Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

20 10 2008

My NBA South East Division preview begins with the Atlanta Hawks:

Atlanta Hawks

2007-08 Standings 37 – 45, 8th Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 39 – 43, 3nd South East Division, 9th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Al Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby

Sixth Man:  Acie Law

The Atlanta Hawks are hoping that high flyer Josh Smith develops consistency to go with his already stellar talents.

The Atlanta Hawks are hoping that high flyer Josh Smith develops consistency to go with his already stellar talents.

The Atlanta Hawks are a hard team to get a handle on. They scraped into the playoffs last season with a 37 – 45 record then proceeded to take the Boston Celtics, the eventual champions to seven games. While that series was probably down as much to the Celtics failing to dispose of a team they didn’t take seriously until it mattered, it did show what they were capable of. However the 37 win record reveals that they just weren’t consistent enough.

At the end of last season they looked like a team on the rise, a Portland Trail Blazers for the Eastern Conference. Then of course they suffered one of the most high profile defections this offseason, when they lost sixth man extraordinaire Josh Childress to Europe. Childress’ loss to me revealed that all is not well in Hawks land. For years the Hawks have been crippled by ownership gripes and there are rumours that the negotiations with Childress were antagonistic leading him to pursue the Europe option. While I ultimately think Childress bolting is more about the money and the opportunity to get some life experience it still doesn’t convince me that the Hawks have turned the corner.

Despite my reservations they do have a number of pieces. With Mike Bibby at the point and Joe Johnson at shooting guard the Hawks have one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Both are All Star level talents and both are capable of taking and making the big shots. They give experience and guidance to the youngsters around them.

Josh Smith is a stellar talent, one of the best young players in the NBA. He’s an explosive scorer and an awesome shot blocker, ranking second in the NBA. The one thing he needs is consistency, if he achieves that he’ll be an All Star.

At the other forward position is Marvin Williams. He is very young still, barely 22 while already entering his fourth season. He’s probably better suited to being a wingman at this stage of his career.

Pressed into centre duty is Al Horford. At times last year he was an absolute monster inside but like a lot of young players he needs to play dynamic ball for every minute of every game. Ultimately I think Horford will make a better power forward. Horford will be backed up by Zaza Pachulia. Pachulia has a hard nosed streak that I like, going nose to nose with Kevin Garnett during the playoffs last year.

Coach:

Mike Woodson is the Atlanta Hawks and he proved himself a solid performer last season in getting the young Hawks to challenge the mighty Celtics for seven games. The challenge for him will be to get the Hawks to play that way away from home.

Bench:

Acie Law will be looking to prove that so so rookie season was an aberration. He’ll be backing up Bibby so he has a good role model to follow. The remainder of the Hawks bench is mostly young, inexperienced players. Josh Childress will be missed.

Star Player:

Joe Johnson is the star, an All Star who left the Phoenix Suns to be the leader of his own team. Eventually Josh Smith will be the star in Atlanta but for now Johnson is the alpha player, the one who’ll take all the big shots.

Team MVP:

Can Al Horford develop into a consistent dominant interior player? If he can the Hawks will be much better than most people expect.

Final Prognosis: 

While I think the Hawks will be better this season the Eastern Conference has some better teams in it, most notably division rival the Miami Heat. I expect the Hawks to come close to a playoff slot but just miss out.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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One response

20 10 2008
cousinwalter

I have to say I am looking forward to this season. If their is anything the Hawks could improve on it is consistency from the team itself and the individual players. It seems they have a tendeny to beat teams that they were “not suppose to” but slack off against teams they were supposed to have an easy time with. For instance one time they beat Kobe and the Lakers only to lose to Milwaukee a few games later. What’s up with that?

Some nights Josh Smith can play like an all-star but then the next night he disappears. I thought last year Marvin Williams really took a step forward in his development. Al Horford was great from the beginning and continued to become better every game. The Hawks are going to need more of these three guys on a nightly basis so Joe Johnson does not have to put the whole team on his back everynight.

Joe Johnson is definitely the team MVP and the best player. Where Joe Johnson goes, so goes the Atlanta Hawks.

Locally they have been reporting that Acie Law has really done well this summer. We will have to wait and see.

There has been talk of trading Mike Bibby at the trade deadline. That all hinges on Law’s improvement. Where they stand now I wouldn’t do it but its October and the trade deadline is in February.

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