Chad Ford picks the Hawks to finish 9th in the East and eight other ESPN.com writers pick them to finish somewhere between 11th and 15th in the Conference. Outlier John Hollinger predicts (quite bravely, I say) a 42-40 record and the 7th seed in the East. His prose, however, hints at a reasonable undercurrent of pessimism:
"For a rebuilding team, there comes a time when they accumulate so many high first-round draft picks that, regardless of how badly they've been run, they almost can't help but become a decent team. For the Hawks, that time has come."and
"A lot of people disregard this, but sometimes a team can improve very rapidly merely by replacing awful players with average ones. And you'd have a hard time finding two players more awful than Claxton (PER 7.37) and Wright (6.65) were last season. Furthermore, unlike most awful players, they played a lot -- more than 2,000 minutes between them. Thus, just swapping them with a replacement-level player would add over three or more wins to Atlanta's total. Replacing them with somebody halfway decent should double or triple the effect."Impending Firestorm is two games less optimistic than Hollinger.
Projected Record: 40-42. I’d like to think Atlanta could hit .500, but let’s not go crazy here. It’s hard for a team to turn around and win 12 games more than they did the previous season.David Berri comes to a similar conclusion at The Wages of Wins Journal:
"Can this team post a winning record? It’s possible, but it requires the Hawks be healthy, that they put their most productive players on the court, and put these players in the right position. So far all that hasn’t happened very consistently. Still, if it did happen, the same old Hawks might actually win a few more games."Jack McCallum suggests of the Hawks, "I do see a team that can challenge for the playoffs in the East.”
The magazine itself pegs the Hawks 13th in the East and Ion Thomsen talks with at least one anonymous advance scout who really doesn't like Josh Smith:
"I give them no hope of making the playoffs. Josh Smith is the embodiment of all of their problems...Where do we begin with Smith? He'll dunk it three times straight, and next time down he'll want to see if he can get the three-point shot working and so he'll throw one up out of the flow ... clank. Or he'll make some stupid pass into the third row, or he'll jump in the air and throw it at somebody's knees like Nolan Ryan from 10 feet away..."It continues it that vein for another 200 or so words.
Peter Pan Complex's predicted 45 wins don't rest on a difference of opinion about Smith's past but rather on optimism about his future.
"Smith is really the key to the success of this team. If Woodson employs a high tempo offense, J-Smoove will be the catalyst. Remember, he'll be just 22 years old in December. He has the ability to become a superstar and he is already well on his way, but his attitude and lack of leadership have derailed team chemistry and led to distractions on the court. Smoove needs to mature this year and be a leader on and off the floor. Hopefully the winning attitude brought by Horford and the gritty example Law sets will have a positive impact on Josh."Marty Burns thinks Atlanta has two of the NBA's ten impact rookies.
10. Acie Law IV: “The 6-3 point guard from Texas A&M has shown flashes in the preseason of a Chris Paul-like breakout in Atlanta, but he might not log enough minutes. Hawks coach Mike Woodson is under pressure to win now, which means he'll probably go with veterans Anthony Johnson and Speedy Claxton for the bulk of the QB duties.”At the NBA Fanhouse's Valley of the Most Likely, Shoals writes that the Hawks will be underappreciated
3. Al Horford: “Like [Al] Thornton, Horford appears ready to step in and make an immediate contribution for his club. The former Florida Gator was averaging 11.7 points, 8.9 boards and 2.0 blocks in 30.1 minutes in the preseason, and coach Mike Woodson swears he has no fear about throwing Horford into the mix right away. Look for him to be a solid pro right from opening night.”
“Here's a bold prediction: The Atlanta Hawks will sniff .500 this season, and be one of the league's most entertaining teams. Call them the second coming of the 2001 Clippers.”I think he might have meant the 2002 Clippers.
Over at Freedarko.com, Shoals, Billups, the Brown Recluse, Esq., and Dr. Lawyer IndianChief preview every player.
Player preview I most hope comes to pass:
Stoudamire, Salim: will score 45 in a game.John Schuhmann starts the Hawks at 23 in the NBA.com Power Rankings.
Finally, Charley Rosen is wrong about Josh Childress (“…Josh Childress has yet to become more than a superior athlete who struggles to find his niche in the NBA…”) who, if he can find a useful niche in the dysfunctional Hawks teams he's played for, can find a niche anywhere in the league.
Rosen's conclusion about the Hawks reads as eminently reasonable:
“If Law and Horford can have an immediate impact, if JJ can stay healthy, if Williams makes a quantum leap, and if Smith has undergone a personality transplant, then the Hawks just might surpass last season's total of 30 wins. In any event, they'll continue being a dangerous team at home, but chumps on the road.”