The Atlanta Hawks have a revamped roster, and each member of this team has high expectations. This city is finished with seeing mediocre basketball from their franchise. To make this next step toward becoming a contender, though, the individuals composing this squad need to fulfill a few goals.
The Hawks made a step in the right direction by shipping Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for essentially cap space and prospects, but now, the organization needs solid execution from their players.
In a competitive Eastern Conference, boasting the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, the Hawks need efficient production to stay relevant in the playoff race.
Will either of these power forwards be relevant?
There is no denying that the Atlanta Hawks have depth at the big-man positions. With Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford, Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson and Johan Petro, there are few minutes to spare in coach Larry Drew's rotation.
This makes life difficult for power forwards Mike Scott and Jordan Williams.
Scott, who played collegiately for Virginia, was a second-round pick this year for the Hawks and recently signed a two-year, partially guaranteed contract. While his status on the team was uncertain, general manager Danny Ferry has stated that “Mike will be on the team this year,” according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Jordan Williams, on the other hand, is entering his sophomore season and was shipped over to the Hawks in the Joe Johnson trade. This prospect showed promise in his rookie year, averaging around five points in 14 minutes per contest but don't expect much improvement this season.
In fact, neither of these players will probably see the court too often.
Will these two sharpshooters shoot over/under 45 percent from downtown?
New acquisitions Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow were brought to Atlanta for only one reason: their respective three-point shooting abilities.
Korver, who was an active rotation player for the Chicago Bulls, shot nearly 44 percent from behind the arc last season, while Morrow, who was a fringe starter for the Brooklyn Nets this past year, nailed 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
While this question certainly raises a few eyebrows, as shooting 45 percent from downtown is truly a remarkable feat, both of these players are capable of accomplishing this task. This, in turn, would help open the floor for the team's slasher to penetrate the defense at will.
Who will assume backup center duties?
Everybody knows that Al Horford is going to be the starting center for the franchise when the start of the season rolls around, but who will be his primary backup?
For the past few years, this job has belonged to Zaza Pachulia. The Georgian center has been labeled somewhat of a dirty player with his physicality, occasional cheap shots and intense demeanor. Love him or not, though, Pachulia is quite productive when on the court.
The 6'11" big man averaged around eight points and eight rebounds per night.
Now, however, Pachulia must fend off the younger and more athletic Johan Petro for his backup center job. Petro, who really hasn't seen major minutes in his career, will certainly put up a solid fight for the position but will most likely fail in his quest to acquire Pachulia's spot in the rotation.
Is DeShawn Stevenson still capable of being a lockdown defender?
DeShawn Stevenson has made a name for himself for being a lockdown defender. Since his tenure as a Washington Wizard, Stevenson has been one of the more potent defenders in the entire Association.
His defensive prowess coupled with his ability to hit the open three-pointer has made him a valuable role player in the league. His services were heavily utilized by Dallas in the Mavericks' legendary postseason run in 2011.
Nonetheless, Stevenson is already 31 years old, and his athleticism is clearly diminishing. With few quality defenders on the roster, the Hawks are praying Stevenson can contain the league's elite. After all, the team faces the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, John Wall and Kemba Walker on a consistent basis.
Will John Jenkins see minutes in the rotation?
John Jenkins is arguably one of the more polished guards in this year's draft class. With incredible efficiency from behind the arc and an ability to penetrate the lane with ease, the first-round pick by the Hawks has the potential to become a true star in this league.
Will the former Vanderbilt star make his presence known this season, though?
With guards DeShawn Stevenson, Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Jeff Teague and Devin Harris in the rotation, the cards look like their stacked against the rookie. However, this prospect is talented, and Larry Drew will find minutes for him if he truly deserves the playing time.
Will Lou Williams contend in the Sixth Man of the Year Race?
Lou Williams was, by far, the most significant pickup for the Atlanta Hawks this past offseason. After sending Joe Johnson to Brooklyn, this combo guard, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers, will be assigned the task of primary perimeter scorer.
Sure, Williams may be coming off the bench but don't be surprised if he receives starter minutes. Last season, the 6'1" guard was arguably the second-best sixth man in the entire league, as he averaged around 15 points per game.
That's an impressive accomplishment, considering he played alongside competent scorers Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young.
Now, Williams really only has two other players, Al Horford and Josh Smith, who desire the ball on a consistent basis. This could be a huge year for the 25-year-old.
Will Devin Harris return to All-Star form?
Seems like a lifetime ago since Devin Harris was named an Eastern Conference reserve in an All-Star game. In fact, though, it was only three years ago.
During his tenure with the Nets, Harris was an energetic guard, who could score in a multitude of ways. His versatility and scoring prowess labeled him an elite facilitator in the East.
His change of scenery to Utah, however, didn't do the established veteran any favors. Instead, Harris faded somewhat into obscurity, as his statistics dropped off the map. The 6'3" guard averaged only 11 points and five assists per contest in 28 minutes of action.
Simply put, that is not effective, and the Hawks will need a better effort from this point guard.
Who will be the starting point guard next season?
Sticking with the topic of point guards, if Devin Harris does indeed break out this season, will he assume the starting point guard job? It's quite possible.
Jeff Teague, who is still considered a prospect at 24 years old, played quite well in his first season with full reign off the offense. He was a solid distributor, keeping the Hawks competitive every night.
However, there is no denying that Teague has yet to reach his full potential, and maybe, one year sent to the bench would help the facilitator refine his skills. A move like this should only occur, however, if Harris proves he is the more competent guard at this stage.
Could Ivan Johnson possibly become a starter in this league?
After being undrafted in 2007, Ivan Johnson exploded on the scene with the Atlanta Hawks last year. In his rookie season, the power forward out of San Bernardino put up six points and four rebounds per night off the pine.
Statistics, though, don't tell the full story, as his best contributions came off hustle plays and hard-nosed defense.
Johnson may never be an elite starter, but the 28-year-old could become a player capable of being inserted into the starting unit.
Will Al Horford fully recover from his torn pectoral muscle?
On a team featuring Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, Al Horford's pectoral muscle injury was a catastrophic blow. The 6'10" big man out of Florida was arguably the team's only consistent force, as he has become a two-time NBA All-Star.
Nevertheless, the Hawks are praying Horford's injury woes are behind him, and he can start leading this team once again. Atlanta may be in luck, also, as the big man excelled in last season's playoff matchup against the Celtics once he recovered from injury.
Fifteen points and eight rebounds in three games facing Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics is solid production, if you ask me.
Will Josh Smith finally hear his name called as an Eastern Conference All-Star?
The wait for Josh Smith to be named as a reserve in the All-Star game has been long and strenuous. Due to playing in the same conference as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Smith's chances of making the team take a drastic hit.
There is little-to-no hope the fans vote him in as a starter, so Smith must pray that coaches and executives across the league name him a bench player for the rather dismal contest.
Smith, who has deserved a spot for quite some time, has been beaten out for the honor by the likes of Gerald Wallace, Luol Deng and David Lee in recent years. Simply put, Smith is one of the more versatile and athletic players this league has ever seen, and if he puts up numbers similar to last year's production, he will surely be named a reserve.