The Atlanta Hawks were never considered a powerhouse franchise but they’ve had some great players suit up for them over the years. With the talent that’s come through their doors, it’s surprising that the Hawks only have one championship. Regardless of the franchise’s moderate success, it’s still easy to put their all-time roster up against any team in the league.
All-Time Atlanta Hawks Team
PG – Lenny Wilkens
While most will remember Lenny Wilkens initially for his incredible coaching career, he also put together a Hall of Fame career as a player. Wilkens played eight seasons for the Hawks in the ’60s and was a five-time All-Star. He finished second in MVP voting in the 1967-1968 season. The Hawks only missed the playoffs once during Wilkens’ tenure which was largely due to injuries to several key players as well as Wilkens missing a bulk of the season due to a prior military commitment. He only played in 20 games during the 1961-1962 season. Wilkens legacy within the Hawks organization came in 1994 when he was named NBA Coach of the Year while leading the franchise he once starred for.
SG – Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson played seven years with the Hawks where he was one of the best offensive weapons in the league. Johnson spent most of his early years with the Phoenix Suns after he was traded from the Boston Celtics in his rookie season. After establishing himself as a reliable scorer alongside Steve Nash, he came to Atlanta on a monster deal. Johnson, with Josh Smith and Al Horford, consistently led the Hawks to the playoffs in a tough Eastern Conference.
They had to contend with the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James, the Orlando Magic with a healthy Dwight Howard, the Celtics Big Three (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen), and the Chicago Bulls with a MVP level Derrick Rose. Johnson and the Hawks pushed the Celtics to seven games in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. He had an impressive 35 points in a Game Four win but they ultimately fell to the eventual champions. Johnson’s tenure as a Hawk was the best years of his career and he’s one of the franchise’s best players.
SF – Dominique Wilkins
This is by far the easiest decision on this list. Dominique Wilkins is the greatest player in Hawks history and dominated one of the greatest eras in NBA history. Wilkins has played more games in a Hawks uniform than any other player and his name is synonymous with the franchise. His battles with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan are legendary. Wilkins was a mainstay at All-Star Weekend whether it was playing in the game or dazzling in the dunk contest. His defining moment came in Game Seven of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics. Wilkins and Bird went toe to toe and put on one of the greatest fourth-quarter scoring displays ever.
He finished the game with 47 points while his Boston nemesis had 34 (20 of those coming in the final period) in a 118-116 Celtics win. Wilkins also had 35 and 40 point games in that series. But that Game Seven shootout propelled Wilkins into a different stratosphere in regards to his legacy.
PF – Bob Pettit
Wilkins is the greatest player in Hawks’ history, but Bob Pettit is easily the most decorated. He is the first-ever recipient of the NBA MVP award and the first player to eclipse 20,000 career points. Pettit also led the Hawks to their only championship in franchise history in 1958. He scored 50 points (an NBA playoff record at the time) in a series-clinching Game Six win over Bill Russell and the Celtics. He was named an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons and was named All-Star MVP four times, a record he shares with Kobe Bryant. Pettit was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1970 and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.
C – Dikembe Mutombo
Dikembe Mutombo patrolled the paint for the Atlanta Hawks for five seasons. During his time there he made four All-Star teams, three NBA All-Defensive first teams, one All-Defensive second-team selection, won two rebounding titles, and three NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards. He has riled up the Atlanta fans countless times with his infamous “finger wave” after one of his many blocks. His importance to the franchise was cemented in 2015 when his jersey was retired. He is one of only five players in franchise history to receive this honor.
PG – Glenn “Doc” Rivers
Doc Rivers was the floor general for the Hawks during one of their most successful eras. He led them through the gauntlet of the 1980’s NBA. The Hawks regularly made the playoffs with Rivers but couldn’t punch through the wall. They routinely faced the Celtics or Detroit Pistons. Rivers was a consistent scorer and a gritty defender. He also ran the show offensively with patience and dished out a lot of assists to a high flying teammate, Lou Hudson. Rivers fourth season was his best as the Hawks set a new franchise record with 57 wins and his playmaking opened things up for Atlanta. He would be named an All-Star the following season while having the second-best scoring output of his career.
SG – “Pistol” Pete Maravich
Pete Maravich was one of the greatest scorers the NBA has ever seen. He spent the first four years with the Hawks. Maravich was a wizard with the basketball and did things few people had ever seen before. There was an adjustment period upon entering the league but Maravich quickly found his bearings. In the 1972-1973 season, he was named an All-Star and made the All NBA second team. Maravich was a great scorer and an entertaining player for the Hawks but that didn’t always translate to success. They’d only have one winning season with him there but he is still revered as one of the greatest Hawks players ever.
SF – Lou Hudson
On almost any other team, Lou Hudson would be the best small forward to ever lace up his sneakers. He was a scoring machine during his 11 seasons with the Hawks. He shares the franchise’s single-game scoring record (57 points) with Dominique Wilkins and Bob Pettit. Hudson also scored the first basket for the Hawks after they moved to Atlanta. Hudson was a six-time All-Star, made the NBA All-Rookie first team, and was named to the All-NBA second team in 1970.
PF – Josh Smith
Josh Smith is one of the most versatile big men to play for the Hawks. His name will be near the top of many franchise lists. He can also boast a slam dunk championship and NBA All-Defensive second-team honors to his list of accomplishments in a Hawks uniform. Smith was one of the most exciting players in the league during his time with Atlanta. The team struggled his first two seasons but once they paired Smith with Joe Johnson, they made the playoffs every year that Smith remained with the team. The Hawks took Smith straight out of high school and taking a chance on the young player worked out well for both parties. He will definitely go down as one of the best Hawks ever.
C – Al Horford
After a great college career, the Hawks drafted Al Horford with the third pick in the 2007 draft. What came next was nine awesome years for Horford in a Hawks jersey. He had two seasons interrupted by injuries but in all, Horford had a more than stellar career in Atlanta. He was unanimously selected to the NBA All-Rookie first team and was named to the All-Star team four times. Horford became the first Hawks player to make the All-Star team since Kevin Willis. In 2015, Horford led the Hawks to a league-best and franchise-record 60 wins. The Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that year as well. He doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of other players but no one can deny Horford’s contributions to the Atlanta Hawks success during his tenure.
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