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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 21. Atlanta Hawks

Overall Win/Loss Record : 40-26 second place Southeast division

Last Season’s Rank

12
Projected 2012/2013 Finish

21
Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 96.6 (17th)
  • Points Allowed: 93.2 (6th)
  • Team FG%: .454 (11th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .444 (11th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.2 (23rd)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.3 (16th)


Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Josh Smith (18.8)
  • Rebounds per game:  Josh Smith (9.6)
  • Minutes per game:  Josh Smith (35.3)
  • Assists per game: Jeff Teague (4.9)
  • Steals per game:  Jeff Teague (1.6)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Josh Smith (1.7)


Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact

Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. Lou Williams (PG),
  2. Anthony Morrow (SG)
  3. Kyle Korver (G/F)
  4. Johan Petro (C)
  5. Deshawn Stevenson (G/F)

2012/2013 Projection:  36-46 third place in Southeast Division, heading downwards to join Orlando and Charlotte in NBA oblivion.

Analysis:

Another era of hum-drum regular season showings follow by swift playoff exits is over as the Atlanta Hawks prepare once again for a long road of rebuilding ahead.  Gone is Joe Johnson, the player who has been credited for Atlanta’s return to respectability, yet at the same time, given the brunt of the blame for the Hawks’ current stagnation.  His six year 120$ million contract extension may have kept Atlanta in the playoffs, but the lack of cap flexibility caused by such a big deal would have handicapped the team for years to come.  It was obvious from reviewing their last two seasons that the Hawks had soared as high as they were ever going to go and they were heading for a devastating crash landing.  Something had to be done to curb the rising upcoming tidal wave that would sweep the Atlanta Hawks away—fortunately for the Hawks they know have the fiscal flexibility to weather the storm.

Credit the Hawks new GM, Danny Ferry for pulling the trigger on that deal along with finding a suitable sucker . . . I mean partner to get the deal done.  He unloaded Johnson’s behemoth contract to the Brooklyn Nets getting an entire roster of players in return—most of them on expiring contracts.  Out of the seven players Ferry received, he kept four of them—veteran swingman Deshawn Stevenson, sharp shooting guard Anthony Morrow, center Johan Petro, and young forward Jordan Williams.  All four players’ contracts will expire in a year or two thus giving the Hawks even more salary cap flexibility in the future.  Ferry made his stamp on the organization early on with that Joe Johnson trade and he also alleviated the Hawks of another unfortunate mistake that nobody would let them forget.

When the Hawks picked Marvin Williams with the second pick of the 2006 NBA Draft many observers were left dumfounded considering the fact that Atlanta’s primary need at the time was for a point guard and Chris Paul, who would later win rookie of the year, was still on the board.  Many considered that quite a gamble considering he did not even start when he played in North Carolina and he was one of those hybrid forwards that are not particular great at one thing.  Yet the Hawks still invested in the young forward, even signing him to a long term extension for 60$ million; however, in his seven years with the team, Williams still remained out of sync with the team.  With three years and about 30$ million left on his contract, Ferry still managed to find another suck . . . er, I mean partner in the Utah Jazz.   In return for Williams’ erroneous contract, the Hawks acquired veteran point guard Devin Harris who like Williams, never really lived up to expectations; however, unlike Williams, Harris has one less year remaining on his deal making him another valuable trading piece as well.

Finally, Ferry then rounded out the roster adding short term and inexpensive contracts signing Lou Williams, the Philadelphia 76ers leading scorer last season, to  a two year 10$ million deal and acquiring sharp shooting wing man Kyle Korver from the Chicago Bulls who also has two years left on his current contract.  Altogether, in the next two years, Ferry will have freed up close to 30$ million in salary cap space for the Hawks compared to last season where Atlanta was over the cap and teetering close to the luxury tax threshold—not bad for his first couple months in office.  Last season Atlanta was an aging team just sputtering around until it finally was ready to conk out whereas now it has been set free from the deadweight contracts that would have held them back for years.  Ferry put the Hawks in a good place to be in the bidding for the free agent class next season consisting of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum to name a few.  The only drawback of that plan however is that Paul, Howard and Bynum will most likely stay with their current teams, but at least by making the moves he made, Ferry has made Atlanta an excellent option for prospective free agents.

Unfortunately there is a side effect in Ferry’s monumental moves as Atlanta will certainly not be playoff contenders in the least.  With the Eastern Conference as stacked as it is, it will be doubtful that the Hawks will even crack the .500 mark, let alone reach the post season.  Save for the Miami Heat, the entire Southeast Division is in flux as both the Atlanta and the Orlando magic have undergone major overhaul this offseason.  And with the way the balance of power in the Eastern Conference has been shifting, it will take a while for the Hawks to return to respectability. Count on coach Larry Drew to keep his team working hard and have them fighting in the very end; sadly, however, it will all come to naught as Ferry has put the Hawks in rebuild mode thanks to his offseason moves.