Gonna say it right now: As currently constituted, the Atlanta Hawks will be better than the Brooklyn Nets.— Jason Walker (@JasonWalkerSBN) July 12, 2012
Lost in the awesome glitz of the Brooklyn Nets bringing in recognizable names and their chase for Dwight Howard is the context that comes with how much they may have improved and assessing their place in the standings for next season.
We've seen and heard folks saying that the Nets are now a second round playoff team, which would represent a top four finish in the East and probably a 50 win season to get to that level.
To frame that level of accomplishment: That's a 23 win improvement that would be needed, the biggest for the Nets since Jason Kidd joined Kenyon Martin with a healthy Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles (26 win improvement) in 2001-2002.
It's possible -- everything is possible -- but it assumes that a team based around Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez is better than all but three other teams in the East.
Will they be? They might, but I don't believe they'll be better than the currently constructed Atlanta Hawks.
Before you fall to the floor laughing, consider that while the Hawks have dealt Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, this didn't gut the team or even constitute a rebuild. Instead, they still have two, young, all-star caliber players in Josh Smith and two-time all-star Al Horford in the lineup to play with up front.
They have added Lou Williams, who sported a 20+ PER last season and 6th man runner up as well as having point guard Jeff Teague, who continues to improve, putting six win shares and a 16 PER on the board last season, in the backcourt for next season.
Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Zaza Pachulia add depth at point guard, three-point shooting and up front respectively. They also added John Jenkins, expected to be the best shooter coming out of the 2012 NBA draft.
The Hawks won 60 percent of their games last year, mostly without Al Horford.
The Nets won 33 percent of their games last year, mostly without Brook Lopez.
Is a healthy Brook Lopez, a full season of Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson worth the 23 win difference between the Nets and Hawks from last season? Sure, Mirza Teletovic is headed to Brooklyn, but Kris Humphries may not.
It's understandable for pundits and fans to overlook the Hawks because of the deals and underestimate the team left behind. Yes, Joe Johnson is gone, but they just played at a 50-win level season without one all-star, and they replaced Joe's scoring with a 20+ PER player who can fill it up. How far back should they fall?
When comparing the two teams, as they stand right now, I'll take the team whose playoff core is still in place and have added key skills over a team that, while you have to like the way they've been aggressive to try and improve, still look to coalesce, climb into the playoffs and prove they are at that level.
Not hating on the Nets, just reminding folks that there is a lot left on the court with these Hawks.