey, we can’t say Chad Ford didn’t warn us. Darko and I go way back, back to when The Links were simply a daily column of news and notes, back to when Chad Ford was ESPN’s only NBA Insider. Chad bravely took up the cause for a little-known European prospect, touting him as the next big thing and writing that Detroit had made a wise move by selecting Darko ahead of such untested and anonymous American prospects as Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.

Or not. The Darko era in Detroit didn’t work out so well. In Orlando’s it’s been better, but still: He’s been a competent player thus far, but selecting him ahead of Wade and Melo? No.

Is it too early to completely write off Darko? Probably. After all, he’s still just 22 years old. At the same time, we’re talking about a player with career averages of 5 points and 3 rebounds per game. The problem is we’re talking about a former number two draft pick four years into his NBA career who’s still averaging 5 and 3 and couldn’t get significant playing time on a team that barely made the Playoffs.

This brings us to the Hawks, my Hawks. The Hawks need a center. They have Zaza Pachulia, who is actually pretty good considering he plays center in the NBA but can’t seem to dunk a basketball. Which means he’s probably better suited to coming off the bench. Which means the Hawks need a starting center.

Which means…Darko? Sekou Smith seems to like the idea. While Darko is technically a power forward, he’d also be the biggest player on Atlanta’s roster.

What I don’t like about the thought of Darko in a Hawks uniform is that Darko is obviously still developing. The Hawks were already the youngest team in the NBA, and that was before they added Al Horford and Acie Law. Going out and getting Darko and giving him around $10 million a season would mean Hawks ownership is yet again asking Hawks fans for our patience. And that’s something in short supply among Hawks fans right now.