By: Jerel Marshall
Team Name: Atlanta Hawks
Last Year’s Record: 53-29
Key Losses: Mike Woodson, Joe Smith
Key Additions: Larry Drew (kind of), Etan Thomas, Josh Powell, Jordan Crawford
What significant moves were made during the off-season?
The biggest move the Hawks made this off-season was the shake up with the coaching staff. Woodson was booted out and Drew, who has been on the Hawks bench since the 2004-2005 season as an assistant, will get his chance to call the shots. So far Drew has worked to install a motion offense and has added some new philosophies on defense.
The Hawks also added some depth to their frontcourt, picking up 9th year veteran Etan Thomas and former Laker pine-rider Josh Powell from free agency. First round draft pick Jordan Crawford could provide some offensive output in his rookie season.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Hawks have two all-stars, an all-star snub and the reigning sixth man of the year. The team is returning with their young athletic core intact. Although they are not the biggest team in the league, Horford and Smith will be productive in the paint. Especially since Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford will be wreaking havoc on the perimeter. Given the talents they have, Drew’s new motion offense could yield the most efficient offensive attack the team has had in years.
The team is filled with young talented players that could show improvement. Jeff Teague will get his chance to have a breakout season as he will be taking a larger chunk of the point guard minutes from the aging Mike Bibby. Horford and Smith are both just 24-years-old and continue to improve each season.
The team has had the same group of players for some time now so chemistry should not be too big of a problem. The team seems to get along well and they know what to expect from their teammates out on the court each night.
Now, if Joe Johnson can kiss and make up with the fans things might really heat up.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Although they are talented, the Hawks are very small in the frontcourt. The addition of Etan Thomas brings some much needed toughness off of the bench but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Hawks get bullied this year by the deep Boston frontcourt and Orlando’s superstar center Dwight Howard. Horford can’t be happy about this as he was hoping the team would add a center so he could play more minutes as a forward.
Anytime you bring in new offensive and defensive strategies there is going to be some growing pains. Although Coach Drew’s new philosophies sound like improvements over Mike Woodson’s, the team is going to have to get used to the new style. But who knows. This could very well be strength by the time we reach the All-star break.
What are the goals for the team?
During this year’s media day, Joe Johnson proclaimed that the Hawks will not be taking a step back this upcoming season. This task will be a lot tougher than he made it sound as several teams in the Eastern Conference are entering the 2010-2011 season with dramatically improved rosters. People often talk about addition by subtracting when a team gets rid of a distracting player. but the Hawks may run into the problem of subtraction by lack of addition with their minimally upgraded roster. Still, the Hawks were a 53 win team last year and earning one of the top four seeds in the East is definitely not out of the question. The Hawks will be aiming to get past the second round of the playoffs this year but the chances of that are slim.
The Hawks definitely have some questions to answer this season.
First and foremost, they need to find some way to make Jamal Crawford happy. He was more than just a spark off the bench last season as his 18 points per contest was the second highest on the team and he is the team’s biggest three point threat. The Hawks often looked to Crawford when the game was on the line so losing him would be a huge loss.
The Hawks also have to answer questions about their postseason play. They struggled to get past the Bucks last year, despite the absence of Andrew Bogut, and in the second round they were man-handled by the Orlando Magic. With the Eastern Conference being much more competitive, the Hawks are going to have to bring their A-game to the play-offs.