Atlanta Hawks Season Preview & Predictions

The Hawks overpaid for Joe Johnson in the offseason but he will keep Atlanta towards the top of the Eastern conference
In 2009-2010, the Atlanta Hawks (53-29) posted the third best record in the East and second to Orlando in the Southeast Division. They did it mainly with offense and were helped by the fact that they were one of the few teams that simply did not have to deal with any major adversity from the injury bug. An exact repeat of last least will not be in order, but this is certainly a team that has playoff potential.

In three NBA seasons, center Al Horford (.551 FG%, .789 FT%, 9.9 RPG, 2.3 APG. 14.2 PPG) has shown continued improvement.  Last season, he averaged 35.1 MPG. Horford proved to be a sound shooter and also an able defender as he blocked 1.12 SPG and had .73 STL. Look for the center to show even more this season. At small forward, Marvin Williams (.455 FG%, .303 3PT%, .819 FT%, 5.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 10.1 PPG) is a young player who does some things well, such as scoring, but is lacking when it comes to rebounds, blocks and steals.

The third starter upfront is Josh Smith (.505 FG%, .000 3PT%, .618 FT%, 8.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 15.7 PPG) at power forward. Smith, who was a first round draft pick in 2004, had a subpar 2008-2009 but last season, he made a comeback with sound numbers. He had the highest PER of all Hawks, coming in at 21.04. In terms of depth in front, there’s very little and that’s certainly a concern for Atlanta.

The point guard spot is especially interesting as you’ve got 12-year vet Mike Bibby and 10-year vet Jamal Crawford (.449 FG%, .382 3PT%, .857 FT%, 2.5 RPG, 3.0 APG. 18.0 PPG). Crawford is designated as a shooting guard but can play both sides of the backcourt. Last season, Crawford had a career year. Will he do the same in 2010-2011?  Additionally, the Hawks have second-year man Jeff Teague at the point. Teague saw limited action last year but showed good hands and could start to see some extra minutes this season.

At shooting guard, Joe Jackson (.458 FG%, .369 3PT%, .818 FT%, 4.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 21.3 PPG) offers a stellar shot and some able hands. He averaged 1.08 STL last year. Along with Jamal Crawford, Atlanta sees rookie Jordan Crawford of Xavier join the team.  In college, Crawford proved to be an able jump and shoot player who hit more than 45% of his shots from the field and about 39% from downtown. His big problem was his inability to draw the foul and get to the line.

With an Offensive Efficiency of 108.9 (3rd), the Hawks proved that they could put points on the board last season. The same should be true this season as we see the same team take the court. The interesting thing was that their Pace Factor was 92.5 (27th), which meant although they didn’t have many chances, they made the most of them.

One reason for this was the Hawks had the lowest turnover rate (12.8 for every 100 possessions) in the league. In addition, the team was proficient at grabbing offensive rebounds, creating a wealth of second chances. They were fifth in offensive rebounding.  They had 99.9 shots per 100 possessions.

The team’s Defensive Efficiency was average at 104.0 (14th).  Although the club had speed, they were 25th in fast break points allowed, coming in at 15.8. The club’s ability to transition was awful. One reason may have been that the team was extremely focused on the offensive boards, crashing them and getting second shots. However, there was a price to pay for that.

On the coaching side, head coach Mike Woodson did not get rehired. Ownership said they wanted to go in another direction, which made their decision to hire Woodson’s assistant Larry Drew as the new helmsman confusing. Drew is known for being a fine assistant but chances are his style and ideas will be reflective of Woodson. The real reason for hiring Drew may be the fact that he was cheaper than any of the outside candidates.

Atlanta heads into this season with the reputation for being one of the most durable teams in the NBA. If they can keep their legs under them again, they will be contenders. But this is a thin team, especially in the frontcourt, and injuries will greatly hamper their run towards the playoffs.

The biggest problem facing this team is cash. The Hawks don’t want to spend more than they have to and that resulted in minimal offseason moves. There are also huge league luxury tax implications for the club ,and the team is losing money. The Hawks look to replay last year, finishing third in the Southeast and sixth in the East.

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