When it comes to projecting the statistics of each and every member of the Atlanta Hawks roster for the 2012-13 NBA season, one question in particular comes to mind: Who will step up and fill the void left by the departure of Joe Johnson to Brooklyn?
Well, Josh Smith seems to be ready to take that leap and be the new face of the franchise, at least for now.
Smith is entering the ninth year of his career as one of the pillars of the Hawks’ aspirations this season, even though his future with the franchise seems to be as uncertain as ever.
Let’s take a look at his projected numbers along the ones of his teammates, both new and old, that will be looking to secure a playoff spot for Atlanta for the sixth consecutive year.
PPG (Points Per Game): 19.2
RPG (Rebounds Per Game): 9.5
3P% (Three-Point Percentage): 32.0
FG% (Field Goal Percentage): 50.0
BPG (Blocks Per Game): 1.7
Smith’s game might not be predictable, reliable or even appealing to sanity, but when the 26-year-old power forward is on his game, the numbers he puts up can be astounding.
I fully expect Smith to improve in each and every statistical category listed above compared to last season as he gets handed more responsibility.
Think about it. Is there a better X-factor for a “Nobody Believes in Us” team than a “Nobody Believes I Can Carry A Team” player?
Smith’s scoring will go up by virtue of taking more shots, but at the same time, Hawks fans can only hope those shots will come inside the three-point arc.
It’s no coincidence that Smith’s most effective season in terms of field-goal percentage came in the 2009-10 campaign, when he attempted exactly seven three-pointers (and made none).
His field goal percentage that year rose to 50.5 percent, a career best.
Contrast that with last season, when he took 109 three-pointers and had an effectiveness of 45.8 percent.
Smith’s commitment to scoring inside will raise his game and help the Hawks attain the versatility it needs to be successful on offense.
FG %: 57.3
As I already said before, Horford has become part of the core of Atlanta’s roster, along with Smith, and could have a memorable year that consolidates him as one of the league’s best centers.
Granted, the absence of Joe Johnson will mean more double-teams for the 26-year-old Dominican center, but Johnson’s departure will also mean an even more heightened commitment by the Hawks to get the ball inside.
Horford was hampered by a shoulder injury that limited him to just 11 regular season games last year, but let’s not forget that he missed a total of six contests in the previous two seasons.
His durability should be there once again this season, so I expect him to come back to or even exceed his pre-injury numbers.
Horford should be a factor in a division where the Hawks might have the upper hand when it comes to dominating the painted area.
As my colleague, Hunter Kosens, pointed out in his column last week, Williams could become the Hawks’ version of Manu Ginobili.
In other words, a primary bench player that plays starter minutes and jump starts the offense with the second unit.
Williams is no stranger to coming off the bench considering he has started 38 games in his seven-year career.
Each and every one of those appearances came in the 2009-10 season, when the Philadelphia 76ers went 27-55.
The fact that Williams may not be in the starting five doesn’t mean that he won’t be an important piece for Atlanta.
His 14.9 career scoring average should go up along with his attempts from the outside, as he gets plenty of open looks with Horford being double-teamed in the paint.
In a guard-driven league such as today’s NBA, it is always good to have a veteran, steady presence to steer your team and press the right buttons.
I expect his scoring numbers to go down with Horford, Smith and Williams taking the bulk of the shots, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if he becomes more of a distributor and nears his career-high mark of 7.6 assists per game.
As far as whether Harris or Jeff Teague should be the starting point guard, I lean towards Harris. Experience trumps potential this time around.
There is no denying that Teague made great strides last season.
The 24-year-old point guard increased his minutes per game from 13 to 33, more than doubling his points per game in the process as he started each and every single regular-season game for the Hawks.
Teague achieved all that while marveling NBA fans with plays like this.
Teague has shown a lot of potential and proved he belongs, but let’s not get carried away and anoint him the next Derrick Rose or the guy who will make everyone forget the Hawks drafted Marvin Williams instead of Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA draft.
Teague will continue improving and be an asset for Larry Drew’s team, but his numbers should also decrease without dropping dramatically as his minutes also go down.
