|Josh Smith looks to carry the depleted Hawks |
back to the postseason for the 7th straight season.
PG Jeff Teague Devin Harris
SG Anthony Morrow Lou Williams John Jenkins
SF Kyle Korver DeShawn Stevenson
PF Josh Smith Ivan Johnson Anthony Tolliver Mike Scott
C Al Horford Zaza Pachulia Johan Petro
Strengths: Wing depth, Athleticism, 3-point shooting at the 2 guard spot
Weaknesses: Post scoring, Lead guard, Small Forward production
Outlook: The Hawks dealt two key contributors to last season (Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams) in exchange for expiring contracts. They picked up some guard depth with the acquisitions of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams and John Jenkins among others. Expect a dip in the standings from the Hawks this season in light of their recent roster moves, with the only deterrent from such a dip lying in a potentially standout season from one of their two frontcourt cornerstones, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Another season with Larry Drew at the helm and with player development from Jeff Teague should provide some hope for the future with this immediate roster for Hawks fans. The real hope lies in what the Hawks built this entire off season around: Future financial flexibility. They dealt a two starters, one of them being a top-5 shooting guard, for expiring contracts and seem poised at a free agent run in one of these next two off seasons. Josh Smith is up for a contract extension at any point this season before June 30, although it seems unlikely he'll get one lest the Hawks mess with their carefully crafted cap space. Despite this, he remains the key component of this season for Atlanta. In what could be his final season as a Hawk, if Josh Smith goes out with a bang, which would help him for his own selfish reasons (financial security with a new deal), it could also conversely propel the Hawks into playoff contention. The Hawks will in all likelihood compete for a low playoff seed, be really feisty in the first round, but eventually bow out to a team who actually planned to be good in this upcoming season.
Unexpected Contribution: John Jenkins; Rookie Shooting Guard: The Hawks will allow anybody to battle for that starting two guard spot, with Anthony Morrow at the spot now and with free agent pickup Lou Williams better suited for a Sixth Man role. John Jenkins as a 3-point threat would provide a strength to the starting lineup sorely needed with mostly slashers on the perimeter and at the stretch four (Josh Smith). Their isn't a lot of pressure attributed to him, with him being a late first round pick so he should be able to go about this roster competition freely, despite the size disadvantage he will carry with him throughout his career. The Hawks currently have Anthony Morrow at the "2 guard who spreads the floor spot" but his three point shooting dipped 6% last year and he has similar size to Jenkins, so if Jenkins can display a dimension the Hawks are looking for, whether that be a ball-handling complement to Teague or solid defense in the backcourt, expect a jump in his minutes.
X-Factor: Al Horford; 6th Year Center: One of the premier post defenders in the league and, alongside Josh Smith, the heart and soul of this Hawks team, Horford looks to have a bounce back season. Or, at least one that builds off the momentum accumulated at the end of the prior season. He missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle and didn't return until the Hawks' first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. His presence was definitely felt on the team, as they put up a spirited effort before bowing down in 6 games to an eventual Eastern Conference semifinalist. The Hawks almost pulled off the upset, despite them being the higher seed in that playoff series, and there's a legitimate reason that it would've been widely considered an upset had they gone on to win that series. Atlanta has been a team naturally underachieving throughout their last 6 year playoff run. And if they wish to erase that label, Al Horford is going to have to play at an even higher level than before the injury.
Final Verdict: 9th in Eastern Conference, 2nd in Southeast Division