After an offseason that saw the Hawks keep their three best free agents (Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia), strengthen their bench (Jamal Crawford, Joe Smith, Jason Collins), eliminate both a punchline (Limpy Claxton) and a draft mistake (Acie Law), and draft a promising guard (Jeff Teague), optimism surrounding the franchise seems near an all-time high.
So here’s my question: Is everybody else seeing something we’re not?
By now, you’ve might’ve heard that several national media outlets have projected the Hawks this season to finish on par or even below last season’s results. Actually, I have yet to find one that has them either: 1) winning more games, or, 2) winning more than one playoff round.
This hit home a little harder Thursday night. I received an email from Bodog.com, an online sportsbook, which does a pretty good job accurately reflecting the feelings in Las Vegas (and I’m still waiting for at least one hotel-casino magnate there to say: “You know. We really blew it with those odds. I think I’m just going to build a nice little Best Western with a coffee shop over here.”).
According to some of Bodog’s prop bets, the over/under on the Hawks’ win total is 44.5, which is a step back from last season’s 47.
The “dis” factor doesn’t end there. Some examples:
♦ First coach to be fired: The Hawks’ Mike Woodson is 3-1. That ties him with Chicago’s Vinny Del Negro as the No. 2 favorite — barely behind the leader, Lawrence Frank (9-5). Not sure how that affects contract extension talks.
♦ Southeast Division: Hawks are 15-2 to win the division, which is third behind Orlando (1-4) and Miami (13-2), whom the Hawks beat in the playoffs last season, and they’re barely ahead of fourth-rated Washington (10-1). Looking for a longshot? Charlotte is 55-1.
♦ Eastern Conference: Hawks are 20-1 to win the conference title, which is tied with Chicago, Detroit and Miami for a DISTANT fourth behind Cleveland (5-4), Boston (2-1) and Orlando (3-1).
♦ NBA title: Hawks are 45-1 to win it, which ranks tied for 11th. (Lakers are favorites at 2-1.)
A few other observations follow.
♦The Sporting News has been previewing each team, one per day, backwards from No. 30. The Hawks check in at No. 12 overall and will rank only sixth in the East, behind — in uncertain order as of today — Cleveland, Boston, Orlando, Washington and, yikes, even Toronto.
♦ ESPN had a panel of 10 each predict standings. Most have the Hawks fourth in the East. Once exception is Chris Sheridan, who tabbed them for seventh. His analysis: “Mike Bibby didn’t look like he had a lot left in the tank last season. I was surprised they re-signed him and thought Andre Miller would have been a better fit. Joe Johnson is entering a contract year. And newcomer Jamal Crawford likes to put up 20 shots a night. Hmmm.”
♦ Sports Illustrated picks the Hawks to finish fifth in the East. An excerpt from an unnamed scout: “I like their signings of Joe Smith and Jason Collins because they needed
size off the bench. Those are moves a contender would make, and moves the Hawks didn’t make in the past.
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♦ Georgia Tech is 7-1 to win the ACC championship (regular season), which ranks third behind North Carolina (3-2) and Duke (5-2). The Jackets are 35-1 to win the Final Four.
♦ Georgia is 30-1 (last among six teams) to win the SEC East title. (Kentucky is 1-8.) The Bulldogs are 150-1 to win the national title.
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So there you have it. Do you think the Hawks will be better, worse or the same? You can comment below and I’ve got a poll going.