Morrow’s first four seasons in the NBA have been defined as the following: A very good three-point shooter, average to below-average defender and part-time starter.
This season could be make or break for Morrow, who has only started 47 games at most in his career and did so in just 18 of his 62 games with the New Jersey Nets last season.
Some players are just not meant for that role.
However, the 26-year-old shooting guard will get to play close to where it all began for him, at Georgia Tech, and he will have the chance to show that the Hawks will reap tangible rewards by awarding him a steady starting role
Jenkins might just be the most NBA-ready rookie of the Class of 2012.
He won’t be getting many minutes considering he has Anthony Morrow and Lou Williams in front of him.
However, believe this: Jenkins will make each and every opportunity he has count.
His shooting stroke is smooth, as reflected by him making 43.9 percent of his three-pointers last year for Vanderbilt.
Do you know who also had exactly that same percentage in his last year as a college player? Reggie Miller; that’s who.
Jenkins might be buried in the depth chart to start the preseason, but don’t be surprised if Jenkins becomes a more integral part of the rotation if either Williams or Morrow slip up.
Korver is in a spot similar to Morrow’s, a player used to coming off the bench who will now get the chance to prove his worth as a starter.
That hasn’t happened for the 31-year-old veteran (no, I can’t believe he is already 31 either) since the ’04-’05 season, when he started 57 games for Philadelphia.
Korver is coming off a disappointing finish with the Chicago Bulls. If anybody was deeply affected by Derrick Rose’s injury, it was him.
Otherwise, how do you explain him scoring a total of 12 points between Games 2 and 5 of last year’s series against the Sixers after scoring 11 in the first, not coincidentally when Rose got injured?
This is his chance to bounce back, the last train he can take to leave his mark on a team that can certainly use his shooting.
FG %: 32.5
DeShawn Stevenson, otherwise known as the enigma of this year’s Hawks, is at a crossroads in his career.
Stevenson is 31, just like Korver, but in all likelihood, he will be backing up the former Bulls sharpshooter when the season starts.
This will be Stevenson’s fourth team in the past four years (Mavericks, Wizards, Nets, Hawks), but unlike Korver, his effectiveness is nothing to marvel at. His field-goal percentage last season was a measly 28.5 after all.
Stevenson can make up for his lack of offense with a consistent defensive effort, and knowing that Horford will be right behind him guarding the paint should certainly give him more confidence to take more chances in that aspect of his game.
FG %: 49.0
Zaza Pachulia has been a staple of the Atlanta Hawks for the past seven years, and he stepped up last season, starting 44 games in place of the injured Horford.
He didn’t do too shabby either, averaging 7.8 points and 7.9 rebounds during his 28 minutes on the court.
That is the kind of performance that earns you your own fan club. Atlanta loves Zaza.
Pachulia is a reliable veteran that will prove to be a reliable backup for Horford, and that should be more than enough this time around.
FG %: 50.0
If Atlanta loves Zaza, it should love Ivan Johnson as well.
The 28-year-old product of San Bernadino is a hustle player who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty for the benefit of the team.
As of right now, Johnson is Josh Smith’s backup, and rightly so, but if Smith does end up departing via trade or as a free agent, he could certainly be seen as the Hawks’ power forward of the future.
Petro (27) could prove to be a valuable asset for the Hawks this season
FG %: 43.0
Petro is a 26-year-old veteran who has bounced around the league ever since he got drafted in the first round by the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics in 2005.
He started with the Sonics, played for the Thunder in between stints with the Denver Nuggets and also spent the past two seasons with the Nets.
Petro is now looking to find a home in Atlanta. The Paris native will share backup center duties with Pachulia and should be pretty serviceable in that role.
Scott said goodbye to the University of Virginia and will have to be patient as a rookie with the Hawks
The 24-year-old rookie was selected with the 43rd pick in this year’s draft out of Virginia, even though he initially thought he would get picked much higher.
Scott will probably have a hard time cracking the rotation, riding the bench for most of the year behind Smith and Johnson.
That should be a valuable learning experience for a raw product that might not contribute that much on the court this season if the Hawks are competitive.