PACE : #27 91.8 OFFENSE: #20 103.2 DEFENSE: #16 104.6
It was quite a surprise that a worse version of the Atlanta Hawks than in the previous season was able to beat in the Playoffs the same exact team that annihilated them one year earlier by an averaging difference of 25 points per game!
Without any hard feelings, the Atlanta Hawks was the best team of all the mediocre teams in the NBA last season!
The Hawks entered the playoffs with a negative average margin per victory of -0.69! Only the Pacers had a worse ratio from the postseason teams, which was understandable as the Pacers finished the regular season with a 37-45 record.
Basically, they limited to beat the lowly teams of the league (30-12 record vs. below .500 teams), while they couldn’t be competitive against the upper class of the opponents: 14-26 record vs. above 0.500 teams. We must also not forget that they finished 7-1 in games decided by 3 or less points! Bottom line, we are talking about a 44-38 team that could have easily finished the regular season with a 42-42 record!
Despite changing their head coach, the Hawks didn’t change at all their principles of the game:
They were a mere jump shooting team that didn’t attack the rim! They were last in shots attempted at the rim with 25.5% of their total shots, while at the same time they led the league in “long two’s” shots with 30.1% of their total shots.
Because they were the second worst team in the league in Offensive Rebounds Rate with 23.45 per game, the Hawks needed badly to hit their perimeter shots in order to be competitive.
The problem was that their best perimeter players Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford had down seasons: Joe Johnson shot only 44.3% FG and 29.7% 3PTS, while having a tough season with multiple injuries and Jamal Crawford shot an even worse 42.1% clip from the field and 34.1% from the three point land. Obviously we can expect a better season from a healthy Joe Johnson this year…
With such bad play from the perimeter players (I’m including Mike Bibby’s stint with the team as well), the Hawks needed big numbers from Josh Smith and Al Horford to make up all the deficiencies and be real inside players however the outcome didn’t look good.
After shooting more than 50% from the field for the first time of his career, Josh Smith regressed last season as he shot just 47.7% FG. More concerning was the fact that Smith was (once again) a more a perimeter oriented player than he needed to be. Suddenly he attempted 2 treys per game for the season!! Because he was so far from the basket, he grabbed a career low 1.7 offensive rebounds per game! His other numbers were solid but for the sake of this Hawks team, Josh Smith has to be near the basket more often!
Al Horford went to the All Star game for the second consecutive year and he was clearly the best player of the team! His 15 points and 10 rebounds per game numbers are a lock for this upcoming season, but just like Josh Smith, Horford plays a lot on the perimeter! However note that he was extremely efficient by shooting 2.6-4.8 FGA/FGM from 16-23 feet – a ridiculous 53% FG!
The X factor for this season could be the development of Jeff Teague. He was forgotten during the regular season before becoming a starter during the playoffs. His numbers in the postseason were great: 29.8 min/gm; 11.8 ppg; 51.4% FG; 3.5 apg and 1.0 to/g.
However I just can’t ignore the fact that both the Magic and the Bulls simply “ignored” him when he was on the court, so Teague enjoyed some friendly space on the offensive end. Certainly this will change if his role on the team keeps growing.
The Hawks aren’t a young team on the rise anymore. They are still a talented team, but things are now tougher for them, especially with Miami on their division. The team’s main core have been playing together for years now and nobody expects to see them struggling early on the season. However, Larry Drew needs to make bigger changes on the team, not only on the system but especially in changing the mentality of some players! Nevertheless, the Hawks will be a team that has great chances to be on the playoffs, but they are not a contender for the championship at all!
NOTE: This is the first preview for the upcoming NBA 11/12 season. Later, I will make an analysis of my future goals and especially reviewing my results from last season. Also, if there is any significant change in the team during the offseason, I'll add the proper information on the article.