No practice for the Hawks today. The AJC Hawks preview is at . . . newsstands . . . today! Run out and buy it! Please?
Meanwhile, here are some previews from around the InterWebs, each with a brief highlight and my comment:
They previewed the Hawks back on Oct. 12.
THHB says 50-32: “I am sensing change won’t be the magic elixir for playoff excellence, given Joe getting a year older and an inevitable dip in team fortune in regards to injury, but it will be enough for a back-to-back 50 win campaigns and grab the home court once again.”
KW says 52-30: While the mounting injuries are of a major concern to me, I do think that the way this team is being written off is premature. Are they a championship contender? Probably not, but there may be only two or three of those in the Eastern Conference and the Hawks are still right at the top of the rest of the pack. I am going back to back 50 win seasons and a top 4 seed in the conference.”
MC says: Both guys mention injury, and that’s the elephant in the room for the Hawks. Odds are they won’t get through this season in peak health (and isn’t that another reason last season felt like a letdown to some?) and there’s also the matter of L.D.’s approach to practicing them long and hard.
Their gang of experts all made a prediction and Atlanta’s average ranking was 5.9 in the East.
Michael Wallace and Tim Legler were most optimistic, picking the Hawks fifth. But Wallace says: “Replacing Mike Woodson with Larry Drew won’t be enough to shake things up and get the Hawks beyond the first round of the playoffs.”
Chris Sheridan was most pessimistic about the Hawks’ chances, picking them No. 8 in the East: “They are still playoff material, no doubt, but they’ll be road kill again if they face Boston, Miami or Orlando in the first round.”
MC says: The Hawks have given no indication they can compete with the Magic so there’s no case to be made there. And I don’t see Atlanta overcoming Boston’s tenacity and toughness in a seven-game series. But, call me crazy, I think they actually match up better with Miami and could give them a series.
Ball Don’t Lie
Forced to make a prediction three months ago, Kelly Dwyer decided the Hawks would finish 48-34. But he sounds pretty optimistic in his blog write-up:
“Nice additions, a cheap but possibly effective hire in Larry Drew, and a step away from former coach Mike Woodson’s stifling “offensive” attack? It would seem that, even after a slow start as everyone gets used to the new boss, the Hawks would eventually fall in line and into that safe middle road. Fewer wins than last season? I just think it’s a product of their surroundings, and that potential slow start. . . .
“This isn’t a bad thing. Under Woodson, these guys always started hot, but topped off. With Drew, the hope is that they’ll be penny-foolish and pound-wise, shuffling their best work toward spring as opposed to peaking in fall.”
MC says: Not sure about the “nice additions” part, though someone with the Hawks reminded me the other day that Josh Powell, Etan Thomas, and Jason Collins are better than what they Hawks have had in those 10-11-12 spots in recent years. So I guess that’s something.
Dwyer makes a good point about the slow start. It’s possible the Hawks will be a less-efficient offensive team this season and the new defensive approach might be best for the long-term but could be ugly in the interim as L.D. tries to get these guys to buy in and their personnel deficiencies aren’t hidden by switches. But being less predictable offensively and defensively might pay off in the playoffs.
Ian Thomsen talked to a scout from an opposing team for his take on the Hawks.
Says the scout: “The Hawks are looking through the wrong side of the window of opportunity right now. They’ve hit their ceiling and they can’t go any higher. I want to believe new coach Larry Drew can make a difference because he’s been around, he’s seen so many different things and paid his dues. But Atlanta has some hardheaded guys in that locker room, and it’s at the point where I don’t see much improvement in them anymore.”
MC says: This was a big part of Woody’s problem at the end. No one would say he’s not a strong-willed guy but eventually even he couldn’t get through to this group. L.D. is saying the right things but if guys don’t get the message then at some point it becomes about accountability.
Will L.D. be able to win a battle of wills with these guys? Would he, say, bench Smoove if he keeps taking jumpers or pouting instead of getting back on D? Would he sit J.J. if the isos become a problem again? If he’s really about defense, and defense is about effort, will he decide minutes based on those principles?
ATL-ien Lang Whitaker posits a best-case/worst-case scenario of 57-60 Ws/something less than 53. Says Lang: “The last few years the Hawks have played with the slimmest of margins of error, and they’ve actually done pretty well, all things considered. This year they’ll again be living on the edge. At least it gives us Hawks fans something to think about.”
MC says: I like the optimism. Really. I’m a skeptical/cynical/hopeless hack so just by the nature of this gig I’m eventually going to pick at the things that can and do go wrong. Fans should look at all the things that can go right. It’s that time of year, blog people. Enjoy it.