Thursday, November 12, 2009

Someone Stop Me...

Because I'm feeling very optimistic about the Hawks. The local professional basketball collective is off to an excellent start, as they are 6-2 despite having played only three home games and having already gone on a West Coast swing. Josh Smith is showing inklings of making the jump. With the standard caveats about sample size, Smith is shooting 59% from the floor and is averaging 4.4 assists per game. The Hawks could potentially have six players average double digits in points, with the one limiting factor being that the team has a much better bench this year that will keep the starters' minutes down.

Mike Woodson has far more viable mix-and-match options this year among the reserves. I can't even begin to say how much happier I am with the idea of Joe Smith getting minutes as opposed to Solomon Jones. Jamal Crawford is a better version of Flip Murray. (Let the Vinnie Johnson analogies commence!) Jeff Teague is miles better than Acie Law ever was as he has, you know, athleticism. The Hawks should do better in the second and third quarters this year with quality bench guys. Woodson must have moments where he looks down the bench and thinks to himself "yes, this is the life." For all the stick that Atlanta Spirit gets, they spent the money to assemble a very good roster and their decision to stick with Woodson looks wise.

So here's the question: is the Hawks' ceiling fourth in the East? Before the season, I thought that the answer was yes. Now, I'm not so sure. Boston looks great, but they have an old roster that might again end up missing a key part by the end of the season. Cleveland looks underwhelming right now (last night's solid win over the Magic notwithstanding) because Shaq is not a good fit with LeBron in a basketball sense. I could see that team struggling with the "will LeBron stay?" distraction that will be amplified by the Northeast-based national media, which is quivering with anticipation like a teenage girl on opening night of a Twilight movie about the notion of LeBron in the Big Apple. (Please, G-d, don't let this happen.) That leaves Orlando, a team that is a tough draw for the Hawks because Atlanta doesn't have an obvious defensive option to handle Dwight Howard. Could the Hawks be one team away from the Finals? This team that has never played in the Eastern Finals? I think I have a tag for moments like this...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The ceiling is 4th. We just don't have a superstar and Mike Woodson is simply not a good game manager. The bench is good and all, but Joe Johnson would be the 4th best player on the Celtics and Magic. There's also Chicago and Miami to worry about. The bigger question is not whether we will break into the top 3, but will we hold off the rest of the Eastern Conference to retain 4th. I love the hot start and hope I'm wrong...

Jesse said...

Thus far, we've played three playoff teams in the Lakers (8pt loss), Portland (6pt win), and Denver (25pt win). The Lakers game wasn't really that close because of a horrible third quarter filled with TO's and bad ISO-Joe play. The Portland game seemed to be slipping away early, but ended up being a well played game by the Hawks. And while the win at home over Denver is nice, I'm not sure I want to put too much into it because they seemed disinterested as they were on the back end of a back-to-back.

I think Friday's game against the Celtics might go a long way toward providing a better outlook on exactly where this teams ceiling will be this year. These games have all been close lately, so I think a dominate win would prove that the Hawks do have the ability to take away that 3rd spot. Otherwise, it's really back to what Anon has mentioned, and that is can the Hawks maintain the 4th spot to begin with?

Other than that, I don't think I've been this excited about the Hawks since '98.

John said...

Josh's maturation (can we safely call it that even though he gives Woodson and the refs at least 5 'screw off' looks per game) is by far the most encouraging thing. I don't have access to Hollinger's PER, but I'd assume he's done pretty well thus far. Most of that is supported by his profile at 82games.com

http://www.82games.com/0910/09ATL7.HTM

Note that only 1/3 of his shots are coming via jumpers and most of those are early in the clock.

But to throw a wet blanket over the enthusiasm, I merely point you to one game.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=291106030

Yikes.

Jesse said...

Meh, it was the 4th game in a cross-country road trip and for whatever reason the Hawks haven't fared well at their place in about two years. Much like they aren't as good as they were against the Nuggets, they aren't as bad as they were that night against the Bobcats.

Again, small sample size and all, these are more than likely outliers. But I do agree with your point in that the Hawks seem to go as Josh Smith goes.

JJ said...

Anybody who puts any stock into the loss at Charlotte has obviously not watched much pro basketball. I knew that was a loss when I looked at the schedule before game #1.

John said...

I assumed the premise of this discussion was 'is the ceiling 4th in the East?', not 'is this the typical Hawks team'.

I know the Charlotte game was 4th game coming off a cross country trip. I know that entails a sluggish effort. But the question is this: would the Celtics, Magic, or Cavs lost that Charlotte game so badly? If your answer is yes, that's fine. We can respectfully disagree.

Games like that are what separates elite teams from being fringe elite.

And I agree with anonymous. After watching the Heat play last night, the bigger question is whether the Hawks hold on to 4th.