Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013-2014 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Danny Ferry is looking to break from NBA mediocracy in his second season with the Atlanta Hawks.   Last season, the Hawks unloaded the unmovable contract of Joe Johnson, a feat that earned Danny Ferry the preseason GM of the year.  The Hawks added a few nice pieces with Lou Williams and Kyle Korver to deepen the bench.  Ferry also unloaded Marvin Williams which netted Devin Harris.  The Hawks were expected to be much worse than their 40-26 season during the lock out year prior, their last season with their ‘core’.  

The Hawks went on to win 44 games and landed the 6th seed in the playoffs.  Ferry understood that core was not going to win a title.  He replaced Larry Drew with Spurs protégé Mike Budenholzer.  He let Josh Smith leave for a larger contract and decided to build around Al Horford for now.  A team that will be over looked until they obtain a recognizable face, the Hawks have the talent to make the playoffs again this year.

Additions: Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, Pero Antic, Dennis Schroeder, Gustavo Ayon, DeMarre Carroll
Subtractions: Josh Smith, Zaza Pachulia, DeShawn Stevenson, Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones

It didn’t occur that they were actually better this year than last year.  After speaking with a couple media members discussing the Southeast Division, many think the Hawks are poised to finish 2nd in the division again. The additions of Paul Millsap and Elton Brand will improve their front line, something Josh Smith didn’t want to be.  Danny is excited to see what Mike Budenholzer can do with the current roster and how well he can grow the young players, which include rookie Dennis Schroeder. Ferry also flipped a few draft selections on draft night for multiple players, turning one player into two a few times to increase the depth of young players for the Hawks organization to sort through.

Al Horford

The Hawks success has always rested on Al Horford. Entering into his 7th season, Horford is expected to be the catalyst for this franchise.  Last season the fans were treated with his best season of 17.4 pts, 10.2 rebs, 3.3 asts, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blockers per game having career highs in points, rebounds and steals.   Being the longest tenured player on the team, Horford is expected to lead.  This year he will have more help veteran help from Elton Brand.  Expect Horford to carry the team into the playoffs for their 7th straight season in the playoffs.  All under Al Horford.

Paul Millsap

After spending his entire career in Utah, being on the trade block the past few years and having to battle every day for playing time, Paul Millsap finally gets a new destination and a guaranteed starters role.  What interests me the most is Millsap will finally be playing next to a solid defensive center, who can score. This inside out game of Millsap and Horford will create better spacing than Millsap has seen in previous years. Also, Millsap will not be required to help out as much on defense when you compare Al Jefferson and Al Horford on the defensive side. Paul Millsap has similar numbers in the aspect that he can fill up a boz score, especially on the defensive side with 1.1 steals and 1 block per game.  He will be the player I plan to keep an eye on the most going into next season. 

Jeff Teague

Heading into his third season as the starter for the Atlanta Hawks, Jeff Teague is expected to be a break out player.  His 5th season in the league, Teague has only improved his scoring and assists each season putting up career highs of 14.6pts and 7.2 assists per game last year.  The unknown will be his ability to work the new coach’s system.  The Hawks brought back shooters for Teague and when Lou Williams returns, it will open up more scorers for the young point guard to take advantage. 

Most Exciting Player To Watch: Lou Williams

Losing Lou Williams, a candidate for 6th man of the year last year hurt the Hawks marginal playoff chances against the Pacers.  Coming into his 9th season, Lou saw career highs in 3pt percentage and free throw percentage last year.  He is the leader off the bench and plays a style that I call, instant offense.  His ability to score on his own helps a young point guard out.   Despite losing Lou in January, the Hawks still continued to win games and land a playoff spot.  With a healthy Lou this season, the Hawks could land a higher seed.

Prediction: 42-46 wins.

I originally had this team around .500 basketball but after reviewing the veteran presence on this team and the young talent, they are poised to improve from last season.  This could be the second straight year this team would see addition by subtraction, first with Joe Johnson and secondly with Josh Smith.  Paul Millsap will fit their style of play better than Smith did and the bench got deeper.  The Hawks are still one superstar or two away from being in contention but Danny Ferry will do everything he can to either draft one or trade for one.

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