Full blown season predictions are still probably a few weeks away but NBA.com's Sekou Smith offered up his perspective by including the Hawks among his surprise teams. Don't get excited because it isn't what you are expecting.
Since my cupboard of pet teams is already overflowing this season (the Hang Time Grizzlies, L.A. Clippers and now the Minnesota Timberwolves),I'll channel my dark side and say that this is the year the Hawks hit the skids. (And I realize we're talking about one of just three teams, along with the Lakers and Celtics, to make the second round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.) They've operating on borrowed time with all of the subtle tweaks the franchise has made the past four years. But without Jamal Crawford (free agent) and a healthy Kirk Hinrich to start the season, the Hawks will start the season in neutral without making a splashy move during training camp. The fact is, they've done just about all they can with the current roster, all the while resisting the urge to make any significant changes to their core. This is the year that inactivity comes back to haunt them.
Lets keep in mind Sekou is not your ordinary NBA writer when it comes to the Hawks because he covered the Hawks beat and can still be seen frequently at games and around the players. So his insights into the team shouldn't be ignored.
Interesting that he brings up the subtraction of Jamal Crawford. Current Hawks beat writer Michael Cunningham experienced a lot of outrage from fans when the news leaked out yesterday about Tracy McGrady prompting fans to draw the conclusion that it meant the end of Jamal in Atlanta. So much so that Cunningham had to post a tweet that said the two moves were completely unrelated. Conversely, the rumored signing of McGrady was received around Peachtree Hoops with a positive vibe.
The interesting thing is that as I have said in the past, I never saw Jamal on this team past last season. In fact I thought he would have been moved at the trade deadline last season. Of course I also thought that Jordan Crawford was drafted to replace him.
Jamal Crawford had a wonderful two year run in Atlanta with a Sixth Man of the Year award and a wonderful first round showing last season against the Magic in the Hawks' upset win in round one of the playoffs. But, Atlanta has a ton of money invested in the shooting guard position. They also have Kirk Hinrich who is injured but whose defensive abilities will have him in the mix as long as he is wearing a Hawks uniform. Then there is Jeff Teague whose performance in the playoffs alone should afford him an opportunity this season.
I wonder if those screaming the loudest about Crawford's return are also the ones calling for more minutes for Teague because I am not sure you can have it both ways.
The rumored swap of Crawford for Ronnie Brewer would bring the Hawks back a player that can be successful without the ball in his hands. Lets be clear that as wonderful as Crawford has been, he has been a liability unless he had the ball and was on the attack. Most of the time his offense more than made up for his shortcomings but it still feels like a shift in philosophy is happening with the Hawks in the backcourt. Teague, Hinrich, Brewer (if he is acquired) and Joe Johnson are all capable defenders which is a long way from where the Hawks were at the beginning of last season.
Sekou Smith may very well be right that the Hawks regress further this season. However, I am of the opinion that if it happens it will have more to do with chemistry issues and ill-fitting pieces within the team than it will with the potential departure of Jamal Crawford.