10 Thoughts on the Atlanta Hawks in 2011-2012 (NBA Season Preview)

  1. They upset the Magic!  I mean, sure, it was largely because they have the single most effective player in the NBA at covering Dwight Howard (Jaron Collins who lacks other appreciable skills), but they rocked the Magic and then challenged the Bulls!  Can they continue to improve?


  1. Almost every bit of this team’s improvement hinges on Jeff Teague.  Teague has to start and change up the Hawks whole outlook and starting lineup.  Teague isn’t a great passer, but he can really score, especially on floaters, and he’s a good defender who allows Atlanta to shift to their best defensive alignment.


  1. That alignment centers on Kirk Hinrich being the 2-guard.  Not asked to orchestrate the offense, Hinrich can be a deadly spot up shooter, and more, a lockdown wing defender.  He’s lost enough speed to have trouble with 1s, but Teague is great there, allowing Kirk to be great on the wings.


  1. Joe Johnson, meanwhile, would then be able to move to the 3 and relegate Marvin Williams to the bench where he belongs.  Joe was almost as good as usual last year, merely seeming worse largely due to a lack of minutes.  He’s still a good shooter who’s among the best at getting in close.  He has the size and strength for the 3, and he’d still play plenty of 2, but getting Marvin out of the starting lineup helps for optimal lineup construction.  Marvin is a good defender, but Hinrich can do most of what he can, and a good shooter, but maybe he’d actually show some aggression with the second unit.


  1. Josh Smith protects a lot near the rim, but he will apparently never taking terrible long jumpers that really help the other team.  Al Horford, meanwhile, is a beast of efficiency, but is really a 4, not a 5, and wears down, losing aggressiveness playing with bigger guys.  One of them really should go, but the Hawks seem to love standing pat with these two.  If the Hawks had a real 5, say Marcin Gortat when he was available, they’d be a far superior team, whichever of their two 4’s they let go.  Horford is much better, and so would obviously bring more back, though the Hawks would prefer to keep him.  They really just have to do something.


  1. The Hawks also let Jamal Crawford go this offseason.  Given that they run out Jaron Collins, Zaza Pachullia and players of that ilk in the second unit, Crawford’s instant scoring will be missed.


  1. They replace Crawford with Tracy McGrady, who’s a capable scorer, but nowhere near the instant scoring of Jamal.  Tracy is, however, a great fit with the starters, which is overlooked.  With Teague a scorer, TMac can really share a lot of the creating opportunities with Joe Johnson, and, at a similar size, he can likewise switch between the 2 and 3.  That leaves the second unit woefully inept at scoring, but a smart trade (see #5 again) would alleviate much of that problem.


  1. Well, the big news was Chris Paul said he’d like to go to Atlanta.  The bad news is he went to the Clippers.  The worse news is that Hawks fans still have Marvin Williams as a constant reminder of what could have been.


  1. The lack of depth here seems like it will be a big problem given the compressed schedule. The team has bodies, just very limited ones.  Last year was the start of dialing back Johnson’s minutes to preserve him for his big contract, but with injury prone TMac behind him, it remains to be seen if that will be viable this year.


  1. Most have the Hawks penciled in for another second round playoff defeat, but without some moves, I don’t even see them making it that far.  The Knicks, Heat, Bulls, and Celtics are still clearly better, with either the Magic or Nets (whichever has Dwight) likely superior, as well.  They could upset someone again, but when they don’t, they really should let this be the last hurrah for this group.

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