At it again. It seems like an annual event in which the Hawks are predicted to fall back to obscurity. Since the 07-08 playoff run against the Celtics, the Hawks have not been good enough for the national media. And yet every year the Hawks have competed at a high level and have exceeded prognostications of their demise. The one thing that can be said about this Hawks team is that they have grown year-in and year-out.
Despite proving that the year before was not a fluke each of the past three seasons, some are predicting that the Hawks won't make the playoffs at all this season. Why? They say because all the other teams in the conference have gotten better and have more talent and that the departure of Jamal Crawford will severely wound this team. But that logic is handicapped.
The success of the Hawks over the past few years has been a product of familiarity, organic improvement, experience and the feeling of having some success. This is Al, Smoove, Marvin, Joe, and Zaza's 5th season together. They know where they have been and where they have come from and how hard it is to compete with the best night in and night out. Teague is in his 3rd year and he knows the pressure of the bright lights and battling against the best the league has to offer.
I would argue that Jamal benefited more so from the Hawks than the Hawks benefited from Jamal. The Hawks had already been to the playoffs two years in a row and once to the second round. When Jamal arrived to Atlanta he had to adjust from being the #1 option to being the 6th man because that's the role that the Hawks felt best suited his skill-set. Two years later, the move was genius. (Jamal finally made it to the playoffs and his skills were on put on display in a manner that highlighted his strengths and masked his weaknesses.
Overall, the Hawks have done a good job of adding quality role players and getting those players to play at a high level. Before Jamal, it was Bibby, Mo Evans, Jason Collins, and Flip Murray. However, the problem is that they never seemed to add enough. For the last four or five years, the Hawks have been strong as a 7 or 8 deep team. But they always seemed to need something more.
If all works as planned, I can see why Sund and Drew built the team the way that they have. They have brought in vets that can adjust to roles. The best benches in the league are the ones that have players that play roles and do it well. Zaza knows his role, Hinrich will be able to adjust to his role easily since he had the same role behind Rose and Wall, McGrady knows that he is a role player now and he will be able to fill in the gaps, VRad knows that he is here to shoot the 3-ball, Sy will bring energy, Stackhouse will push the young fellas, and Collins knows what he is here to do. Vets are the best role players and have more of an affinity for doing what it takes to win. Vets have seen almost everything there is to see as an NBA player. After a while all they want to do is to win.
The thing that every team wants from its bench is players that will play hard for 15-20 minutes per game, know their roles, and do it well. And so when we have guys like T-Mac, Zaza, Collins, Stackhouse, VRad, Pargo, and Kirk Hinrich coming off the bench, you have to be confident that they will get the job done.