Preseason Grades for the Atlanta Hawks

Martin Bater@@MartinBaterSPContributor IIOctober 27, 2012

Preseason Grades for the Atlanta Hawks

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    The NBA preseason is over.

    The Atlanta Hawks went 3-4 and that means…absolutely nothing, really. That record is as meaningful as the Lakers’ 0-8 or Toronto’s 6-1 mark. In all likelihood, it is not reflective of what will happen starting next Friday night against the Houston Rockets at home.

    The fact that the Hawks’ final preseason record can be discarded and quickly forgotten doesn’t mean we can’t draw some conclusions as Larry Drew’s team enters one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent history.

    Atlanta was slowed down by multiple injuries, so Drew couldn’t field the same starting lineup consistently.

    That would not be a big deal for a team that knows each other like the Miami Heat, but the Hawks have little time as it is with so many new pieces and a new style of play with an up-tempo offense.

    On the bright side, Josh Smith took only three pointers in six preseason games. That is a tiny miracle. We also saw impressive performances by a pair of rookies that proved that they have the potential to fit in just fine in the NBA.

    So let’s take a look at how each player in Atlanta’s roster performed during this preseason before one of the most intriguing and unpredictable seasons the franchise has ever faced.

    Update (Saturday, 8:13 p.m.): The Hawks have released James Anderson and Damion James

16. Johan Petro: F

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    Petro came over to Atlanta from the Nets in the Joe Johnson deal, but his start as a Hawk has been underwhelming at best.

    The 26-year-old center didn’t even suit up on Friday night in Detroit for the final preseason game because of a sore back, but he had played just 35 minutes in three preseason games before the injury.

    Frustration is the best word to describe what Petro is feeling right now.

    Petro currently navigates the waters of uncertainty about his role in a team that seems to have him on the roster not because it wants him, but because it is stuck with him because he has two years and over six million dollars left in his contract.    

15. James Anderson: D-

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    Anderson has been competing for a roster spot since late August, when he got an invite to join Atlanta’s training camp as a free agent.

    Time isn’t on his side anymore, because the third-year pro and former Spur doesn’t seem too likely to make the final cut even if the Hawks decide to keep 15 players in the roster (they currently have 16).

    Anderson played the least minutes of any Hawk in the preseason (10.7), and he didn’t reflect all the good things he did at Oklahoma State, where he was a 37.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc.

    Anderson shot just 23 percent from the field and made barely two of his 11 three-point attempts. The combination of all these things result in a disappointing preseason for the 23-year-old guard.

14. Jeff Teague: D

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    Teague played in five games and started in four of them before being put on the shelf due to a sprained ankle.

    Teague wasn’t a beacon of accuracy before the injury either.

    His 32 percent overall shooting and 30 percent shooting from beyond the arc coupled with his 5.2 assists per game aren’t impressive numbers .

    Still, Teague is poised to be the Hawks’ starting point guard, and the injury shouldn’t prevent him from playing against the Rockets on Friday.

13. Zaza Pachulia: D

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    Who has time for basketball when you have a hot date waiting for you?

    Pachulia is a veteran who knows his body and will be productive in the regular season, so if he wanted to find love, who are we—or apparently Mike Woodson at the time for that matter—to say no?

    Pachulia's preseason didn't offer too much to talk when it came to his performance on the court.

    Zaza  played in three games, two of them as a starter, averaging 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds during his time on the court.

    His experience, minutes and fouls will be a valuable asset regardless of the numbers that a player like him puts up.

    Besides, he had nothing to prove before the regular season and already knows what he needs to do to help the team when it matters most. 

12. DeShawn Stevenson: C

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    Stevenson spent more time apologizing than being productive this preseason since he only played in four games , but two of them were very good ones.

    The debut against the Heat, scoring 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting and making three 3-pointers, was his best offensive outing.

    Stevenson only scored three points against the New Orleans Hornets, but his defense was part of a strong team effort as the Hornets scored just 68 points.

    The Hawks will need Stevenson to spell Josh Smith defensively at times, and what we saw from the veteran this preseason was adequate enough.

11. Anthony Morrow: C

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    Morrow didn’t start any of the six games he played and had a good outing against the Hornets with 15 points.

    However, his performances against the Heat, the Pacers and the Pistons left something to be desired.

    The former Nets guard scored a grand total of nine points on 4-for-13 shooting in those three games, not nearly enough for a player who is known for his capability to score.

    Morrow also disappointed from beyond the arc, making just 33 percent of his attempts.

    That number is far removed from the 42 percent he averages in his career.

