What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Sunday, January 6, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 9. Atlanta Hawks

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th): 9-5,  second place Southeast Division






21
This Month:

9
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

  • Points Scored: 95.2 (21st)
  • Points Allowed: 92.1 (2nd)
  • Team FG%: .459 (7th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .427 (2nd)
  • Rebounds per game: 39.9 (25th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.7 (24th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.8 (20th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 18.8 (1st)


Individual Statistical Leaders (as of November 30th)

  • Scoring (ppg): Al Horford (15.9)
  • Rebounds per game:  Al Horford (9.2)
  • Minutes per game: Al Horford (35.7)
  • Assists per game: Jeff Teague (7.3)
  • Steals per game: Jeff Teague (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Josh Smith (2.1)


Worst Player of the Month: Josh Smith



He was supposed to take over the leadership role left vacant by the departure of Joe Johnson, but has shown nothing thus far that he has not shown that deserves such a title.  Josh Smith was expected to take over the scoring load and become the Hawks primary offensive threat, but he started the season rather poorly averaging just under 15 per game while shooting under .400 from the field.  The worst stat of all must have to be his free throw shooting as he shot a horrendous .478 from the charity stripe--a career low.  Atlanta fans had to be disappointed in his performance considering the fact there were anticipating him to take his game to another level to show that he belongs amongst the league's elite players.  Unfortunately, all Smith has shown is how much the team misses Joe Johnson as the one known as "Smoove" has performed rather disappointingly to say the least.     

First Player of the Month: Ivan Johnson



In only his second year in the league and at the ripe old age of 29, Ivan Johnson has provided quite a spark off Atlanta's bench providing a consistent effort all around.  In every game in November, the Hawks could always count on him to post at least  6 points and 3 rebounds in the twelve minutes per game that he played.  His .651 field goal percentage leads the team making him probably its most efficient player on both sides of the court. Despite being rather undersized playing at the power forward spot and his advanced age in NBA terms, Johnson has shown through his his gritty play that something good will happen everytime he sets foot on the court.  He'll never be a star, but for now, he remains possibly one of Atlanta's most important players on their roster.     


Analysis:

This was supposed to be a transition season as Atlanta parted way with the man who was the face and the foundation of the Hawks franchise.  For seven years, Joe Johnson led Atlanta from bottom feeder of the Eastern Conference to becoming a perennial playoff contender each and every season.  Johnson not only led his team through scoring, but also led by example on the defensive end along with facilitating the offense getting his teammates involved at the same time.  Thanks to Johnson, Atlanta prospered and flourished as he not only brought wins, but he also gave the team greater exposure making it a premier destination for prospective free agents.  If it was not for Johnson, Atlanta would have remained an ignored, undesirable, and desolate wasteland when it came to basketball and now he had left the team that he built from the ground up leaving the Hawks and their fans to search for a new identity.

Trading Johnson away to the Brooklyn Nets was supposed to be the last nail in the coffin as Atlanta  seemed headed away from playoff contender to lottery hopeful.  They shed Johnson's massive contract which still has 4 years and around 80$ million for most of the Nets' roster that consisted of no names with expiring contracts, as the Hawks looked to prepare for an uncertain future with a massive gap of salary cap space.  No one, especially those in Atlanta expected the Hawks to be any better as the team already looked as it was heading downhill after they posted two disappointing seasons after signing Johnson to his monstrous contract extension.  Atlanta was supposed to take one on the chin this season while it reorganized itself as it looked to start it long rough road to rebuilding.  Ironically, while the team was supposedly in a transition period, no one told the players that as they have outperformed even the most modest of all expectations.

Coming into November, Atlanta did not play like a team in transition, but more like a team  on a mission.  Although they had a difficult start losing three of their first five games, the Hawks bounced back and came storming out the gates as they won eight of their next ten games earning them second place in the Southeast Division right behind the Miami Heat.  The team that was supposed to have collapsed came into the season looking even more stronger and determined than ever--as the players were out to prove that they were much more than the one man show that they have been always portrayed to be.  During that time, Atlanta not only showed that they can still win without Johnson's leadership, but it also showed that they are still a team to be reckoned with.  Among their nine wins, the Hawks beat such notable opponents as the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road (11/4/2012) and the Los Angeles Clippers (11/24/2012)--two teams who currently own first place in their respective divisions and are considered FAR more talented than the Hawks.

As November came to a close, it has become glaringly apparent that the Atlanta Hawks will not bow down to anyone.  Despite the massive void that they were left when Joe Johnson bid a fond farewell to the team, Atlanta managed to fill that void with not just one, but the entire roster of players.  Instead of one man dominating the ball as it was the case in Johnson's tenure, scoring has now become a complete team effort as no player on that team averages more than 16 points per game.  At the same time the Hawks have a roster in which ten players average more than five points per game while the Hawks can proudly boast having 11 players that play more than 10 minutes per game--eight of which play more than 20.  That goes to show the amazing depth and balance that the Atlanta Hawks posses as they have a treasure trove of players who are ready willing and able to contribute at any given time.  Only a handful of NBA teams can boast such a vast wealth of talent, and they, unlike the Hawks , are at the top of their own respective divisions.

And to think that this was a team that many expected to not even make the playoffs, let alone become on of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference.  The Hawks have certainly silenced any doubters or detractors who has previously predicted their doom.  Although it is still early in the season with just one month already on the books, look for the Hawks to push even further.  Even the once omnipotent Miami Heat will be forced to watch its back as this Atlanta team starts gaining on them if they continue on their current pace.  So while the rest of the league try in vain to "Beat the Heat,"  they will still have to watch their back as there will be Hawks with their sharpened talons looking to simply swoop them and take them away.