27 August 2007

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part One: Atlanta Hawks

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and be presented in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks
Last season: 30-52, last in Southeast

  • Forward Al Horford (via draft)
  • Guard Acie Law IV (via draft)
  • None yet.
The Hawks lucked out in the draft by getting Horford, who was voted "most ready to contribute right away" by his peers. Although the Hawks are stocked with young power-forward types (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams), none of them have panned-out so far. Teamed with center Zaza Pachulia and small-foward/freak-of-nature Josh Smith, Horford gives the Hawks a young, talented front line that should bloom over the course of the next several seasons.

Josh Smith models the Hawks' new home jersey, which will debut this season.
Photo by Scott Cunningham

Law has the chance to start alongside All-Star two-guard Joe Johnson in the Atlanta backcourt immediately; the Hawks' other two point-guards, Speedy Claxton and Tyronn Lue, are shaky veterans who would be backups on most playoff-caliber teams. Anthony Johnson, the ten-year veteran acquired at the trade deadline, was the Hawks' best point-man last season, and he has yet to re-sign.

Overall, the Hawks are more talented than last year's team, but they aren't going to scare any divisional opponents, at least not this season. Assuming that Joe Johnson remains in good health and Smith, Horford, and Law reach their potential, the Hawks will be in contention for a bottom-four playoff spot... in two or three years. Each other Southeastern team has more depth, which means the Hawks will likely be cellar-dwellers again this season. Don't let their mediocre record fool you, though; Atlanta will be "for real" soon enough. It's one of the benefits of having a core of young players who are on the same success timetable.

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