14
Oct
07

Atlanta Hawks Preview

The Atlanta Hawks are an interesting team. Joe Johnson is healthy and able to lead a group of players who are maturing and ready to compete. They are employing a new up-tempo offense this year, which should elevate the player’s stats, although I’m sure they’ll take their lumps early. Toronto did this last year with Sam Mitchell and it took him a few weeks to figure out what “up-tempo” meant for his team. Woodson will need the same learning curve once the season starts and he sees how his players react in this new system. Everyone is talking about their rookies, Horford and Law, but the key to their success is Josh Smith and Marvin Williams. I’ll explain.

Projected starting lineup with last year’s stats:
Stats follow this format – Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, FG percentage & Minutes

PG – Speedy Claxton
5.3 – 1.9 – 4.4 – 1.7 – .10 – 33% & 25

SG – Joe Johnson
25 – 4.2 – 4.4 – 1.05 – .19 – 38% & 41

SF – Marvin Williams
13.1 – 5.3 – 1.9 – .81 – .47 – 43% & 34

PF – Josh Smith
16.4 – 8.6 – 3.3 – 1.4 – 2.9 – 44% & 37

C – Zaza Pachulia
12.2 – 6.9 – 1.5 – 1.07 – .5 – 47% & 28

Key Bench Players:

Josh Childress
Al Horford
Tyronn Lue
Sheldon Williams
Acie Law IV
Salim Stoudamire

As you can see, that is a lot of players on the bench that Coach Woodson needs to manage. Let’s look at each position.

PG
They got Speedy last year, but he was never healthy, so I look for him to rebound and have a decent year. Word is the Hawks really like Acie Law, but he’s a rookie and I’m not personally sold on him. I think he’ll be a hired gun at the end of the game, because that is when he’s at his best. Lue is still on the team, which baffles me. He shoots the ball way too damn much and isn’t very effective in getting other players going (which is what a PG is supposed to do), but he will get minutes and frustrate everyone who has anther Hawks player on his fantasy team, because your player’s shot attempts will automatically decrease the minute Lue steps on the court. Therefore, I still mark this down as their weakest position, and could be the cause of their ultimate demise this year.

SG
Joe Johnson is one of the best guards in the league. He has excellent vision and is as accurate as they come. I do expect his scoring totals to slightly decrease with the emergence of Josh Smith and Marvin Williams; however, you might see an increase in his assists as well. Josh Childress will be the first person off the bench and could play PG to SF. He’s extremely effective in whatever they need him to do, and he’ll have another solid year. Stoudamire is the odd man out in this group. His only real asset is his shooting, and he’s streaky at that.

joe-johnson.jpg

SF
Marvin is the man, or so they say. This is the year we start to see his potential. He’ll never be a 20-10 guy, but he can score at ease in a number of different ways. He’ll also give you some assists, 2-3 a game, but not much after that. I basically expect him to be 17 ppg, 7 boards and 2 assists guy this year. His scoring may be higher, but that will depend on Josh Smith’s offensive improvement. SF will be manned by either Marvin, Josh S. or Josh C at all times.

PF
I LOVE JOSH SMITH!!! He spent his summer in Houston learning from Hakeem “The Dream” and Calvin Murphy. Emeka Okafor worked out with Hakeem the summer before last season and he came out the gate averaging 16.9 points per game in the month of November (career high for a month average). I look for the same results from Josh, but better. I’m hoping Josh will average 20 plus points per game this season. That will put him in the elite status in terms of fantasy, and I’m freaking stoked about it! Sheldon Williams will be the primary backup here, and he’ll do a fine job. He showed what he could do the last few weeks of the season, but that was garbage time in the NBA, and those stats only mean so much.

josh_smith2_0.jpg

C
Zaza is not the answer here. He’ll get the start because of the experience, but I wonder how long it will take for Al Horford to take over the starting job, assuming he can play center, like everyone is saying. Horford has all the tools you want in a big man so they’ll be anxious to get him on the court and see how long it takes for him to contribute. Solomon Jones is another player who will get burn as center. He’s a very big lanky athletic young man, who has a knack for blocking shots. He has a poor offensive game, but can mix it up defensively.

I think the Hawks have a very good shot at making the playoffs this year. The PG is their biggest issue, but if they can overcome that and get decent play there, then they will definitely make some noise. From a fantasy perspective, Josh Smith is the best player, followed closely by Joe Johnson. There’s a big drop from there, but Marvin will make big strides, as will Josh Childress. Don’t take Law in any draft (unless you’re a Texas A&M alum, then I thank you for wasting a draft pick), as Speedy has that locked up for at least this year, but taking a flyer on Horford in the last round, might not be a bad idea, if you can be patient.

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