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Mailbag: Nets draft pick, Playoff scenarios and the eternal Al Horford power forward debate

In this week's mailbag we discuss potential playoff opponents and the age old debate over Al Horford and the center position.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Another great turnout for this week's mailbag. Want to thank everyone for their submissions. This was probably the most questions I have ever received for one of these. Obviously, I couldn't answer all of them so if yours didn't get picked we will do this again some time soon.

Lets get to it.

With Brooklyn looming in the schedule this week, it got me thinking, why hasn't the possibility of a lottery pick for one of the top teams in the NBA generated more intrigue? How high do you think this pick will go and who do you think is the best fit (not best player) for this team? (Editors note: Received this question before Wednesday's game against the Nets)

I don't think its gone unnoticed because we have certainly discussed the ramifications for the Joe Johnson trade on numerous occasions. Honestly, situations like this one aren't that uncommon in the league either. Most of the national media outlets are focused on the season and haven't even started preparing for the draft in any way. A lot probably assumed that the Joe Johnson deal was amazing for the Hawks given that they came away with nothing but expiring contracts and what could possibly be a lottery pick. Brooklyn gambled that they would be a title contender at this juncture but it sets Atlanta up for a bright future.

If the Nets miss the playoffs and barring something extreme happening in the lottery drawing, the pick figures to be in the back half of the lottery. I have seen a lot of things suggesting that the Nets should tank. They have zero incentive to do that given that the Hawks can take their pick. They are looking to unload at least one of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez but are looking for something significant in return. That doesn't appear likely but the Hawks stand to benefit greatly from this move by Danny Ferry.

Just realized the Hawks have basically come out of nowhere to have an amazing year. But no one player in the League's Top 20 scoring leaders. How are they getting it done? Who is their leader? Who is making the subtle contributions that don't show up on the stat sheet?

My advice would be that you should watch this team more. You will enjoy what you see. The Hawks are often compared to the Spurs but critics are quick to point out that they don't have Hall of Fame players like Tim Duncan and even Tony Parker. This Hawks team is showing that maybe the gap in talent isn't quite as significant as some would lead you to be.

The beautiful thing about this team is that they really don't care about individual success. They go out and do their job with the single goal of winning basketball games. That is how one night you see Jeff Teague as the difference maker and then the next night its Paul Millsap. Collapse on the interior and Kyle Korver can bury you. The Hawks are the definition of team basketball and as a purest its refreshing to watch on a nightly basis.

Seeing as we've had "How to beat the Hawks" dicussions this week, which of the Eastern Conference playoff contenders do you believe has the best chance to defeat the Hawks?

Just looking at the Eastern Conference, I still say its the Bulls if they can get to the postseason healthy. They are an experienced group that are just capable of locking up a team defensively. Joakim Noah can disrupt so much by himself and now you mast factor in Jimmy Butler who is having an All-Star season. That is without mentioning Derrick Rose and a great coach in Tom Thibodeau. They are going through their own share of drama now but they remain a team that I wouldn't be in any hurry to see in a seven-game series.

The other obvious answer is Cleveland. No one wants to face a player the caliber of LeBron James in the playoffs. The Cavaliers have to figure things out defensively and minimize the media circus that always surrounds them but that is an explosive and dangerous team.

Could Coach Bud leave us for the Spurs when Pop retires?

Of course he could. Ettore Messina has filled in for Gregg Popovich some this season but should Pop step down, you have to figure that one of the first calls San Antonio would make would be to Mike Budenholzer. The job Budenholzer has done in Atlanta shows just how great of a coach and a teacher he is. He is about to shoot way up the head coach rankings. He will have no shortage of suitors should he become available. That isn't something that we have to worry about right now but whoever ends up buying the franchise will need to make sure they secure Budenholzer for the long haul.

Is rebounding really that big of an issue for the Hawks? It seems like that always gets mentioned as the biggest Hawks issue. Is there anyway to ‘fix' the problem with the current roster? Or is the issue a byproduct of the way the Hawks play?

Yes rebounding is still an issue for the Hawks but you are on to something with your next two questions. Part of Atlanta's rebounding problem is with their roster make up but part of it has to do with their system. Coach Bud recently talked about the issues and admitted that the team seldom focuses on offensive rebounds and instead focuses their efforts on getting back in transition defense where they rank as one of the best teams in the league. Its a give or take proposition many times.

Atlanta is undersized up front but they often use that to their advantage on the offensive end of the floor. Critics may say that won't work in the playoffs but the Hawks pushed the No. 1 seed to seven-games last season with that exact philosophy and while playing without Al Horford.

I haven't tracked it to be exact but most nights the Hawks just need to be close to even in rebounding to give themselves a chance to win. They combat their lack of size up front by using a group effort on the boards. The coaching staff encourages and requires that every player focus on rebounding.

So yeah it is still an issue and bigger teams still present a problem for this Hawks team especially if the pace slows down. But, some of that is a trade off where they have chosen to excel in other areas.

Are there any coaches on Bud's staff that might be in line for a head coaching job?

To early to speculate on this since we don't know what jobs will be open at the end of the season. One of the pitfalls of having an excellent coaching staff is that other teams usually come calling at the end of the season. The Hawks saw this happen last summer when Utah tabbed Quin Snyder as its head coach. The two names I would keep the closest eye on would be Kenny Atkinson and Darvin Ham.

How many more people have to ask about acquiring a "true center" and moving Al to PF before your head explodes?

Best question of the entire mailbag! You'd think that being selected as an All-Star center three times in a career would silence some of this talk. The reasoning for this move that some people use is ridiculous. Sure, with Horford at center, the Hawks give away a bit of size in the front court. As I mentioned a couple of questions ago, Horford presents a mismatch for more traditional centers on the offensive end of the floor. Horford is a smart defender as well and uses his basketball IQ to his advantage against bigger defenders.

I am a big proponent of the Horford/Millsap combo. I'm fine with moving Horford to power forward if it makes the team better. Put Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah or Marc Gasol next to him and you will get no debate from me. But, putting a random one dimensional seven-footer next to Horford just to add size isn't going to accomplish much in my opinion.

The Hawks were pretty clear that they see Horford as a center and in Mike Budenholzer's system he's really a perfect fit. Still I don't see this question going away any time soon.

What is the most likely scenario before the trade deadline? We trade for a veteran frontline rebounder? Another effective combo guard? I think having another banger on the inside who can post up would be good, or a wing who can slash and score.

I think the most likely scenario is that they stand pat. First they have the maximum of 15 players with guaranteed contracts. They can't add anyone without shedding someone. Guys like John Jenkins, Mike Muscala and even Shelvin Mack probably won't bring back a lot in return. Plus the Hawks would risk upsetting their chemistry which has been one fo the team's biggest weapons.

I have seen a lot that suggests Atlanta needs to add another big. I don't understand that line of thinking with Elton Brand rested and only seeing spot minutes. Brand may be better now than any big currently available. Atlanta is still high on Muscala who has shown that he may be ready for a bigger role and they also have Adreian Payne.

If a roster spot suddenly became open then maybe you look to add a free agent but I don't foresee anything major in terms of roster moves for the team. Its most likely going to be a quiet trade deadline in Atlanta this season.