Written by: Matthew Blunk
a minute there, it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the Atlanta Hawks
might take that next step in their development as a basketball team.
Last season, they dispatched the Orlando Magic in the first round of the
playoffs in six games before falling to the Chicago Bulls in the
Semifinals. This season, Atlanta started out hot and eventually clinched
the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They drew the Boston Celtics
as their opponents, a team on its last collective legs. After a
promising win in Game 1 of the series, the Hawks dropped four of the
next five and found themselves in a familiar position - at home,
watching the rest of the NBA playoffs.
And so now they are left with questions. Is Joe Johnson worth $119 million? Can he lead a team any further than the Semifinals? Does Josh Smith figure in to the team's future? These aren't exactly simple questions to answer. One thing is certain - Smith has requested a trade. The Hawks will have to address his request this summer. Could they work out a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team in desperate need of some change, to perhaps acquire forward-center Pau Gasol? Smith-and-pieces for Gasol and Steve Blake? Nothing can really be ruled out at this point. Both teams need new looks, so it makes sense to at least discuss a trade.
Atlanta is essentially all-in with Johnson, though. His colossal contract is, for all intents and purposes, unmovable. So they have to move ahead and continue building around him and Al Horford. When healthy, Horford is the team's best player. His reliable jumper and undeniable ability to rebound the ball are vital to the Hawks' success. But at times, he is forced to play out of position at center. Horford is a pure power forward. In a perfect world, Atlanta would sign Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard if/when he fits free agency. He'd be the final piece to the puzzle for them, and a Horford/Howard frontline would be unmatched in the Association. On top of all that, Howard is an Atlanta, GA native. But Howard seems more interested in bigger markets and expanding his "brand." And the Hawks would struggle to manage paying Johnson, Horford, and Howard. But hey, if the Miami Heat could do it...
Realistically, the Hawks could use some depth. A lot of depth. With Kirk Hinrich poised to become a free agent, they will need a backup point guard. Re-signing the reliable veteran is certainly a possibility, but durability could be an issue. Hinrich missed a significant portion of 2011-12 with a shoulder injury. Small forward is a critical spot for the Hawks, as they currently have Marvin Williams manning the position. Williams has his strengths, but is best suited for a role coming off the bench. Atlanta's biggest needs are point guard and at the three, as they have decent reserve bigs in Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia.
The Hawks are in the no man's land of the NBA. They lack a dominant star player they can rely on to consistently get the team deep into the playoffs, and yet they have more than enough talent to get to the second round. They can either make a splash with a trade and try to get over the top that way, or they can just bring in a few decent vets to flesh out the depth. Whatever the case, change is coming to Atlanta.
Perhaps you missed “Inside the NBA” on Sunday night following the Thunders demolishment of the Houston Rockets. If so, let me fill you in on a comment made by Charles Barkley referring to the day’s activities. Sir Charles stated “This may be the worst playoffs we have ever seen.” …
With the NBA playoffs just under way it is time to take a quick look back at the regular season and evaluate which individual players and coach made the greatest contributions to their respective franchises success this year.
We will start our in-depth analysis with Most Valuable Player, Candidates: LeBron James
Most observers of the NBA have all but already anointed the Miami Heat as the 2013 Eastern Conference Champions. In the West there seems to be more of a competition but the overwhelming opinion has the Oklahoma City Thunder emerging from there to meet the Heat. …