Atlanta Hawks Could Take Step Back

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I just do not have a good feeling about the Atlanta Hawks this season.  It stems from sitting baseline while covering game six of their first round playoff series in Milwaukee last year and disliking the chemistry and make-up of this team.  Of course a new coach could improve their attitude and I will likely be way off as the team once again surpasses the 50-win total.  But if I am right… I will definitely tell you, “I told you so.”

By: David Kay

Atlanta Hawks (53-29 in 2009-2010)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Al Horford/Zaza Pachulia/Jason Collins/Etan Thomas
PF: Josh Smith/Josh Powell
SF: Marvin Williams/Maurice Evans/Pape Sy
SG: Joe Johnson/Jamal Crawford/Jordan Crawford
PG: Mike Bibby/Jeff Teague

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $69.1 million

Offseason Moves:
-Hawks sign F/C Josh Powell to 1-year, league minimum deal
-Hawks sign and trade G/F Josh Childress to Phoenix for 2012 second round pick
-Hawks re-sign SG Joe Johnson to 6-year, $123.7 million deal
-Hawks deal rights of F Damion James to New Jersey for rights of SG Jordan Crawford and C Tibor Pleiss
-Hawks deal rights of C Tibor Pleiss to Oklahoma City for Cash Considerations

Off-Season Grade: D+
Ten years from now a killer trivia question will be: Who was the only player in the 2010 free agent class to get a max contract?  It wasn’t LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Amare, or even Boozer.  It was Joe Johnson.

Of course Atlanta was in the precarious position of throwing that type of money at Johnson or possibly losing him and getting nothing in return.  Short-term, it needed to be done.  But when Johnson is raking in almost $25 million during the 2015-16 season and eating up nearly half of their salary cap, ISH!

Other than that it was an incredibly quiet off-season that did not add any depth to the roster (sorry Etan Thomas.)  Jordan Crawford could prove to be a steal with the 27th pick in the draft.

Josh Smith

2010-2011 Outlook:

This is a franchise that has improved their record in each of the past five seasons.  They started from scratch and built their team with young players who are now becoming established veterans in the league.  That growth led the Hawks to 53 wins last season, good enough for third best in the Eastern Conference.  Rather than taking that next step and truly evolving into an elite team, I think Atlanta is destined to put it in reverse this season.

Johnson is getting paid like a super-duper star but in reality is what, one of the top 15, maybe 20 players in the league?  He was non-existent in Atlanta’s second round series against Orlando in which the Hawks were swept out of the playoffs, losing on average by an embarrassing 25 points per game.  That is someone who is going to lead this team into the same category as the Heat, Celtics, and Magic?  I don’t see it.

In Al Horford and Josh Smith, Atlanta boasts an athletic but slightly under-sized frontcourt.  J-Smooth is a head case.  I covered game six of the Hawks-Bucks playoff series in Milwaukee and Smith kept getting into yelling spats with the fans.  Even when the coaches and his teammates told him to shut up, he kept instigating the crowd.  During time-outs, he paid zero attention to what was being said instead staring off into the distance.  Do not be surprised he goes Zach Randolph or Ron Artest this season.

It appears small forward Marvin Williams will never live up to his billing as a former second overall pick.  The point guard position is in transition with Mike Bibby nearing the end of his rope while the Hawks wait for Jeff Teague to take over the spot.

The bench is led by NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford who reportedly enters the season unhappy that the Hawks have not worked on extended the final year of his contract.  Outside of Crawford, there is not an intimidating player on the bench meaning the starters will once again log a lot of minutes and be asked to carry the load.

Maybe new head coach Larry Drew can further tap into the potential of this team and lead them to an even better season that last year.  If I were a betting man, I would put money on the opposite happening.

Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
Atlanta will be faced with two important decisions next summer.  Horford becomes a restricted free agent and should be a hot commodity as he is one of the up-and-coming young big men in the league.  The Hawks should try to take the bull by the horn on this one and reach an extension with the former Gator before other teams even get a chance to pursue him.

The other decision revolves around Jamal Crawford.  If his deal does not get extended, Crawford could be a goner as he looks to cash in elsewhere with hopes of landing a starting job.

NBA Power Ranking: 11th

Other NBA season previews/power rankings:
#2 Miami Heat
#3 Boston Celtics
#12 Houston Rockets
#13 Utah Jazz
#14 Denver Nuggets
#15 Phoenix Suns
#16 Charlotte Bobcats
#17 New Orleans Hornets
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves

Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball Rankings

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