We are just weeks away from NBA training camps opening and the Atlanta Hawks enter the season with a somewhat unclear future. NBA.com writer John Schuhmann previewed the Southeast division and did a pretty good job of summing up not only what the Hawks lost in the Joe Johnson trade but what they will regain with a healthy Al Horford.
The Hawks' offense fell off dramatically when Johnson stepped off the floor last season. They scored a rather efficient 105.1 points per 100 possessions with Johnson on the court, but just 97.3 with him on the bench.
Of course, most of last season was played without Al Horford. So while the Hawks are losing one All-Star, they're also getting one back. And if you look back over the last two seasons, the Hawks' offense didn't suffer much when Johnson went to the bench, as long as Horford and Josh Smith were still on the floor.
Schuhmann goes on to point out that over the last two years the Hawks have averaged 103.4 points per 100 possessions when Smith and Horford were on the floor together without Johnson. That is only slightly down from the 103.6 points they averaged with all three on the floor together. He also points out that replacing Johnson with the combination of Devin Harris and Lou Williams could help the Hawks get to the free throw line more.
One area of concern was the substantial defensive improvement that the club has made over the last two seasons. Atlanta was the third most improved defensive team last season but have a noted weakness at the small forward position defensively.
Al Horford's return from injury however shouldn't be understated. There are still questions as to whether or not he and Josh Smith can excel at the same time but it was clear that both needed more touches over the last two seasons. That should not be a problem going forward as both he and Smith will be the focal point of the Hawks offense going forward.
There are still roster questions that will have to be addressed but it should be interesting to see how all of the pieces fit together once training camp finally gets underway.