Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is this week. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next few weeks. This week is the Southeast Division. Today is the Atlanta Hawks.
2011-12 Record: 40-26, lost first round
Key Losses: Joe Johnson (traded to Nets), Marvin Williams (traded to Jazz), Willie Green (traded to L.A. Clippers)
Key Acquisitions: Devin Harris (traded from Jazz), Kyle Korver (signed from Chicago), Anthony Morrow (traded from Nets)
|Jeff Teague||Devin Harris||Josh Smith||Zaza Pachulia||Al Horford|
|Louis Williams||Kyle Korver||John Jenkins||Ivan Johnson||Johan Petro|
|Anthony Morrow||DeShawn Stevenson||Mike Scott||Anthony Tolliver|
The Hawks are a versatile bunch. Larry Drew will be able to imagine and create whatever kind of lineup he wants this year as just about every player can play at least two positions. Josh Smith is a perfect representative of this roster.
Smtih can play the three or the four and is one of the most athletically gifted players in the NBA. This is his team now with Joe Johnson shipped out in a trade and Smith playing for a new contract — with Atlanta or otherwise. But he is not the only guy that can provide a difficult matchup for any team.
Devin Harris is the ultimate hybrid point guard in the NBA as he is a player that can both be a point guard and direct a team and a solid scorer. Harris has not quite recaptured his All-Star form from 2009, but with a strong supporting cast around him, it seems like he could maintain his production from the last few years.
Additionally, Louis Williams provides much the same scoring punch off the bench at the point guard position and Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia are equally capable of playing either post position and playing together when necessary.
The Hawks should, with "Iso Joe" out and Larry Drew perhaps a bit more willing to draw up new plays, be an exciting team. There just are not many players on this roster who need the team to slow down. I suspect Jeff Teague and Devin Harris will have this team getting out on the break where it can really take advantage of all of Josh Smith's talents.
The problem is the Hawks gave up a lot of depth to gain that versatility, especially in the front court.
Atlanta does not quite know if it can depend on Johan Petro, a player who has always been a role player but never quite much more than that… and sometimes not even a role player. That means the center position will largely be manned by Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford almost exclusively. Ivan Johnson proved to be a nice energy player, but is Josh Smith able to play more power forward?
Versatility is both a gift and a curse, it would seem.
Atlanta is in the process it seems of rebuilding its roster in preparation for some future changes while still holding onto the (recent) past glory of the Hawks playoff runs. No Joe Johnson means there are still some shifting in the offense away from Joe Johnson and toward Al Horford, Josh Smith and, possibly, Devin Harris.
This seems like a half-hearted rebuild. The Hawks knew they needed to make a change because the team was not doing much better than a strong regular season and a first-round exit or second-round exit to the elite teams. Change needed to happen. But did the Hawks begin a rebuilding project or consign themselves to mediocrity?
That is the question the Hawks are left answering. And it remains a big question for this team throughout the season.
Josh Smith's free agency looms this summer and he has made it pretty clear that he will explore his options and hit free agency next summer. Again, Atlanta has one foot in the Playoffs and competing among the East's elite and one foot out. That is the struggle for Atlanta at the moment.
Where does this Hawks team go next year? Where does it go this year?
The mystery of which way this balancing act goes likely has the Hawks a bit on edge. There is already speculation that arguably Atlanta's best player, Josh Smith, is on the trade block as the team does not want to lose the talented and athletic forward for nothing.
That might make or break Atlanta's season. And in the end, the Hawks' bid to get better and into the elite of the Eastern Conference does not seem to be accomplished. Atlanta is still a middle-of-the-road team in the Eastern Conference. That is probably not where the Hawks want to be any more.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Hawks? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by using the hashtag #HawksDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Hawks throughout the day.