5 reasons the Hawks will reach the Eastern finals

Jeff Teague: Another addition to a stellar bench. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Jeff Teague: More help off the bench. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

1. They can match depth with any team anywhere. The Hawks didn’t change a starter, but they redid their bench almost completely. Zaza Pachulia and Mo Evans are still around, but Jamal Crawford represents an upgrade over Flip Murray and Jeff Teague seems more NBA-ready than Acie Law was. And even if Joe Smith doesn’t have much left, Jason Collins could be the hidden hinge to the second unit.

2. Mike Woodson has no choice but to deploy his subs. Contrary to popular belief, the coach isn’t a fool. He saw how Joe Johnson wearied at the end of last season, and he concedes he ran his starters too long. But Woody, like most coaches, trusts experience over youth, and that means he’ll give Crawford and Smith and Collins longer looks than he gave Law and Solomon Jones. And Woodson appears to have warmed to Teague already, which never happened with Law. (The feeling was mutual.)

3. Johnson won’t have to play as long or do as much. The Hawks are tinkering with a lineup that deploys Johnson at small forward, which means he won’t be asked to distribute and score — just to score. The belief around the team last season was that Al Horford didn’t the get the ball nearly enough, which could change if Joe agrees to delegate more responsibility. Which he must. He’s one of the league’s 20 best players, but he’s not LeBron James.

4. The teams above the Hawks in the East geared up but didn’t necessarily improve. Shaquille O’Neal will slow Cleveland and clog the lane for LeBron, who operates best in the lane. The Magic lost more with Hedo Turkoglu’s departure than they gained with Vince Carter. And the Celtics, who were already old, got older still with Rasheed Wallace.

5. It’s time to take the next step. The Hawks have improved over each of the past four seasons, and when last we saw them they’d grown from an eighth seed with a sub-.500 record to a 47-game winner that advanced to Round 2. Round 3 is the Eastern Conference finals. The Hawks will win 54 games, claim the East’s No. 3 seed and upset Boston in the second round.

122 comments Add your comment

TheDream

October 27th, 2009
1:30 am

First? And I want whatever you were smoking on your vacation.

3 seed? Not without a big man!

Mark Bradley

October 27th, 2009
1:31 am

Horford. Zaza. Smith. Collins. How many big men do you want?

BravesFan79

October 27th, 2009
1:46 am

Atlanta is the 3rd best team in a tie with Orlando. As a Hawks/ Celtics/ Rockets fan i gotta say that hands down the Celtics will be the best team in the league and will again dominate the Lakers in the finals.

BugKiller

October 27th, 2009
1:56 am

I know you disagree Mark, but I along with many others believe that Horfy is being misused.

The man has the ability, as shown at Florida, to be a DOMINANT power forward in this league.

We’re talking Karl Malone-Charles Barkley dominant.

A guy who can pull 20 and 15 EVERY night.

Instead, he’s stuck at center, an undersized center.

Yet more proof that Mike Woodson doesn’t have a clue about how to best deploy his players and capitalize on their talent.

#21=Top50,1stBallot

October 27th, 2009
2:34 am

Mark,

I agree that Boston may not be better- STILL have no backup PG and a Powe/Shelden Williams tradeoff is dubious at best, but Orlando added Bass to their subs which exacerbates the down-low problems the Magic present (saying nothing of the fact that Vince is a more efficient scorer than Hedo). The Cavs added Powe and Parker to provide inside/outside help. They definitely got better.

Hawks can compete with ANYONE in a any particular game, but the the matchup advantages posed by having to win 4 games (at least one on road most likely) seems tough. I think/hope, but let’s not delude ourselves that two of three got markedly better on their benches too- on paper at least .

RISE UP

Mark Bradley

October 27th, 2009
3:00 am

Horford would never be a 20 point a game scorer at power forward. He’s not quick enough or explosive enough. He’s better with his back to the basket. And that’s not just Woodson’s opinion. That’s Rick Sund’s, who didn’t draft Horford but inherited him.

And I don’t know how much you saw Florida play — I saw the Gators in person a dozen times over their two championship seasons — but when they needed a basket they didn’t throw it to Joakim Noah. They gave it to Horford on the low block.

lawton

October 27th, 2009
3:34 am

40 plus reasons WHY the hawks are still scrubs: 40 plus years in atlanta, no eastern conference championship, lol.

tim

October 27th, 2009
3:41 am

do you think the hawks may trade JJ if the season starts going bad?

