The Atlanta Hawks were a 47-win team last season, and with essentially the same cast, they are likely to in that same range for 2009-2010. There are 3 true championship contenders in the Eastern Conference, and they aren’t one of them.
General Manager Rick Sund and head coach Mike Woodson had big decisions this summer, and they decided to bring most everybody back. They re-signed franchise point guard Mike Bibby to a 3-year $18M contract, and he’s still only 31. Atlanta also locked up 23yo Marvin Williams to a 5-year $38M deal, and with incentives, they could pay him as much as $43M over that span (he went for 14ppg-6reb last season and will only get better). The third major re-signing was 25yo Russian center Zaza Pachulia, who is as run-of-the-mill as you can find in the NBA. Playing an average of 19min per game, his 6pt-6reb average, 4yrs-$16M seems a bit high, but he’s still young. In my view, Zaza is who he is, but he is really the only guy they’ve got to match up with the NBA’s big centers.
The Hawks made a nice acquisition via trade landing Jamal Crawford from Golden St. for 2 non-contributors Acie Law and Speedy Claxton. Crawford was a 20ppg guy with the Warriors, and he will be among the first players in off the bench for Mike Woodson all year long. He’s a shooter and can step in for Bibby and Joe Johnson in the Hawks backcourt. The only downside to Crawford is that Atlanta is on the hook for $9.3M this year and a cap-denting $10.8M nest season.
Both Joe Smith and Jason Collins signed 1yr-veterans minimum deals, and they will give the Hawks frontcourt depth. Smith is a basketball savvy vet who has a solid jumpshot for a 4 and gives them a leadership presence in the locker room. Collins has absolutely no offensive game whatsoever, but when Atlanta plays a big front line, he gives them another big body.
Sund used the 19th pick in the draft to select offensive-minded point guard Jeff Teague from Wake Forest. He played just 14min in the Hawks’ opener against Indiana with 5 points on 2-7, and he played just 8:30 minutes in Atlanta’s Friday win over the Wizards going 1-4 including 0-1 from 3. In the short term, he lacks defensive focus and is prone to putting up a lot of bad shots.
ATLANTA’S STARTING 5Point Guard Mike Bibby
He is a top-flight 3-point shooter making 39% and taking an average of 5 per game in 2008-2009. He also limits mistakes with the 8th-best turnover rate among NBA point guards last season. He is not a good defensive player and rarely attacks the basket on penetration. Despite the big contract he got in the offseason, he will still likely see a decline in minutes this year with Crawford and Teague seeing more time at the point.
Guard Joe Johnson
Made his 3rd straight All-Star team last year. He’s very big for a wing player at 6’8” 240, and the Hawks like to post him up, but most of his points come on jumpers. He’s very good at creating his own shot. Last year, he scored 21 per game and managed 6apg. He is also Atlanta’s best backcourt defender, and usually takes the toughest defensive assignment on the floor. His size allows him to fight through screens. Johnson will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and extension talks have been tabled. He’s making $15M this year and will probably get a paycut no matter what…but he’s definitely playing for a new contract.
Forward Josh Smith
Realistically, he should be the 3rd or 4th offensive option for this team, but don’t tell him that. He is a career 27% shooter from 3, but he still chucked up an average of 1 per game last year, and he made less than 36% of his 2-pointers last year. Still, he is capable of some outrageous dunks in transition. One other offensive note. Smith shot a horrific 69% from the free throw line last year. His real strength is on defense where he uses his remarkable elevation and long arms to be one of the most prolific shot-blockers in the league. In his sixth season in the NBA, on Friday night at 23yo. he became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 900 career blocks. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Shaquille O’Neal was the reigning youngest block king who got to 900 when he was 24 years old.
Forward Marvin Williams
He’s a solid defender and uses his length to alter shots. He shot a respectable 35% from beyond the arc last year on 155 shots, and he is still a kid. His range and accuracy are improving every year, and he’s a great finisher in transition and if you give him a path.
Center Al Horford
The 23yo Dominican is coming off a great growth year improving to 11ppg and 9rpg. His limited offensive skills give him a low ceiling, but he is a good defender and is an excellent rebounder. He gives the Hawks three 23yo frontcourt kids who are solid and improving.