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2012 NBA Playoffs: Atlanta Hawks Preview

<strong>Believe it.</strong>
Believe it.

This is part of an SBNation-wide effort for the blogs of playoff teams to provide a re-set going into the postseason. You can check out how the Hawks first-round opponent feels at CelticsBlog to get fired up for the sure-fire emotional first round series.

Three Peachtree Hoops writers, Jason Walker, Kris Willis and William Sevidal, answered some basic questions about the season and what's possibly ahead for the Hawks

Team Record: 40-26, 4th in the Eastern Conference

How would you describe the Hawks in the regular season? (i.e. did
they exceed expectations just by reaching the playoffs? Did they
disappoint? etc.)

Kris: The Hawks were written off by many before the season even started and before Al Horford was lost for the duration of the season just 11 games into the campaign. The clearly exceeded expectations by once again securing home court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs.

Jason: The Hawks even surpassed my expectation (36 wins) which was more than most national and team-specific predictions -- and that was before Al Horford, the aforethought heart and soul of the team, went down to a season ending injury. Winning 40 games without obviously missing a beat after Horford's injury and securing home court for the first round was impressive.

William: Without a doubt, I would say that the regular season was a success. When you're 1 of 9 teams to win at least 40 games, even after your All-star Center goes down an injury, it's pretty impressive. Also, the Hawks have made strides this season when it comes to maturity. Maybe it was the added "veteran presence" in the locker room, but this team has shown they can win on the road now. The Hawks had a winning road record this season, something they haven't done since the 98-99 season.

What are the Hawks strengths? Are there any areas that concern you?

Kris: The Hawks have quietly become a pretty good defensive team this season and have been a prolific three-point shooting team of late. A major concern would be their depth at the center position after Al Horford was ruled out for the first round of the playoffs and Zaza Pachulia's status is uncertain due to a foot injury.

Jason: Atlanta's strength going into the season is still a strength today, if not more. That strength is the longevity and familiarity that the key players on the team have with each other. This was going to be an advantage in an abbreviated preseason and throughout a condensed regular season.

William: Health is easily the main concern. The injury bug has not been nice to this team at all this season, even though Larry Drew tries the best he can to limit the amount of minutes all of his players get. But with that concern and problem, comes the strength that I thought they didn't have coming into the season, which was depth. With so many injuries happening to the Hawks, players like Ivan Johnson, Jannero Pargo, Zaza Pachulia and Willie Green had the chance to show what they are capable of that they might not have gotten if players were healthy.

What is your likely playoff rotation? Who is likely to see their
minutes increase? Who might fall out of the rotation completely?

Kris: This is an interesting question given that one of the Hawks biggest strengths this season has been its overall depth. Playoff rotations will no doubt shrink but projecting it is further complicated due to the uncertainty of Zaza Pachulia's status. Ivan Johnson is a player who could see his minutes increase substantially while some combination of Vladimir Radmanovic, Jannero Pargo or Willie Green could lose time.

Jason: The absence, at least for a spell, of a center given Horford and now Pachulia's unavailability, means that Jason Collins will play more, as will Ivan Johnson, in their stead.

William: I don't see Larry Drew changing his rotations much at all. I still think he'll go 9-10 deep like he usually does, but I believe Tracy McGrady, Marvin Williams and Ivan Johnson will get more minutes than usual while Jannero Pargo, Willie Green, and maybe Kirk Hinrich receive less minutes.

Who is most likely to step up their level of play? Do you have a
potential "breakout" peformer this postseason?

Kris: Josh Smith stepped up the entire season after Al Horford was lost to a season-ending injury. I can't imagine it being any different in the playoffs.

Jason: Jeff Teague, while coming forward in the Chicago series last season, is still surprisingly under the radar nationally, and he is such a key factor in games for the Hawks that, now that every game is a national broadcast, and that his first matchup will be a spotlighted one against Rajon Rondo, he'll either shine or be shined in the series. Given what I've seen when Teague is in attack mode, which he will surely be against Rondo, he'll shine and continue his development as the key piece to the Hawks future fortunes.

William: Give me Tracy McGrady. His play in the regular season was erratic and inconsistent to say the least, but I believe that when it really counts and there's something to play for, the little "superstar" that he still has inside him will come out. He has shown flashes this month that he is still a capable player that can really contribute, and I think he'll (have to) play a part if the Hawks find any success.

How far can you realistically see the Hawks advancing in the playoffs?

Kris: Realistically I could see anything happening in this lockout shortened season. The Hawks have overcome adversity the entire season and I expect another classic matchup with the Celtics. Realistically I see them somehow surviving Boston thanks to home court and putting up somewhat of a fight in the second round before falling. Of realistically speaking I didn't think they could capture home court without a full season from Al Horford.

Jason: They can beat the Celtics, but it'll be tough sledding given the up front injury situation, and a second round matchup against Chicago or Miami seems farther fetched without a guarantee that Pachulia/Horford is available to the team.

William: Tough to tell. You just never know this with this team. In my opinion, their ceiling is Eastern Conference Finals, while their floor is getting eliminated really early in the first round. If I had to really give a prediction, I can see the Hawks getting a first round "upset" over the Celtics and losing in the 2nd round.