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

October 27th, 2009
4:04 am

I like your optimism MB.
Perhaps this could happen – if JJ steps up in crunch time on PRIMETIME. This team lacks a consistent ‘heartbeat’ that elite players provide. Until JJ or Crawford provide that, we will continue to see occasional meltdowns in the big games.

tony

October 27th, 2009
4:07 am

Hortford needs to move to pf to avoid getting in foul trouble like he did in college. Crawford need to start at point guard instead of Mike Bibby.

DeepDiver

October 27th, 2009
4:26 am

Horford’s offensive game is not nearly developed enough to let him be a consistent 20/10 guy. The fact that he is playing as an undersized center instead of the 4 does not affect this. He should be able to face up his bigger defenders and either hit a mid range jump shot or go with one or two hard dribbles to the rim. Instead we see him hesitate, unsure what to do, and then pass back out to a guard. People who say Horford could be another Karl Malone aren’t watching the games.

Whopper Dawg

October 27th, 2009
4:31 am

Mark,

You may be right, they have the best team they have had in years. I think the heart and effort will be there too, Woodson is still a little light though.

I actually predicted this first, Mark!

October 27th, 2009
5:04 am

I couldn’t agree more – the Lakers showed the world how to spank the Cavs and Shaq is just old, slow and still can’t shoot free throws – the Magic lost their most versatile player in 7 footer Turkoglu and we’ve already shown the world that we can go toe-to-toe with the C’s – the Sixers, Heat, Bulls and Pistons will be competitive but not deep enough to hang with the Hawks – doubters need only to go two-deep into our depth chart at each position and compare

Some Sense

October 27th, 2009
5:18 am

Mark,

I’m like a lotta people…tryin’ like h… to be a fan of this team, BUT maybe you missed the beat-down in Orlando Friday night. No matter that it was preseason…that was brutal. Showed the Hawks up as a bunch of stiffs who are average shooters at best. Fourth in east is only reasonable goal.

MitchC

October 27th, 2009
5:29 am

First, welcome back from vacation, Mark.

Now, as you what you said about the Hawks. Hopefully you will be right. The Celtics are old, and the Magic may not be as good, but Cleveland is still one scary team. Shaq may be old, but he can still score, and Lebron is the co-best player in the game, aside from Kobe. As we all know, the pressure is on Lebron to win a title this year, because its highly likely he wont be with the Cavs next year.

What you didnt say is who you think the Hawks will face in the Eastern Finals, and, whether you think they have a chance to upset that team, and reach the NBA Finals this year.

mick

October 27th, 2009
6:07 am

Enter your comments here

mick

October 27th, 2009
6:12 am

Enter your comments hereI guess we will see what kind of coach Woodson really is. He has the tools. Let’s hope he goes at least 9, hopefully 10 deep to keep these ‘mostly’ young legs fresh. The Celtics will have trouble staying healthy, the Magic screwed up their chemistry, and Cleveland will be tough if they jell with Shaq, and he stays healthy.

13 on roster , we have room for 2 more

October 27th, 2009
6:16 am

I imagine that carrying only 13 players is a cost-cutting move by the Atlanta Spirit but I think the addition of Mario West would be good for the team for the following reasons: he’s an absolute beast on D who can come in and harrass the best 2 guards we will face and give up fouls in the process, he’s a hometown kid and crowd fave, he gets the team and the crowd fired up with his hustle and dunks & he comes at a very, very low price

hatin' on the stupid

October 27th, 2009
6:21 am

Mark, you must have missed the Hawks’ dismanteling at the hands of the Magic. I’m with the dude above who wants some of whatever you were smoking on vacation. And, just curious, do you keep a lifetime record of how many times you’ve actually been right? My guess is it ain’t pretty.

lawton

October 27th, 2009
6:44 am

if you take that david justice swing away from that cleveland, atlanta world series, atlanta has ZERO championships in any sport. lol, hawks pushing the celtics or magic, polease.

JustaThought

October 27th, 2009
6:45 am

Mark, I see you trying to to get as many “FREE” perks as you can from the Hawks.

Manny

October 27th, 2009
6:47 am

I don’t know about this. See, the Celtics are old, but not old enough this particular year to not go all the way. Rasheed is definitely an upgrade, and he can play strong on the low post, the high post, and the wings. So he is a threat everywhere on the court. He doesn’t have to do as much as he needs to, so going to the Celtics preserves his career a few more years. We don’t match up well against them, but we can use speed against them.

With the Cavs, they have Lebron. That’s a bad matchup right there. I also do not believe that Shaq and Lebron would work on the offense as-is, but I think they will tweak the offense to allow a slashing player to play with a big man. That’s a minor fix.

