As the NBA season quickly approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focus on the Atlanta Hawks, who last year had a record of 44-38 and MADE the playoffs.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Coach: Mike Budenholzer
General Manager: Danny Ferry
2012-2013 Record: 44-38
Place in Conference: 7th
Leading Scorer: Josh Smith (17.5 PPG)
Key Additions: Dennis Schroder, Paul Milsap, and Elton Brand
Key Losses: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, and Devin Harris
After nine seasons in Atlanta, forward Josh Smith signed with the Detroit Pistons in free agency. They will miss his scoring and defense, but they did not feel the need to overpay, hence why they let him walk. They attempted to fill his void by signing Paul Milsap. In the draft, the Hawks were able to draft German point guard Dennis Schroder 17th overall. Many experts pegged him as an excellent international lottery selection, so getting him at No. 17 was a steal. GM Danny Ferry was also able to ink sharpshooter Kyle Korver to a four-year extension.
Strengths: Since the departure of Joe Johnson two seasons ago, the Hawks have lacked a real dominant superstar. Their roster has been comprised of a lot of good, not great, players. To compensate, they play team basketball. Last year, the ranked second in the league in assists per game, with 24.5. Sharing the rock leads to open shots, which is especially beneficial for a team with Korver on the wing. As a team last year, Atlanta was seventh in the league for three-point percentage. Even with the loss of Josh Smith, the Hawks beefed up their frontcourt this year by adding Milsap and Brand, while keeping all-star caliber center Al Horford. Look for opponents to struggle matching up with them down low this year. The pick and roll will be an effective tool for the Hawks, especially with the rookie Schroder and Jeff Teague facilitating it.
Weaknesses: When I look at the roster for the Hawks this season, I wonder who will be their go-to scorer down the stretch of close games. Horford is a nice option when trying to feed the post, but I do not know if there is a wing player with the ability to create his own shot and take over ball games down the stretch. I believe Teague and Louis Williams, who is recovering from knee surgery, would be the best two options for Atlanta. Korver may be a lethal outside weapon, but historically, he has not been known to create his own shot. This weakness may prohibit them for going to the next level as a team. Statistically speaking, they struggled making free throws last year as an entire unit. They ranked 26th in the league. They also ranked 21st in total turnovers. The Hawks must improve ball security if they hope to maintain playoff level basketball in 2013-14.
2013-2014 Predictions: Taking all the offseason changes to the Hawks roster into consideration, I still believe this team could return to the postseason again as a seven or eight seed. I look for their win total to be in the low-to-mid 40s, much like their record from last season. They have some new young pieces to mix into their rotation, which should make fans not miss Josh Smith too much. I anticipate the veteran Horford to be the team’s most valuable player. Last year, he averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. Horford’s numbers should be very similar this season, as he will continue to be a solid piece to the puzzle. I would bank on the Hawks being a competitive team in the weak Eastern Conference and for them to return to the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.
Overtime: Who will close? Louis Williams? ßMaybe, but he is recovering from knee injury, so who knows. Korver is a spot-up guy. Although he couldn’t shoot, Smith used to create own shot. Atlanta needs to find that wing player to do so.