It's time to start what is our 5th year of blogging for the Highlight Factory's own Atlanta Hawks. When we last met, I committed to two important things:
- To get rid of the disclaimer that's been a prominent part of every blog we've submitted, so for now - all praise and criticisms are fresh with no filter. We're going to assume this is a well-run organization and therefore, all thoughts will be viewed through the prism of what you see is what you get...no bias zone in full effect.
- That we'd submit a blog every week, so the Truths will be the staple of our blog, but we'll also be organizing a blog roundtable with the team here at Peachtree Hoops as well as participating in a vlog (soon to be named and announced later). So, we'll give our 7 regular readers what they want - which is more Hawks content. After a season of mediocre Tweeting (@hawkstr8talk) and uninspired visits to the Highlight Factory - we're back on for full-fledged Hawks commentary as we start the Danny Ferry era.
Also, it's important to give the HawkStr8Talk for Dummies prologue, then it's off to our 5thAnnual Season Preview:
- This space is all about winning championships. So, you can go to other places to read game recaps, fan posts, and other robust analysis. That's not what I do. We discuss what is and isn't working in our question to get a NBA championship. Yes, on game day, I'm cheering my HEART out for the Hawks, but the goal of the BLOG is to report on all things related to how the hell do we win a title? Period.
- Now, while our MAIN purpose is NBA title, I'll also give some perspective on cheerleaders, food, groupies, front office, charitable offerings, and even ticket giveaways and discounts. I'm even trying to get back to my annual Hawks game road trip to Miami.
- Finally, have some fun - I do my best to comment and reply to all commenters. I expect disagreement, but keep it funny and respectful. Passion is great, criticism and cynicism over what I have to say is fine as well, but disrespect will not be tolerated.
So, let's get it started...
Analysis - So, let's start here. It's a brand new team. New issues. New Advantages. New Problems. And to be fair, no one is complaining about the necessity for change (maybe what changed can be debated). Repeating 2nd round playoff losses through 2014 was simply an unacceptable outcome. Enter Danny Ferry. So, we'll start with the subtractions in order to give a final farewell to the old, then jump into the new.
The team is losing about 60-70% of its production and therefore, out the window goes the old offensive and defensive tendencies on a global scale. All for the sake of financial and roster flexibility and hopefully a chance at draft, trade, and free agent options that wouldn't have been there any time before. This is the definition of addition by subtraction. To be completely transparent, it didn't matter WHO we got back in our trades of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams as long as their names end with Joe Blow, E.C. (for expiring contract). But since we did get actual players - let's not spend any time lamenting the old guys since none of them in my opinion was worth bringing back to this team, so the additions (starting with the players who are signed beyond next season):
- Lou Williams - A great addition to come off the bench and fill the old Flip Murray, Jamal Crawford role. Normally, I would say - so what, but at the cost - a wise investment and necessary addition to a team that with all the subtractions need scoring punch from the perimeter.
- John Jenkins - A draft day surprise. Particularly with the Lou Williams signing to go with Devin Harris, and Anthony Morrow. It's been noted how pure his stroke is, but going with the HS8T's longstanding belief that if you pick rookies to fill a role - they better fill it...we'll be watching the use of Jenkins' shooting very closely and even more closely - his ability to provide any other useful basketball skill besides shooting.
- Devin Harris - Once a promising young PG, now a useful, but journey-like guard. Possibly a target for an extension if productive (and if we strike out on other better PGs - read: Paul, Chris) but seemingly a duplication of Teague without the Teague upside.
- Anthony Morrow - An elite shooter. Not much else, but the kind of player you put around other elite players so that you can exploit the one elite talent that someone like Anthony Morrow has. Another target for an extension after the season, but only at the right price or even more if it results in bringing a certain great friend (Howard, D.)
- Kyle Korver - Forgive me if you've heard this before - an elite shooter. And not really a guy you can keep unless you have elite defenders to hide his deficiencies there and who doesn't provide much else on the basketball court. That said, he'll provide a great tutor and comparison point for Jenkins and Morrow for what elite shooting looks like in the Hawks offense.
