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Atlanta Hawks Preview - Impending Firestorm

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atl.gifAtlanta Hawks - Impending Firestorm
Last Year’s Record: 30-52, 5th in Southeast Division, 13th in Eastern Conference, 27th in NBA
Key Losses: The Hawks actually didn’t lose anyone who saw more than 100 minutes on the floor last season…
Key Additions: Al Horford, Florida (#3 overall pick) and Acie Law IV, Texas A & M (#11 overall pick) in 2007 NBA Draft

1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

Atlanta really didn’t do anything major this summer besides block coach Larry Drew from leaving, keep the current coaching and management staffs in place and draft Al Horford and Acie Law IV in the 2007 NBA Draft. They didn’t pick anyone up in free agency, but they didn’t lose anyone either. Marvin Williams and Josh Childress weren’t traded away, and Tyronn Lue, Speedy Claxton, Lorenzen Wright and Anthony Johnson all remained with the team.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Atlanta has a very young, very athletic and very long team. There is a lot of height and a lot of athleticism on this team. There are also a plethora of players who can play 2 or 3 different positions. Joe Johnson and Josh Childress can both play anywhere from the point all the way up to power forward. They are better served as shooting guards, but whenever injuries pop up this team is extremely versatile, which is a nice thing to have. Injuries will always happen, but Atlanta is a team now built fairly well to deal with them. Unfortunately only if it’s not a point guard or center…

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Atlanta has many weaknesses that tend to manifest themselves at some point in time during the season, usually the problems arise together and for a majority of the 82 games.

First, the team obviously lacks experience, since they are consistently one of the youngest teams in the NBA, if not the youngest. Joe Johnson is really the only player on the team who knows what it is like to win consistently in the NBA. The rest of the team is young, still makes young mistakes and always seems to be right in the center of a team filled with unreached potential. It is hard to win games night in and night out when you don’t have a team mentally ready to win.

Second, this team lacks skill in some very key positions. The Hawks really don’t have a great point guard or a great center. Acie Law IV is going to be a solid player in the NBA, and Zaza Pachulia is good when he’s on the floor, but right now they are not the right tools needed to win playoff games. At least not yet. I really like both of them, but Zaza can’t see enough minutes on the floor and Law IV just isn’t experience enough in the NBA for this team to make a solid playoff run.

Finally, the management in Atlanta is terrible. The coaching staff and general manager for the most part are not condusive to a winning franchise. If they let Josh Smith go this offseason and continue to lose games, I will be the first one to continue to bash on them next offseason…I wanted a new coach this summer more than anything. I would really hate to go through another losing year just to finally get rid of Woodson…

4. What are the goals for this team?

The easy goal for a young team is always just to improve, but I don’t think that’s enough anymore. This team has been in the rebuilding stage for the last handful of years now, and it’s time to move on. We need to start looking toward the playoffs and actually set our sights on a .500 or better record. Last season I wanted 30 wins and we got it. This season I’d like to get to 40 wins and maybe even be in the playoff talks. I think Atlanta should definitely get at least 35 wins, and i’d love to see them flirt with .500 ball.

The little minor, player goals would be for the rookies to improve considerably over the course of the season and to be playing at least 15 minutes a game after the All-Star break and possibly even start depending on injuries. The veterans need to perform and Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson need to make a case for being All-Stars. And if Coach Woodson would decide he didn’t want to coach in the NBA anymore, I wouldn’t mind that…

5. Why should anyone be an Atlanta Hawks fan?

People have been jumping off the Atlanta Hawks bandwagon for years, but I am here to tell you all is not lost. I know I know, you’re probably thinking there’s no such thing as a Hawks bandwagon, but that’s just what I’ll call it in the interest of understanding. This is an extremely exciting young team with some great talent on it. In the Eastern Conference, anything can happen, and with the Heat fading, someone will need to step up in the Southeast besides Agent 0. Plus it’s no fun to cheer for a team that is always the favorites and always supposed to win. Underdogs are much more fun to cheer for and Atlanta is the epitome of the underdog. Plus, when the team finally stops rebuilding and actually wins games, you’ll get to say you were cheering for them the whole time…

Projected Record: 40-42. I’d like to think Atlanta could hit .500, but let’s not go crazy here. It’s hard for a team to turn around and win 12 games more than they did the previous season…