Struggling Hawks perfect for Jones

Three hours and forty-five minutes into the NBA Draft, Solomon Jones finally heard his name called by deputy commissioner Russ Granik.

As the No. 33 selection of the Atlanta Hawks, Jones joins a young team ready to become a playoff contender. Jones became the highest selection in USF history and the first Bull since 1986 to be selected in the draft.

After struggling last season in the Big East, Jones now joins perhaps the most troubled franchise in the league.

Last season the Hawks went 26-56 and continued a playoff drought that began in 1998. Playing in the same division that includes prominent big men like Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor, Atlanta has focused on improving their interior defense.

With their No. 5 selection, the Hawks selected Duke All-American Sheldon Williams, a player that is known for his tough defense and shot-blocking ability.

The Hawks finished the 2005 season second in points in the paint allowed and last in rebounding. The addition of Jones and his 9.8 rebounds per game should give the team a needed boost.

Along with Williams, Jones bolsters a roster that includes last year’s No. 2 pick Marvin Williams, Al Harrington and Zaza Pachulia.

The Hawks have the youngest team in the southeast division, as their average age is a mere 23.2. Jones and Williams both have a strong chance of receiving significant playing time during their rookie campaigns.

Atlanta is a great destination for Jones. He has the opportunity to not only play, but start.

Jones could contend for the starting center position, as Pachulia only averaged 7.9 rebounds and shot 45 percent from the field. In order to do so, Jones must add muscle to his 6-foot-10, 230-pound frame.

The team has made drastic changes to its roster and improved significantly over the past two seasons. Guard Joe Johnson was brought in from the Phoenix Suns to provide scoring and forward Josh Smith is among the most exciting finishers in the league.

One area the team lacks is a true point guard. Last season’s starter, Royal Ivey, averaged just 3.6 points and 1 assist per game.

Many mock drafts had the team selecting a point guard, but the Hawks chose to select Jones and address this situation later in the off-season. With salary cap room, look for the team to make a run at Bobby Jackson, former Hawk Jason Terry, Sam Cassell or Mike James.

After struggling for so long, the Hawks can only improve. Some additions are necessary for Atlanta to reach the next level, but the foundation is set.

If given a chance, Jones can make key contributions to their turnaround. With a solid young core in place, the Hawks can finally reach the postseason because of excellent picks in the 2006 draft.

The one that included the former Bull.