Disclaimer: I really like and appreciate John Hollinger's work at ESPN -- he is an excellent writer, a great wit and he knows, knows, knows the Atlanta Hawks like no other national writer.
It's a couple of weeks old, but I wanted to hold off talking about John's must-read Hawks preview for two reasons.
For one, I wanted to wait until it was closer to the start of the season -- check.
For two, I wanted to see if his words would stick.
You see, as we noted in last year's rebuke of Hollinger's too-negative outlook on the regular season, John has long taken a beaten fan approach to the team to which he is geographically closest.
He predicted a 33 win season last year for the Hawks and that was factoring in a completely healthy season from Al Horford. That he missed by seven games in a season where Horford missed 55 games, says a lot about John's previously pessimistic outlooks on the Hawks.
Why is this? I believe we wrap it up accurately in closing last year's citation:
Hollinger deploys an accurate take on a team he knows all too well, but that familiarity has betrayed him in the past, and I believe confuses the prediction on the present. He misses the positives the team gives in trying hard to make sure everyone understands the faults. The Hawks aren't title contenders, but they are better than a .500 team.
Break down the numbers, and the surprising thing about these Hawks is that they don't look much worse than the version that preceded them ... even though they have a dramatically improved cap situation going forward. In particular, take a look at the backcourt, where Lou Williams and Harris replace Joe Johnson and Hinrich. While Williams isn't Johnson's equal as a two-way player, he had a better PER last season and is nearly half a decade younger, so he should provide considerable bang for Atlanta's buck. Harris, meanwhile, played off the ball for Dallas earlier in his career, and although he's small for a wing, he probably can handle this role in stretches. Offensively, he's vastly more dynamic than Hinrich, more than offsetting the defensive downgrade.
Not bad, right? And now the final summary
....As a result of those shortcomings, Atlanta still won't emerge into the league's upper crust. But this is a playoff team that is likely to have one of the league's top 10 offenses, with the added benefit of becoming much more in the offseason if the Hawks play their cards right.
Prediction: 45-37, 2nd in Southeast, tied for 6th in Eastern Conference
See what he did there? He was able to identify and quantify the positives that the Hawks would bring to the floor instead of only weighing in the negatives.
Hollinger talks about the new breath of fresh air Danny Ferry has breathed into this team and I would say that John himself may have benefited from the change as well in regards to his perspective on the Hawks -- and I don't think he's the only one.
Ed. note: Read the whole thing, it's really good. That is, if you can afford ESPN Insider -- which I believe is a terrific sports value if for any other reason than to get the NBA coverage you get there, especially John's work.