The Atlanta Hawks are standing at 23-16, which is currently good enough to have them sitting with the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
While they have certainly had stretches where they have played well, they have several looming questions heading into the March 15 trade deadline.
If those questions go unanswered, they may continue being the team who is only good enough to be a second-round exit at best.
Can They Overcome Injuries?
While this is likely the most monumental obstacle facing them for the rest of the season, it looms large over the other questions that face them as well.
Granted, Al Horford is the most notable injury, because he is out for the longest period of time. However, the injury bug has bitten Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague and has depleted the team’s bench as well.
Luckily for the Hawks, the injury to Teague doesn’t seem to be serious, but he can’t be the only productive member of the backcourt either.
Johnson’s situation, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be so fortuitous. He is currently listed as day-to-day, but that seems to be wishful thinking as he has missed a handful of games already due to the tendonitis in his left knee.
Currently, the only core member of the team not to be struck down by injury is Josh Smith. Their aging bench is ailing from debilitating injuries as well.
Obviously, with the Hawks vying for a playoff spot, it seems as though the team must make a trade to counteract the injuries they have.
At best, the team can only hope that the ankle injury to Teague really isn’t serious, that the left knee tendonitis doesn’t linger all season causing Johnson to miss even more time and that Horford is able to return for the playoffs.
Will Jeff Teague Step Up and Emerge as a Leader?
In order to get a good barometer for how Teague will serve the Hawks as a leader, the four games from the month of March have a glaring statistic.
He committed 13 turnovers, and only totaled 15 assists in the four games of March.
The even bigger worry for the Hawks should be that Johnson did not play in any of these four games. If Johnson’s knee injury keeps him out for an extended period of time, it is unlikely that Teague will be able to carry the load.
Injuries to other backcourt players like Willie Green and Tracy McGrady will only exacerbate this problem as the season wears on.
Will the Hawks Trade Josh Smith?
Josh Smith went public with his trade request at quite possibly the worst time.
With all of the aforementioned injuries, Smith has carried the load for the team offensively and received barely any consistent help from the rest of the team.
Sure, Teague has played well in short bursts, and Zaza Pachulia has had several nice outings in the last few games, but no consistent offensive force has emerged outside of the acrobatic Smith.
The Hawks’ best bet at trade deadline would likely be to pay attention to the fact that the Magic are willing to go do anything to keep Dwight Howard.
With Smith being Howard’s longtime pal since high school, it would certainly be the best method to keep Howard in Orlando.
Not to mention that the dynamic duo would make up the most athletic frontcourt in the NBA, save for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
The Hawks would not walk away empty-handed, though, as an acquisition of the emerging Ryan Anderson and seasoned Jameer Nelson would lessen the blow of losing their circus dunk artist.
While Anderson may not be on Smith’s level, he is only scratching the surface of his potential and is three years younger than Smith.
Acquiring Nelson would give him a fresh start as he has struggled a bit this year, while also giving the Hawks a veteran guard to take some of the pressure off of the up-and-coming Teague.
If they are able to pull off this trade and maybe acquire a young player to bolster their bench, they could catapult themselves into being serious playoff contenders. Especially if they are able to get back Horford and Johnson at full health.
Tags: Atlanta Hawks, Basketball, Joe Johnson
Source: Bleacher Report