Previously: Josh Smith, Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia, Maurice Evans, Josh Powell, Jordan Crawford, Etan Thomas and Jason Collins, Pape Sy
Larry Drew has been given a difficult task: use the same materials as his dismissed predecessor to improve on success. Nor is there a particular skill on which Drew can rely. He must bring along young players (Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague immediately, Jordan Crawford and possibly Pape Sy eventually), consolidate the development of the franchise's cornerstone talent (Josh Smith and Al Horford), minimize the effects of decline from two of the primary returning ball-handlers (Jamal Crawford and Mike Bibby), postpone the decline of the franchise's greatest investment (Joe Johnson), and overcome a worrying lack of frontcourt depth and talented defenders.
Further complicating matters, Drew is a different but not a new voice in the locker room. Can a familiar man in a new position enact fundamental change within an organization that prizes stability if not outright stasis? Will players accede to change if rewards are not immediate? If the players resist, will the organization give Drew greater support than his contract suggests?
Rhetorically, Drew hasn't put a foot wrong yet. His desires to make the team more difficult to guard and to demand accountability on defense are unimpeachable. But wants do not always produce matching behavior and we likely won't know for weeks, if not months, whether Drew is capable of getting what he reasonably wants from his players much less if defensive accountability matters when so many of those being held accountable lack competence.
Whether the gamble on Drew pays off for the Atlanta Hawks or not won't be known (if you assume, as I do, that the Hawks will have one of the eight best regular season records in the Eastern Conference) until after the playoffs. Even then, the answer may not fully reflect Drew's capabilities as an NBA head coach. Mike Woodson was a better and more accomplished head coach at the time the Hawks declined to renew his services than either day they signed him to a contract. A head coach pays both for his mistakes and those of the organization. If Dwane Casey were here, he'd likely agree.
This I believe...
I believe the Atlanta Hawks will be different under Drew and I'm willing to predict how they'll be different.
I believe the 2010-11 Atlanta Hawks will win 47 games.
I don't believe that necessarily means the team will be worse in April 2011 than they were in April 2010.
I believe the Hawks will play 7 games in the first round of the playoffs.
I believe the Hawks will win that series if they have home-court advantage and lose that series if they do not.
I believe the Hawks, should they reach the second round of the playoffs, will lose at that stage.
I believe the Hawks, should they reach the second round of the playoffs, will win at least one game in that series.
I believe that Jamal Crawford will sorely miss Mike Woodson and produce closer to his career averages than his career highs.
I believe there's a decent chance that Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford combine to miss more than 1 games to injury in 2010-11.
I believe that, as of October 27, 2010, the Hawks will not have a single good option to play point guard.
I believe that Josh Powell will be given every chance to prove that he's a below replacement level player.
I believe that the Hawks will go from being 7% more efficient than the average NBA offense to 3-4% more efficient than the average NBA offense
I believe that their improvements in eFG% (where they should move into the top 10) and FT Rate (where they'll approach the league) will be more than offset by a decline in turnover rate (from league best to league average) and offensive rebounding (from top 5 to top 12).
I believe that the Hawks will be largely the same defensively, within 1% of the league average in defensive efficiency.
I believe they'll better the league average in forcing turnovers, approach the league average in defensive rebounding, fall below the league average in eFG%, and fall out of the top 10 in opponents' FT Rate.
I believe that the decline in opponents' FT Rate will be due both to committing more fouls and from not benefiting from their opponents shooting so far below the league average from the stripe. Had the Hawks' opponents made free throws at a league average rate last season, they would have finished 16th, rather than 13th, in defensive efficiency.
I believe that (non-systematic) predictions this specific are hubristic to the point of absurdity, basically indefensible, and worthy of disagreement, if not snark.