And the Magic? Giving up the Turk and picking up Vince was brilliant. Remember when Vince played with the Nets last year? He beat the Hawks with clutch (really clutch) shooting. Vince Carter is an automatic 25 points when he walks on the floor. So you think that having Carter and Howard on the same team- along with that point guard they have, isn’t scary?

Bottom line: The Magic is the team to beat in the East.

So here’s my issue… The Hawks will be good this year, but they are probably the 4th best team in the East. We aren’t better than the Celtics, Cavs or the Magic.

So we’ll end up in the playoffs. And if we do our job in the regular season, we will play either the Bulls or the Heat. And we should beat them. And then we pray for the Celtics.

Why? Because if we get the Celtics, we have a pretty good chance of stepping up and playing over our skill level to beat them. Or they can be beat up and tired going to the 2nd Round and we can take them.

But is we get the Cavs or Magic? Play hard and I wish them well, but I can’t see the Hawks going past either team.

Melvin Flowers Macon Georgia

October 27th, 2009
7:13 am

It’s going to be a long season for the Hawks. It just not there, they look the same as last year, they don’t move and they stay lost on the court.
Maybe next season.

Required Reading | Hard Knox Sports

October 27th, 2009
7:24 am

[...] 5 reasons why the Hawks will win the East. [Bradley] [...]

dap01

October 27th, 2009
7:55 am

Good article Mark!

DeepDiver

October 27th, 2009
7:56 am

The Hawks will be hard to watch as long as Woodson has his “Go Joe” offense in effect. I think they are firmly locked in at the 4th slot in the East provided they play to potential. If they play a competitive 2nd round series with one of the “big 3″ that will be a successful season in my opinion.

Then we will have the Joe situation to deal with. This team is nearing its crest and we are right where we were when we undertook the roster implosion a decade ago – fourth best in the East with a lot of separation from the teams above us, but not so much from those below.

If we retain Joe we may dislodge Boston next year as they are on the decline and who knows what will happen with Bron Bron and the Cavs, but the Magic look like they are here to say (although I think the Hedo – VC swap was a backward move).

Greg Norton Is HOT!!!

October 27th, 2009
8:01 am

indeed what were you smoking on vacation??

j

October 27th, 2009
8:02 am

wow, the Hawks got blown out in a pre-season game … that really means that the Magic are going to blow them out during regular season games … give me a break, bunch of negative nancies

ltdbrave

October 27th, 2009
8:11 am

I hope the Hawks do well this season however I do not think that is going to happen. Unless Josh Smith matures and plays the way he is capable of playing and Zsa Zsa plays like he did in the one playoff game, they will not do it. Seems there is a motivational factor that is lacking in these 2 players and I am very surprised that Johnson and/or Bibby have not raised the issue. They have the players but the question is, will ALL of them step up and perform.

Chris

October 27th, 2009
8:23 am

Among the top 3 in the East, the Celtics are the only team that might be vulnerable. I agree with Manny – the Majic are the beast in the East.

Atlanta Fan

October 27th, 2009
8:33 am

What happened to Garret Siler?

Daniel

October 27th, 2009
8:37 am

Mark!!!- Way to go. I love it. I predict the same win total, but I am not as confident in the 3 seed. I do think that Boston is the most likely of the three to slip a little this year. You are right about VC and Turk, but Orlando added Bass which is great upgrade, plus a healthy Jameer Nelson. None of us know how this Clevland expierment is going to work, but it feels like Barkley in Houston to me. An ECF appearance will be outstanding for this team. I hope you are right.

roan st

October 27th, 2009
8:40 am

I guess you were still on vacation when the Hawks were absolutely dismantled by the magic last week. The hawks were exposed in that game offensively. They have no inside offensive game and Horford IS NOT A DAMN CENTER!!!! Marvin Williams is obviously never going to take the next step. Here’s a recent quote from marvin, “I’m just trying to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m not trying to do too much. Does that sound like a guy with a burning desire to take his game to the next level? Josh Smith is close to his ceiling, which is not bad, but I don’t really see him as a star. We have already seen the best Joe Johnson has to offer. Sure our bench is deeper and we should secure that 4th spot in the east but we are NOT going to the Eastern conference finals. No way this team gets past Cleveland or Orlando! The bench depth is nice and will help but when those two teams have played their best they have throttled the Hawks.

