NBA 2013-14 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks come into this season looking to make it’s 7th straight postseason appearance.  Most, if not all, of those runs to the postseason were propelled by Atlanta’s big three, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford.  Now, only Horford remains of the three.  Does ATL have enough to participate in yet another playoffs? I’ll give you my thoughts on the Hawks’ 2013-14 season:

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Guards (B-): Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Dennis Schroder, John Jenkins, Jared Cunningham, Lou Williams (IR)

The Hawks may have found their answer at point guard in Jeff Teague.  A middle-of-the-pack starting talent, Teague works as hard as almost any guard in the league.  The 25-year-old will take on more responsibility this year than ever before.  Last year, Atlanta ranked atop the league in assists per field goals made.  It’s Teague’s responsibility to make sure the ball movement is top notch.  Sharp-shooting Kyle Korver will start at the other guard position.  I don’t think Korver’s really a starting-caliber player.  However, with enough talent around him, he can find the areas he likes on the court as a spot-up-shooter.  I think we could see John Jenkins take over the starting job very soon.  Jenkins has a smooth outside jumper and his young legs should give him an advantage over Korver.  Lou Williams, one of the NBA’s most unnoticed clutch players, will be out until at least All-Star break.

Forwards (C): DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Mike Scott, Elton Brand, Cartier Martin

The loss of Josh Smith is really going to sting.  Smith had the flexibility to play both forward spots as well as even point forward at times.  Atlanta signed two similar type players in Paul Millsap and Elton Brand.  Millsap is definitely a downgrade from Smith but he’s still a very solid player who can do a bit of everything.  Millsap is great at creating separation down-low to coral in rebounds and get easy buckets.  DeMarre Carroll seems to be Atlanta’s last second starter at the three.  Effort speaks louder than talent in this situation.  Carroll is unarguably a bench-level talent but his outstanding hustle and sacrifice makes him a player who coaches love.  Elton Brand doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank.  We’ll see how much he can help a somewhat limited Hawk team.

Centers (A-): Al Horford, Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon (IR)

True center or not, Horford has developed into one of the most respected bigs in the league.  His offensive game is almost picture perfect, consisting of nice post moves and incontestable mid-range jumpers.  Last year, he took his aggressiveness up a notch and found a way to be more productive on the glass.  An average defender, Horford is going to have to look for some help stopping the ball when it’s near the basket.  Gustavo Ayon should be an adequate backup when he returns from his injury.

Defense (C+): Without Josh Smith, Atlanta’s defensive production is almost sure to take a hit.  DeMarre Carroll is clearly not as athletically gifted as Josh Smith, but he probably puts in more effort.  The same goes for Paul Millsap.  Atlanta is going to be in big trouble if it asks Korver to guard opposing shooting guards, one-on-one.  The Hawks may very well look into playing a zone defense part of the time.

Shooting (A-): Shooting is a skill Atlanta does have a lot of.  Ironically, this area of the game probably improves without Josh Smith constantly jacking up outside shots.  Atlanta was among the top in many shooting categories last year.  If Teague is capable enough of running the offense and getting others involved, Atlanta should be really proficient with their field goal attempts.  Millsap and Horford are two bigs who know how to make the best out of their shot selection.

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Experience (B+): Experience should be a big reason they sneak into yet another postseason appearance.  Although this team isn’t loaded with talent, it is usually very well-run with it’s coaching and front office.  I’m curious to see what first-year Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, longtime Spurs assistant, can do with this team.

Standing – 7th East: Even with no Josh Smith, I expect Horford and Teague to lead this competitive Hawk team.  I’m sure their expectations aren’t much different than mine are.  A Washington or Toronto may be more talented on paper, but the Hawks have shown great organization and awareness in their six-year playoff run.

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