Atlanta Hawks facing few expectations

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks are coming into the season with experts whispering the "R" word about the team -- rebuilding. With a team that has two cornerstones, a young local and a cast of players playing for their next contract, this could actually be the most fun season ever.

The reason why some of the media believe the Hawks are rebuilding are understandable. The player who has been identified with the team, Joe Johnson, is gone to Brooklyn. The divesting of his contract and that of Marvin Williams for a series of going-to-end-this-season contract lends to the appearance of change, which usually means rebuilding.

Some of the makeover is true, without Joe needing to bump and grind the offensive pace to a standstill, the combination of holdovers Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague along with the influx of shooters like DeShawn Stevenson, Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver and rookie John Jenkins could mean a (finally) faster pace for the Hawks, generating more possessions per game and, theoretically, more stats per game for the participants. When you add in that the Hawks brought in Lou Williams, a volume shooter who also scores quite a bit with the clock stopped by shooting free throws, the Hawks could be scoring more per game, too.

While we've made much about, on paper, efficiently replacing the offense that Joe and Marvin provided, there remains questions about the defense. None of the players picked up, with the exception of Stevenson, hangs their hat on defensive effort. Devin Harris, for example, was among the worst point guards defensively, by the metrics of sites like 82games.com and MySynergySports.com.

That would be troublesome if competing for a title, but for a team with so much in flux and potentially so much offense, it could mean an unusual sight for Hawks fans at the Highlight Factory this season --- offensive shootouts. The last such iteration of the Hawks that lit up the scoreboards like old-fashioned pinball machines were the post-trade deadline Hawks of 2003, who saw Stephen Jackson, Bobby Sura and others routinely compete in triple digit scoring contests for themselves and their competition.

The 2012-2013 Hawks won't be as toothless as that version of the good guys, as Smith and Horford provide a defensive foundation that should, to some degree, mitigate the damage their backcourt brethren may lay at their feet.

With the media thinking the Hawks are in rebuilding mode, other teams may get sucked in as well, meaning a well-formed, still hungry, offensively potent Atlanta Hawks team could catch some teams sleeping early on in the season. If Larry Drew is able to re-introduce and get the team to run his flex-option offense as he attempted when he first started as Hawks head man, even more so.

All of which adds up to a frisky team with an offensive punch, with just enough real front line talent to make sure the Hawks playoff run will continue. For a team with little external expectations on it, it could prove to be a lot of fun, and I am all for that.

Note: Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson weren't mentioned specifically here, but not because we don't love them, because we do. Please don't hurt us when you guys see us. Thanks.

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