I think this spring could be the last stand for the Rejuvenated Atlanta Hawks
And here's why: Joe Johnsonis getting max money this summer to play in Chicago, New Jersey, New York, Clipperland or wherever. He's irreplaceable for Atlanta obviously. Assuming Josh Childressreturns from his Greek exile, that gives them Childress, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford, Marvin "I Look Worse As a No. 2 Pick Each Season" Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Zaza Pachulia's bacne, and Mike Bibby's chalk outline next season. That's a 42-win team. The window is right now. They can absolutely make the 2010 Eastern Finals ... and then get swept, but still. The Eastern Finals!
I don't read Bill Simmons to be informed anymore. Josh Childress is almost certainly not returning to the Hawks. The Marvin Williamsmeme is not only played out, but he was actually getting better each year until this one, and well, there is actually no analysis here. Just possibilites followed by an opinion.
Still, I think this is where most national media stand on the Hawks (well, maybe not the Eastern Finals part) and at least Simmons presents it in an entertaining format.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, I love John Schuhmann of NBA.com. I think he makes stats easy to understand and pertinent to understanding teams better. He looked at the top five man units with more than 100 plus mintues for each playoff team. Here are the Hawks.
Starting Lineup, Best Defensive Lineup:Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
Min: 1,172, Off: 106.4, Def: 100.7, Diff: +5.8
Even though the Hawks' starters played a ton of minutes together, their numbers don't reflect the team's overall numbers very closely. For a team that ranked 14th defensively overall, the Hawks have a strong defensive starting unit.
Best Overall Lineup, Best Offensive Lineup:Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
Min: 356, Off: 116.9, Def: 104.5, Diff: +12.4
Crawford played more than twice as many fourth-quarter minutes than Bibby this season (864 to 397), and there's no secret why. Crawford may be a bad defender, but Bibby isn't much better. And Crawford gives the Hawks a lot more on the offensive end of the floor. Of all the Eastern Conference units that played at least 100 minutes together, this one was the best offensively.
Still, if you replace Williams with Bibby, you get a lineup that's just as potent, scoring 116.4 points per 100 possessions, but not as good on the defensive end, allowing 105.7. Bibby and Crawford together in the backcourt is not a combination Hawks fans want to see for a key defensive possession.
Moral of the story, every time you see Bibby and Jamal playing at the same time, get mad at Mike Woodson. Every time you see Bibby and Jamal playing at the same time in the fourth quarter get raging mad.
Finally, Bethlehem Shoals previews the playoff seriesand offers this nugget that should satisify both the Joe hater and the Joe apologist in all of us. Salary being manageable of course.
Joe Johnsonis unrestricted this summer; Ziller has him rankedas #7 overall in the class. You'd think this would be a big deal, especially with Mike D'Antoni coaching the Knicks, D'Antoni being the first coach to believe in Johnson, and the Knickslooking to do something with their cash once the top few pass them by. But this is Joe Johnson, people. If ever there was a player, and personality, who seemed tailor-made for the "I just want to finish my career in Atlanta", it's JJ. That the team no longer relies on him in isolations so much also makes him a wiser long-term investment than he would be otherwise. A twenty-nine year-old shooter/scorer isn't such an attractive proposition, but with reinforcements like Jamal Crawford around, Johnson can now show that he can do more than dribble and force shots. I will call him Penny Soft and Lite here and regret it forever. Oh, and he's never been so reliant on physical ability, which makes aging not such a big deal. I hope you enjoyed this Joe Johnson update.
Lots of playoff stuff coming later in the day.
More and more playoff previews are coming through (thank you NBA for stretching an already long playoff season to begin four days after the season ends. Well done.)
NBATV used Rick Kamla, Dennis Scott, and Chris Webber to preview our matchup with the Bucks.
Whatifsports.com drops a winning simulation scenario for the Birds in Round 1. Very cool.
We'll link more as we see them---Go Hawks!