The Hawks are going to be better. They haven't improved enough to worry the elites, but keeping Bibby, Pachulia and Marvin Williams and adding Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith seals them as No. 4 in the East.John Hollinger's outlook is similar to that which I've advanced this summer: 44 wins and 4th in the East:
The Hawks bring back the same team that won 47 games a year ago, with a few upgrades: Teague offers a vast improvement over the departed Law as a fourth guard, and Joe Smith provides a fourth big man that simply didn't exist a year ago.The emphasis is mine. Great minds and all that.
On paper, all that should make the Hawks a better team than a year ago, but not so fast. Crawford is a better player than Murray if you're comparing careers, but he'll be hard-pressed to match the season Murray put together a year ago. Similarly, Pachulia and Bibby may also struggle to match their solid 2008-09 campaigns.
And the Hawks aren't as youthful as they once were. While they still own three 23-year-olds in the frontcourt, the four veteran backcourt players are 31, 30, 29 and 28; additionally, Smith is 34 and Pachulia's listed age of 25 is only believable if you use a 500-day calendar.
Between the limited scope for improvement and the lack of star power, it seems the Hawks shouldn't be much worse than a year ago … but neither should they be any better. It's quite possible they'll finish this season in the exact same position as last season -- at the top of the East's pretender heap, but miles away from the ruling Cleveland-Boston-Orlando trinity.