Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

» October 27, 2009 11:58 AM | By xphoenix87

Coach: Mike Woodson
2008-09 Record: 47-35
Pythagorean Record for 08-09: 46-36
Offensive Rating: 109.3 (10th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 107.6(11th)
Possessions per 48: 89.6 (24th)
Four Factors:





Offensive 50.4 (9th) .125 (8th) .260 (19th) .238 (13th)
Defensive 49.4 (11th) .132 (14th) .716 (24th) .210 (5th)

Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to enlarge

Joe Johnson is kind of the epitome of the Hawks as a whole. He’s really good, really solid, really consistent, but he’s not great. He’s definitely well above average, but he’s not elite. Consistency is the Johnson’s hallmark. Other than the 06-07 season, when he missed the end of the year with a calf injury, Johnson has missed only 8 games in his other 7 seasons combined, and he’s been in the league’s top 7 in minutes per game each of the past 6 seasons. Each of his seasons with the Hawks he’s posted very similar statlines, with a usage rate in the mid 20s, and an offensive rating of 109 or 110. That’s remarkable consistency, especially for a guy who is so dependent on his jumpshot. He’s not as good a pure scorer as some of his peers at the shooting guard position, in part because he’s a good, but not great, shooter, and in part because he rarely gets to the free throw line. He makes up for that, however, by being one of the league’s best distributors from the wing position (among wings, only D-Wade and LeBron had a higher assist percentage). At this point, we know what we’re getting from Johnson, he’s not getting any more productive. However, because of his size and shooting ability, we can also expect that consistency to continue, and he should play at this level for a long time.

Marvin Williams made a huge jump between his second and third seasons, and then he did it again last season. He finally improved his shooting range by a couple feet, turning all those long twos into three-pointers, and increasing his eFG% by a full 4% (I know, 4% doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a pretty huge increase). At 6′9″ with good athleticism, Williams can be a very dangerous weapon if he continues to improve that jumper. The other thing that Williams does very well is rebound the ball. Using that size and athleticism, he posted the 7th-highest rebound rate among small forwards. Williams is probably never going to live up to being the second pick in the draft, ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but he’s a very solid small forward, and if he continues to improve at this rate, the Hawks may yet have an All-Star on their hands.

It’s easy to overlook what Al Horford does for this team, because he isn’t a flashy player, but he’s one of the big reasons this team improved so much defensively last year. He’s a very smart defender who makes good rotations and just knows how to make things difficult for the guy he’s guarding. He isn’t a great shotblocker, but he’s improving in that area, and he’s an excellent rebounder. Offensively, he’s not ever going to a star, but he’s, again, very solid. He had the league’s 9th best field goal percentage around the rim, and he sees the floor really well for a big man. He doesn’t create a lot of offense, but when he does get the ball, he usually does something good with it.

Atlanta may quietly have one of the best benches in the league this year. Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia make up a very solid backup big men duo, Maurice Evans is a wing who can defend and shoot, and adding Jamal Crawford gives them an explosive scorer they can bring in with their second unit. Crawford is extremely undisciplined, but he’s talented enough that he’s still a capable offensive player. He’s able to free himself up for shots with his quickness and crossover, but he doesn’t ever drive to the basket, he’s content to just pull up for long jumpers. He hits those jumpers at a high enough to be fairly efficient, but he has the talent to be much more effective. In addition, he’s a downright awful defender. That’s bad news in a starter, but it’s a lot easier to take if he’s just coming off the bench as a scorer.

X-Factor: Josh Smith – It’s hard to pick an X-Factor on this team because we basically know what we’re getting from everyone. Smith is the guy, because he has the talent to be so much more than he currently is. I’ve mostly given up hope that he’s ever really going to figure things out, but he’s the one guy on the team who could potentially take them to another level if he ever gets his head on straight. So far in his career, he’s used his absurd athletic gifts to shoot WAY too many jumpers, something he’s very, very bad at doing. If he would play within himself and use his quickness and leaping ability to drive the ball and finish lobs, he’d be a much more efficient offensive player. As is, he’s still a solid player because he’s such a dynamic defender. He has the quickness to switch onto basically anyone, and his length and athleticism make him a factor in the passing lanes and as a rim defender. If he becomes the star his talents indicate he could be, Atlanta becomes a borderline elite team.


Atlanta was firmly entrenched as the fourth best team in the East last season, and probably will be again. They’re clearly worse than the three teams ahead of them, and they’re pretty clearly better than the non-elite teams of the East. If everything falls right, maybe one of the enigmatic teams like Washington or Toronto could beat them out, but the Hawks are definitely the safest bet. They’re a good offensive team and a good defensive team, though they aren’t among the league’s elite on either end. They’re actually a really interesting team from the standpoint that they have great height across their lineup, but don’t have the strengths you’d expect from a tall team. Their starting lineup runs 6′2 – 6′7 – 6′9 – 6′9 – 6′10, but they’re a poor rebounding team, and the shoot a whole lot of jumpshots. A lot of that stems from Smith, who takes too many jumpers and isn’t as good a rebounder as he should be. You can’t help thinking that they’d be much better if the whole team was more dedicated to crashing the boards. All said, there are a lot of good, consistent players on this team, but not a lot of upside, so we’re likely to see them hover around the 4-5 seed for the next few seasons.

4th in the East -Solid, Not Great

2 Responses to “Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks”

  1. Magnus Gudmundsson Says:

    The Hawks are an exciting team. Josh Smith is bound to have at least one spectacular play every time he plays. I also wonder whether Jamal Crawford can try not to be the enigmatic pain in the ass he’s been his whole career. He scores but does little else, for the Hawks he needs to score… and nothing else.

  2. Basketballogy Says:

    It’s interesting that the Hawks cut a deal with the Utah Flash to use the Flash as their D-League team.

    The Celtics used to use the Flash, and that made a little sense given that Ainge is BYU’s most prestigious basketball alum, but it is going to be wild seeing young Hawks suit up in Orem, Utah.

    Anyway, it was nice to get this well-written primer on the Hawks, a team I’ll be watching a little more closely now.

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