Will Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks fly high in 2011-12? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The following is Peachtree Hoops' annual entry in the NBA Blogger preview series that are organized by Celtics Blog.
1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?
THHB: The team needs to be secure that they have quality front court depth to help protect the defensive glass. Oh, and a hypnotist to keep Josh Smith off the perimeter on both ends. Also, effective perimeter play beyond the starting lineup.
KW: Atlanta's biggest need? Depth, depth, and more depth. Atlanta could use defenders in both the frontcourt and the backcourt. It also wouldn't hurt to add a perimeter shooter to the mix that can come off the bench. If that guy can defend also then that would be a plus.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)
THHB: The team has good productivity in the starting lineup, with Al Horford and Smith being plus level producers, Joe Johnson being above average at SG, and the potential for Jeff Teague to go above average at PG, not a stretch given his sample to date.
The weaknesses come everywhere else, from replacement level value at SF, and the bench, which will be led by Zaza Pachulia and Kirk Hinrich, who provide solid areas of production, but are not complete players, and very, very little behind those two.
KW: Atlanta's strengths lie in its continuity. The core group has been together for a lengthy time now and this will be the second year under Larry Drew. In theory, they should be much more comfortable with his offensive and defensive philosophies during their second go around.
The weaknesses lie in the depth issues that I mentioned earlier. The backcourt should have a solid three guard rotation in Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, and Kirk Hinrich but at this point it is very unclear what the frontcourt rotation might look like beyond Zaza Pachulia.
3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?
THHB: The Hawks are a team that is deeply hurt by losing this season.
For one, they lose a season, in their primes, of Horford and Smith. The team signed a 6 year contract with Joe Johnson, famously over-value, because they felt that they would be buying the last few seasons of Johnson's prime, the first of which was a dud due to injury, and now another season would be lost, further devaluing the few positives of that deal.
2012 sees the Hawks get a first round pick into the mix from next summer's draft, but little else as the Hawks still have 60M tied up in six players (Johnson, Smith, Horford, Marvin Williams, Pachulia, and Teague. Unless a new CBA provides relief, cap-wise, the Hawks will be a team simply two years older and little else when the 2012 season begins.
KW: I am not sure any team gains anything in losing an entire NBA season and it certainly doesn't help the Hawks. Atlanta would see players like Al Horford, Josh Smith lose a season while in their primes. It also would further slow the development of Jeff Teague who really came on in the second round of the playoffs last season. Also players like Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich certainly aren't getting any younger.
4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be?
THHB: Everyone points to the Mid-Level as where truly bad contracts are signed, and hope it's eliminated, but heck, the Hawks never used that anyway. Though taking the ability to steal some useful bench engines from the clubs that did use that to overpay helps the Hawks.
KW: I'd like to see a mechanism in place where a team could get salary cap relief from an under performing player's contract. Something along the lines of still having to pay the player but not having that contract count against the salary cap any longer.
5. If there is a season in 2011-12, but it's a short season as in 1999, how does this affect the Hawks?
THHB: This would be a scenario that would greatly benefit the Hawks, given the greatest asset the Hawks have, which is significant continuity among the largest stakeholders in minutes played last season and (in this scenario) this short season. The Hawks would have to add some bench minutes, yes, but they would be able to succeed in a short camp/short season scenario, coincidentally much like the Mookie/Smitty/Mutombo team did in 1999 with Lenny Wilkens.
I could certainly envision a similar scenario in a shortened 2011-2012 season as well.
KW: A short season would likely favor teams like Atlanta whose core had been together for several seasons. An area of concern would be the potential wear and tear a short schedule would cause due to the amount of back to back games that would likely have to be played. Atlanta battled injury throughout the 2010-11 season.