Buzz Capra

October 27th, 2009
9:07 am

Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer are a bunch of cry-babies

STRETCH

October 27th, 2009
9:07 am

MR. Bradley, in reference to your 3am post. Horford was also playing in the NCAA not the NBA.

mountain_jim

October 27th, 2009
9:23 am

Welcome back Mark! Add my voice to the chorus here who watched (part of – could not stand it for too long) the Orlando game and saw that Woody still has no offensive plan in place – just stand around and go one on one. This team needs to run and gun with Orlando, they can not play half-court with them.

I think the talent to do what you predicted is here, but not the coaching, unfortunately.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

October 27th, 2009
9:34 am

Mark, Hawks make the Eastern Conf. finals right after me and Scarlett Jo become a couple and we are known by our cute couples name of ScAnk.

MyView

October 27th, 2009
9:52 am

lawton….If you take Jim Leyritz swing away, then the Braves win back to back championships. If John Elway got caught soliciting prostitution instead of Eugene Robison, then the Falcons win a Super Bowl. You sound silly!!!!!

doc

October 27th, 2009
9:56 am

a line up i am interested in seeing on the floor is teague, crawford, jj, al and zaza. for brief spells but could be deadly. do agree with crawford jj will be at 3 more this year and was effective there last.

Glitchy

October 27th, 2009
10:19 am

MB, you forgot the most important reason. Billy Knight is no longer in the organization…..

Ron E.

October 27th, 2009
10:27 am

1 reason the Hawks will not reach the Eastern finals:

1. They can’t beat good teams on the road (see that recent Orlando game) and they won’t have home court if they even make it to the second round. Orlando, Cleveland, and Boston certainly haven’t taken large steps backwards which is what would be required for the Hawks to move up in seeding. Their ceiling is the 4th seed which also means their ceiling is a 2nd round exit unless one of those other teams has a major injury to a star in the final game of the first round.

CLEsportsfan

October 27th, 2009
10:32 am

Ron Roberts

October 27th, 2009
10:34 am

Ron E. the Orlando game was a pre-season game. Just saying…

jg

October 27th, 2009
10:34 am

I hope the Hawks win that many games Mark. But until I see Woody design some sort of designed play that works–I don’t see them going too far in the playoffs. They have no set plays–the offense just stands around! But I can turn on any other NBA game and watch teams run set plays every time down. I wish Woodson would watch some tape of the Utah Jazz and watch their plays. The set meaningful screens, they go back door and they continually move the ball around. We do the same thing down every time. It’s someone trying to pick and roll or pick and pop. The only play I’ve ever seen Woody draw up is the “jump ball lob to Josh Smith.”

The Hawks needs some structure on offense everyone knows it–OR just let them run and gun. I’m not a fan of that type of basketball really–but I believe the Hawks have the type of team to be successful with that style.

Prove me wrong Woody–I’m watching and pulling for you regardless.

Go Hawks.

G-Money

October 27th, 2009
10:46 am

I feel as though you make a compelling case for this years team. Too many times we look at the headline grabbing names in acquisitions, as opposed to where individuals are in their careers. The majority of the big off season moves in the east consisted of potentially chemistry changing, aging veterans. like what the Hawks have done and I eagerly await the commencement of this season.

MAD-DONNA

October 27th, 2009
11:00 am

Hey Mark, big men yeah, but it’s about quality not quantity!

Mychelfromatl

October 27th, 2009
11:01 am

Wow Mark,
Looks like they clownin’ you in Cleveland man!!!! In the famous words of the “Bad Boys” tv show….Watcha gon do????

Mychelfromatl

October 27th, 2009
11:08 am

Quote from Cleveland.com:

Comedy Central – Everyone knows that the favorites to win the Eastern Conference title are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. But some homer in Atlanta gives us five reasons why the Atlanta Hawks will win the conference crown.

AJC.com reporter Mark Bradley writes:

4. The teams above the Hawks in the East geared up but didn’t necessarily improve. Shaquille O’Neal will slow Cleveland and clog the lane for LeBron, who operates best in the lane. The Magic lost more with Hedo Turkoglu’s departure than they gained with Vince Carter. And the Celtics, who were already old, got older still with Rasheed Wallace.

Mark this is your chance man, strike back!

Darrin "The Vent King"

October 27th, 2009
11:20 am

I would like to agree MB, but I still am wary of the coach’s decisions. He seems to not know how to rotate players or motivate them at times. How many times we have to see starts like this past one against the Magic b4 we all understand this? I’ve never seen a team with this much talent start off games 20 points down 5 mins into a game. That is not a good look at all…

Tech sucks

October 27th, 2009
11:30 am

Horford definitely needs to play the 4. We have got to get a real center.