10. Ivan Johnson: C

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    Breaking a backboard was the most memorable moment of the preseason for the back-up forward.

    His role was pretty much set in stone before the preseason even started, spelling Josh Smith while playing some center if needed as well.

    Johnson had some nice games during the preseason, but 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in six appearances aren’t anything to write home about either.

    His true worth will be shown in the regular season where he could be a difference maker for a team that will benefit from his gritty style of play off the bench.

9. John Jenkins: C

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    The 21-year-old rookie played in four games and didn’t start any. However, his impressive debut against the Spurs with nine points and three 3-pointers vaulted him into the Top 10.

    Jenkins is a diamond in the rough for the Hawks.

    The conclusions drawn from his limited appearances seem to be that Jenkins will be a valuable contributor off the bench with his shooting. That is, once he gets used to the NBA as well as the open shots he apparently wasn’t accustomed to getting at Vanderbilt.

8. Al Horford: C+

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    Horford averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.

    This "C+" isn’t an indictment that says that Horford didn’t play well. What it says is that he only did just enough to make sure that he got his feet under him after playing in the Olympic qualifiers this summer.

    Nothing Horford could have done during this preseason was as important as him being able to play 20 or so minutes to get acquainted with his new teammates and, most importantly, get to the regular season at 100 percent with his shoulder intact.

7. Kyle Korver: B-

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    Korver is going to be a big weapon for the Hawks this year as he makes opponents pay for double-teaming Smith and Horford by draining threes all season long.

    The 31-year-old veteran seems to be in line to be the starting shooting guard after being on the court for the opening tip in five of the six preseason games he played in.

    Curiously, his percentage of three-pointers made (41 percent) was higher than his overall accuracy from the field (39 percent) during the 20 minutes he averaged in action this preseason.

6. Anthony Tolliver: B

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    Tolliver is another player on the fringe of Atlanta’s roster cuts, but he made a strong argument for sticking around by having a strong overall preseason.

    Yes, he stumbled a bit on Friday night by making only one of his 10 shots, but he also played very well against the Pacers in Indiana earlier in the preseason.

    Tolliver put up 14 points making 60 percent of his attempts in a game that was more reflective of his solid effort overall, which included 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

5. Josh Smith: B

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    Smith wants to give Atlanta an encore of his outstanding 2011-12 season, and he seems poised to do just that after averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds playing around 21 minutes in six games.

    Again, just like in Horford’s case, the most important part of Smith’s preseason was getting to know his teammates and remaining healthy.

    J-Smoove is worried about Atlanta’s lack of size, but let's keep in mind Dwight Howard is long gone from Orlando.

    Perhaps Smith is underestimating the damage both he and Horford can make in the paint while also creating fast-break opportunities with their outstanding rebounding abilities.

4. Devin Harris: B

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    Harris played in just four games, but he started all four of them and looked impressive in the 97-68 win against the Hornets.

    The 29-year-old veteran led a furious 21-1 run in that game to put the game out of reach starting the second half.

    Harris will be a valued piece of a Hawks team that will be able to use his shooting and ball-handling skills to complement Teague and potentially not be envious of any other backcourt in the Eastern Conference.

3. Mike Scott: B+

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    The rookie made significant strides during this preseason and even got a taste of glory as he scored seven straight points against the Spurs.

    That hot stretch included the game-tying shot with barely four seconds left, a valuable moment for him despite the fact that the Hawks ended up losing that game.

    Scott is going through something similar to Jenkins, having to adjust to the speed of the game in the NBA.

    Scott also showed resilience by going 6-for-6 from the field against Dallas after a couple of mediocre games against the Hornets and the Pacers.

    All in all, he belongs in the Hawks roster and could be a contributor off the bench.  

2. Lou Williams: B+

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    Lou Williams is going to be big for the Hawks as a weapon off the bench this season.

    Williams led the team in scoring during the preseason with 13.7 points per game and also averaged 26 minutes on the court, the most of anyone in Atlanta’s roster.

    Josh Smith and Al Horford will be the two primary scoring options for the Hawks, but Larry Drew need not fear a drought when those two are off the court as long as a scorer like Williams anchors the second unit as a sixth man.

1. Damion James: A

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    Talk about making the most of an opportunity but falling just short.

    James entered the preseason fighting for a roster spot, and he impressed everyone by averaging 6.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in six games, earning Drew’s trust as reflected by the fact that he even started in two of them.

    Was it all enough to make the roster? It should probably have been, but it wasn't.

    James outplayed Anderson by a mile throughout the past month, but he ended up being let go alongside him after all.