- Johan Petro - A big.. if he's better than Jason Collins, I'm buying
- DeShawn Stevenson - New Jersey Stevenson was awful. So bad that he, not Jordan Farmer, should have been first up to be cut, but Dallas Stevenson was a worthwhile defender and enough of a 3pt threat to keep on the court. Let's hope we get the Dallas version.
- Anthony Tolliver - Another journeyman who may just be the kind of player who when given minutes and opportunity to provide a bench spark and glimpse into the kind of player needed to fill out a top notch squad.
- Mike Scott - Well, I don't see NBA talent here, so let's hope that a D-League opportunity is in the offing to help grow his skill set.
On the whole, the additions have lots of question marks. No reason to even try to predict how this is going to play out after a nondescript preseason, so we'll simply just say - it's audition time. Once we've stabilized Lou Williams' minutes, it's no telling how this works, but here's my only request - let it work in a way where players who we likely WON'T bring back (read: DeShawn Stevenson, Kyle Korver, Devin Harris) are not playing players we need to develop or may bring back (read: John Jenkins, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver).
Analysis - Rubber meet road. If I'm going to give Danny Ferry any demerits, it's that Larry Drew doesn't have an extension to allow him to coach the team appropriately. A lame duck coach has many more negatives than positives. The incentive to develop players is nonexistent. The incentive to wait for players to get better is zilch. So, the tendency to play vets who are out for their next contract is going to be apparent when in all actuality - this is a rebuilding year. Yep, I said it - the ability of our team to make the playoffs is there, but it's actually more byproduct of how bad the teams are in the Eastern Conference than some thought that this is a contender. The great part about that is that we actually have assets (draft picks, money, etc) to actually do something actively to be more than a playoff team. For this organization, that's significant progress, but it's limited if your coach is not the one to take you to the promised land. I'm on record as saying - Drew is not a good coach and I don't see a way for him to prove that he can be. New players galore on expiring contracts. Coach on lame duck status. New offense. New defense. Not a setup for success, but again - rubber meet road. It's all setup to put this foot in this mouth, Coach Drew.
The Desired Rotation
Starters: Horford, Smith, Stevenson, Jenkins, Teague
Reserves: Pachulia, Tolliver/I. Johnson, Korver/Morrow, Williams (6th Man), Harris
Others: Petro, Scott
Analysis - Let's dispense with the pretense. This is probably not the best starting 5 on opening day, but remember the purpose here is not about winning today. It's about winning titles. I'm a proponent of minutes proving whether a player can be useful to that goal. Hence, the reason I want Jenkins starting. Similar to my call for Teague to start as a rookie - it's paramount that we find out whether Jenkins is a core piece, a rotation piece, or a bust. With the complete overhaul that's likely to happen again NEXT season, there's a little time to waste in figuring out what pieces fit and what pieces don't. Now, I wouldn't include Stevenson normally, but there's really no one else to put on the floor that won't create a complete defensive liability. In this instance, we're going to presume that the offseason plan is to create a way to keep Horford, Smith, and Teague together - though I can say that I'm completely in favor to a deal that gives away one or more players to get Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard (slim as that may be).
Outside of 6th man Williams, the rest of the reserves are all a part of the now annual Hawks Rent A Bench, so there's no reason to have an allegiance to any of them. Let's take the ones with upside and see how they work with your foundation (i.e. Horford and we hope Josh Smith). All other efforts are shortsighted at best. Does that mean you might be in the lottery? Why yes it does...and if you can't win a playoff series - then is that so bad?
Best Case Prediction - 48-34 (4th in Eastern Conference)
Worst Case Prediction - 37-45 (10th in Eastern Conference)
My Prediction - 40-42 (8th in Eastern Conference) and a 1st round playoff exit
Analysis - Now, last year, I was within 1 game of the team's record and off on the round we'd exit, so take this with a grain of salt, but too many things have to work for a very successful season - overall team health, absolute health for the bigs, team chemistry must come together quickly, defense must gel and overcome shortcomings on the wing, rebounding has to come from somewhere, and finally no contract distractions on a team who with 3 exceptions ALL are looking for next season's paycheck including the coach. Sorry, but I just can't buy that those factors won't sink the most optimistic of projections.
So, what do you guys think? Leave your predictions in the comments and we'll see you at the Highlight Factory!!!