It’s what you’ve all been waiting for (all two of you): my Hawks Preview. I have told anyone that will listen (it’s a very small group) that the Hawks are going to make the playoffs this year. I read where someone said “When a team has as many first-round draft picks in just a few years as the Hawks have–regardless of how badly they’re run–they’re bound to make the playoffs at some point.” I guess, as the saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile. This year, the Hawks are gonna nut up–wait…what?
On the offensive end, the Hawks have no shortage of scoring. Between Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, and Salim Stoudamire, they are equipped with more than enough guys who are known for their scoring more than anything else (which is part of the problem, also–almost every player has a “score first” mentality).
At least two guys in this group will have to step up big-time to take some of the scoring pressure off Johnson and Smith. Who will those two be? It’s hard to say. Marvin Williams is entering his third year, and historically, the third year is when players make the most progress (Kobe, T-Mac, etc.). Don’t get me wrong–I’m not comparing Williams to those guys, but we should see some drastic improvement in his all-around game.
It will be interesting to watch how Coach Woodson sets up his rotations, given the dearth of talent at some of the positions:
- At small forward – Josh Childress? Josh Smith? Hell–Marvin Williams? His offensive game is more suited for SF than power forward. Joe Johnson? He can play almost anywhere, which makes things a little easier on Woodson
- Power forward – Again, Smith? Marvin Williams? Shelden Williams? Al Horford? Zaza Pachulia? Lorenzen Wright (dear God, no)?
- Center – Pachulia? Horford? Wright? Shelden Williams?
- Shooting guard – Johnson? Childress? Stoudamire?
- Point guard – Oh, shit…this is where it gets especially dicey. Tyronn Lue (really–he looks as if he belongs in the WNBA)? Joe Johnson? Speedy Claxton? Anthony Johnson? Acie Law?
Some may look at all of these and say “Hey, they’ve got plenty of options, at least.” Those people are even more optimistic than I am. Of course, this gives Woodson TONS of depth at each position, but it’s still up to him to figure out which combinations work best. And at positions like point guard–there is depth, but is it quality depth? You tell me…if Tyronn Lue is your answer, well…that’s a really shitty question.
There is a lot of potential for the Hawks when it comes to rebounding. Josh Smith should continue to improve his low-post game, rebounding included. He’s been slow to develop his back-to-the-basket game, which, once accomplished, should vault him to All-Star status. Marvin Williams is a big body down low, and should improve his rebounding as well. Actually, he has to improve his rebounding for the Hawks to have any improvement this season.
Not too many people realize that the Hawks have actually excelled at offensive rebounding, ranking 5th in the NBA in this category last year. While that’s a huge positive, an even bigger negative was their defensive rebounding, ranked 26th. Al Horford should help this cause greatly, and Shelden Williams and Pachulia are expected to devote more energy to this facet of their games this year.
As far as distribution goes, well…you can look at it two ways.
- Pessimistic – The Hawks have four point guards, of which three are retreads (and two of those are injured more often than not–as a matter of fact, Speedy Claxton may literally fall apart on the court this year. Like, his limbs will detach from his body…that kind of “fall apart”).
- Optimistic – The Hawks have four point guards, of which three have extensive NBA experience.
The realistic way of looking at it is to say that some combination of Claxton/Johnson/Lue can get through the first few months of the season leading the team, while Law learns on the go as their backup. However, Woodson will probably only be able to keep 2 of the “Shit Triumvirate,” so it’ll be interesting to see which ones he goes to war with.
By all accounts, Law and Horford are the two most NBA ready players of all of the ’07 lottery picks. Horford won two titles with Florida, and Law played an instrumental role in turning a program around after a 4-year college career, so it should reason that they’d be ready for the NBA. The question on Law is whether he can develop into a pass-first point guard, or if he’ll fall back into his shooting ways. With the scoring the Hawks already have at other positions, let’s hope it’s the former.
Most people don’t realize that the Hawks were destroyed by injuries last year. And before you say “Everyone deals with injuries–stop making excuses,” it should be noted that out of the top 10 players in their rotation, 9 missed at least 10 games (Shelden Williams being the only healthy one). And the top players were out much longer than that (J. Johnson – 21 games, Lue – 26 games, Childress – 27 games, Claxton – 40 games).
So, after reading all of this, you may ask “Now, why do you think they’re going to make the playoffs?” It’s simple. The injuries shouldn’t be as much of a factor–the roster is so young, you have to assume that the guys will play relatively healthy this year. The core of this team has been together for 3-4 years now, and they’re starting to become a more cohesive unit.
The NBA is becoming more of an athletic (as opposed to size-centric) league, and with the amount of athleticism the Hawks have, they should win a few games that they had no real chance of winning. Combine all of that with the fact that the Southeast Division is really bad this year (Miami? Really? Way too old. Wade can’t carry the team by himself. The Wizards are okay at best, but have no post presence and less scoring than the Hawks. The Bobcats have already lost two key players for the year in Sean May and Adam Morrison. The Magic are just average as grits, which, in the Eastern Conference, means 30-52).
So add it all up, and you have the Hawks in the 2008 playoffs. I’m putting my Rumeal Robinson jersey on it…