With the regular season opener for the Atlanta Hawks just a day away some of the Peachtree Hoops staff shares their views on some of the pressing questions facing the Atlanta Hawks this season.
1. What is your prediction for the season? Record and Playoff Prospects
Jason Walker - 44-38, 1st round exit
Kris Willis - My prediction is 44-38 and somewhere between 6-8 in the East standings. I see this team as bowing out in the first round of the playoffs. If this team struggles then I expect this roster to look a lot different by the time the season ends.
HawkStr8Talk - My prediction is a 42-40 season with a first round exit if the team does not make a move throughout the season to make or prepare for a big move in 2014-2015. If we move big assets, then I expect a 35-47 season and a prayer closet for all Hawks fans come lottery time.
Throw - I think the Hawks will go 47-35. With the current roster I see them going into the playoffs as the number 7 or 8 seed but unfortunately with a first round exit. Again that is if we keep the current roster because it is very possible there may be a mid-season trade
2. Who will you be watching most this season and why?
JW - Al Horford, to see if there is another level to his game and to see how well he fits the role of team leader.
KW - Dennis Schröder because if he shows that he is capable of running the team then he could make Jeff Teague an appealing trade chip down the road. In the meantime he and Teague together can form a solid one-two punch at the point guard position.
Str8Talk - Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. The guys with the longest contracts on the team will be under the most scrutiny in HS8T land because either they make a significant leap in production that solidifies the need to keep them or boosts their value in the trade market OR they prove to be the first real demerits of the Ferry era.
Throw - Tough choice, I would say Millsap but we already know what we can get from him. Instead I am going to go with Jeff Teague. I think that we will see Teague take another step and with the absence of Josh he may open some eyes across the league. With the players that Teague is surrounded with, he looks to take another step in his assist numbers. If he does not end up improving, it will be interesting to see if he is moved to give Schröder a chance
3. Considering that this is a transition year, what pieces are missing to make this team a championship contender?
JW - Top end talent, guys who are no-doubt, end-of-the-game guys. If the expected vision of Danny Ferry for the team is indeed San Antonio, then you can look at the Spurs triumvirate of Parker-Ginobili-Duncan as the pieces to find/develop.
KW - A strong defensive presence on the wing and at center would go a long way in improving this squad. A legitimate answer at the small forward position would also be ideal. DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver would be excellent pieces for a championship team off the bench.
Str8Talk - Elite players at any level. Unfortunately, the Hawks have a lot of average to good players on the roster and, while that will provide you wins against the majority of the league, it doesn't project well in the postseason. Superstars win playoff series. Good teams make superstars work to show why they are considered superstars. Elite players (at least 2) would make the average to good players on this roster shine.
Throw - Outside of a true superstar (tongue in cheek) The thing that we are missing is the thing that we have been struggling with the past few seasons. This an interior rebounder and defender. Yes Horford is an all-star center no matter how much this is brought up, but it would help if we just had that pure shot-blocker in the paint...........something hopefully Nogueira can help with
4. Lots of debate about the Hawks and tanking - what's your take?
JW - I'm not a big believer in intending to stink -- just too competitive for that. If the team built around youth and just happened to be that way, though....I'm good with that. In other words -- I can't stomach watching a bunch of NBA has-been stinking their way through a season, but a youthful group of rebuilding talent makes the lottery feel like another step towards a championship.
On second thought...too late to pass?
KW - The Hawks are taking an interesting path at trying to retool while staying competitive. The Dallas Mavericks are another team that is going a similar route. At the moment I am ok with it but I think you have to question the move should the team end up as the eighth seed or just miss out on the postseason.
Str8Talk - I'm pro-whatever it takes to have at least one ping pong ball in the 2014 lottery. If that's a trade or if that's by record, our biggest missing piece is elite talent. So, I am not in favor of open shenanigans to rig the result of a non-playoff team, but I'd understand and quickly get over it should it result in the type of talent we need. But if our team decides to focus on developing our young talent with the most upside, you'll get no argument from me.
Throw - Honestly if we were to tank, it would be a tough year to get a good picks since there area few teams that I feel we can't out-tank at the moment (76ers, Boston, etc.). With how the roster is built, I'm going to guess that by Christmas time Ferry is going to decide who stays on the roster and who gets sent out for assets. But if we are talking about tanking come the beginning of the season then I am okay with that. Either way I am fine with where this team is headed since for once we have a GM that I actually trust.
5. Who is the X factor for this team?
JW - It's Dennis Schröder, whose game may elevate him past Teague sooner rather than later and also doubles as the most interesting player on the team.
KW - Lou Williams. If Lou comes back healthy and is the same player he was before the injury then it gives the Hawks another legitimate scoring threat off the bench. This team struggled to put points on the board during the preseason and getting Lou back could be the equivalent of a midseason trade. Hopefully he is back sooner rather than later.
Str8Talk - John Jenkins. For one simple reason, if he's not an elite shooter with better defensive skill than Kyle Korver - it calls into question two things. First would be Danny Ferry's ability to select players at the end of drafts, which is one element that is absolutely essential if you're going to try to remain competitive and rebuild. Second would be that you would suddenly hose the main value in a healthy Lou Williams and that's to bring scoring punch off the bench. For a team as small as ours, either we're going to drain jumpers or we're going to run. John Jenkins is going to be critical to the ‘drain jumpers' part of the equation.
Throw - DeMarre Carroll is unarguably my x-factor. With so many good players at the SF position in the league, we are going to need a player that can actively defend those players. Without Carroll I see us struggling big time to many teams in the league since he is really to me the only reliable option that we can have at that position to defend. If Carroll can hit a shot with consistency and be as active on offense, it will make life easier for everyone else on the offensive end.