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Atlanta Hawks: A roster ripe with turnover

May 10, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) during the first quarter of game six against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

“New-look” would be an understatement when describing the Atlanta Hawks roster for the upcoming season. Of the 13 players currently under contract, only 4 players were on last seasons team. Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia all return, but the rest is all fresh blood.

With the expectation that the playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference is in for a minor shakeup this upcoming season, where the Brooklyn’s and Orlando’s should be swapping places, where do we see the Atlanta Hawks?

The starters
For now, we have to do a lot of assuming. First, that their starting lineup will end up being Al Horford, Josh Smith, Devin Harris and some combination of Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson or Jeff Teague. Second is that Lou Williams will stick to his sixth man, bench-scoring specialty (he led the entire Sixers team last year at 14.9 ppg). No matter the collection of starters, this team will lack size in the starting lineup with Horford at center. If there was ever a time for Josh Smith to make an All-Star team, it’s this year. This is his team now. Expect 35+ minutes per game and a solid 20 and 10 from Smith. Horford is absolutely solid, but his offense is not at the elite level needed to compete with some of his defensive-minded inter-conference counterparts like Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert and now, Andrew Bynum. As for the backcourt, the Hawks should feel obligated to start Devin Harris, whether at point guard or in combination with Jeff Teague, who started all 66 games for the Hawks last season. I think Anthony Morrow, a relatively efficient shooter, deserves at least a change to start in the league, so why not with the “new” Atlanta Hawks?

The bench
When it comes to team depth, well, there isn’t much. They will be relying on a few rookies and the likes of Johan Petro to hold down the second unit. As mentioned earlier, Lou Williams will be THE first guy off the bench and provide that spark. Kyle Korver should slide into the same role he occupied in Chicago as the spot-up outside shooting threat. Petro, Pachulia and first-year man Jordan Williams will provide size, though they really lack any kind of valuable skill. DeShawn Stevenson will provide some adequate defense and neck tattoos, but little else. Then they have rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott, who have potential, but are ultimately questions marks as to how much they’ll contribute in their first seasons. Hopefully they can bring back Ivan Johnson, a surprisingly effective role player last year.

The competition
With Orlando (book it) and Chicago (it will be closer than people think) possibly dropping outside the playoffs, the competition will be even great for the 5th through 8th seeds in the East. How Atlanta even finished 40-26 last year is beyond me. The Hawks are certainly not a better overall team than the Bucks, who just missed out last season and I think will make the cut this year. I’m penciling in the Heat, Pacers, Celtics, Sixers, Knicks and Bucks as playoff teams, theoretically leaving only a couple of spots to fight over. This year Brooklyn and  Milwaukee will be pushing hard for those final spots and who knows what we might get with the potentially-improved Pistons, Raptors,  Cavaliers or even Wizards.

Will it all come together?
Without “true” scoring outside of Josh Smith and Lou Williams (Horford and Harris need to step up), I can’t see them having a record at .500 or better and will likely resemble the Pistons from last year. They have some specialized pieces, but just not enough fire power to compete with even some of the bad, but improving East teams. The only chance I think they have is if they truly take advantage of their division matchups against the now-lowly Magic and the dreadful Bobcats.  I’m down on the Hawks and think they really have NO shot at the playoffs this season. But I also thought the same thing last year, when they showed me up with a .606 winning percentage. That’s why they play the games.

mhallihan

  • http://twitter.com/WesFromTheATL Wes

    1. Jeff Teague will start at PG OVER Devin Harris. Confirmed by coach Larry Drew and GM Ferry.
    2. The Hawks finished 40-26 last year (without Horford) based around their defense (6th in defensive efficiency). That’s why most, even John Hollinger himself, had us outside the playoffs last year. Don’t be surprised if they have a top 10 defense again quietly.
    3. What Horford lacks defensively (he’s a fine defensive player just undersized at C) he makes up with his incredibly efficient offense. It’s unfair to compare him to centers but even so, he’s better than Noah and Hibbert and Chandler and Bynum aren’t far ahead.
    4. You’re free to be down on the Hawks, just don’t be surprised if they claim a 4ish seed again even without Joe and Marvin. -Wesley (Blogger at SoaringDownSouth)

    • http://www.savingtheskyhook.com/ Mike Hallihan

      1. Ok.
      2. Aside from Horford and Smith (defenders), this is a completely new team, they don’t even have a defensive identity yet.
      3. Yes, he’s efficient. How exactly is it unfair to compare him to his counterparts? Despite being shorter, he plays the same position.
      4. I am down on them (where does the chemistry come from with this many new guys?) and I will be absolutely shocked if they get near the 4th seed. You can holler at me if they do.

  • Hawks_Nation

    Dude….You sound ridiculous. The only thing I agreed with being undersized. Did you forget that Horford had more all star appearances than majority of these guys you listed? He would have definitely made it last season,if Hibbert didn’t hurt him. Al has always held his own considering he is playing out of position. Good thing you’re a fan and not a sports analyst.

    • http://www.savingtheskyhook.com/ Mike Hallihan

      Haha, yeah a good thing huh. Sure he’s always done well for his size.
      Didn’t realize that “absolutely solid” was such an insult. Let’s just
      wait and see how far Al and his 2 ASG’s get the Hawks next season.

  • B-Smoove

    You’re crazy. The Hawks are definitely better than the Deer. Don’t forget that this slight slide in the standings will come with a reward of 2 good draft picks next season (we get one from HOU) and the flexibility to resign Smoove and attract another big name player to pick up the scoring load from our Terribly Tiny Trio of Teague, Harris, and Williams. Think about the future next time you bag on the ATL.

    • http://www.savingtheskyhook.com/ Mike Hallihan

      I’m not talking about the future big fella, I’m talking about THIS season. They can go nuts with their draft picks next season and beyond.