Remember the Atlanta Hawks? That team that took us to 7 games before all those other teams took us to 7 games in the playoffs? They are still out there, hoping to take that next step to being contenders. They worked their way into the 4 seed and won a first round series, but they were swept by the Cavs and they entered this offseason with a lot of uncertainty. They answered the call by locking up their own free agents and added more pieces to the puzzle. Via Fanhouse:
After re-signing free agents Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia – their own free agents -- earlier this summer, the Hawks improved their depth considerably by adding Jamal Crawford to the backcourt and now Smith to the frontcourt.
But will that be enough to catch up with the big boys?
Steve Aschburner of SI has been looking at teams one by one and shares his thoughts on the Hawks (pre-Joe Smith signing):
It seems only right. The Hawks dutifully gathered a bunch of talented players in the early years of this decade, the way teams are supposed to when they reel off eight consecutive lottery finishes and go 220 games under .500 for four different coaches. That crew has developed nicely, taking baby steps first from 13 to 26 to 30 victories as the principals came aboard, to toddling full throttle through the league more recently. The Hawks won 37 games and reached the playoffs in 2008, pushing eventual-champion Boston to a surprising seven games in the first round. Last spring, Atlanta jumped up to 47-35, good for the No. 4 seed in the East, and beat Miami in seven before getting swept from the second round by Cleveland.
Sund talked after that elimination about injuries, notably to Williams (wrist) and Al Horford (ankle), that stymied the Hawks against the Cavs. He was encouraged by their modest success against the four conference finalists (4-8 vs. Cleveland, Orlando, Denver and the Lakers). And he felt the team was poised to take another big step. "Yeah, I like our club," Sund told the AJC. "The only reason I say that is there's still growth from within. ... I think you still need to tweak if you can."
That's where the apprehension comes in. Taking a team from 13 to 47 victories, from lottery oblivion to the league's final eight, is one sort of task. Getting it from there to serious championship contention, to the point where excellence is expected, is a wholly different one. And doing it without a significant acquisition, the plucking of a proven difference-maker off someone else's roster, is one of sports' loftiest ambitions. At that point, you're relying on natural selection, genetic synthesis and the hope that you're already fit enough to survive.
I'm still skeptical that they can take that next leap. They've got great talent, but I'm not sure they have that undefinable trait of championship contenders. What do you think?