They're the A-team, or atleast hail from the city whose essence can be captured can by one letter. Never the less, the Atlanta Hawks are being treated like D- list celebrities, like the Cleveland's and Orlando's of the world are Jay-Z and Alicia, while the Hawks, are just a random team who simply don't belong on that same stage. Would it be comical if Joe Johnson was next to Paul Pierce and Lebron James, on the cover of Sports Illustrated NBA preview that was entitled "Fighting for Eastern Supremacy." Basketball fans, what's wrong with your state of mind? What has you so sure about that there is a top three in the east and not a top four?
The Hawks won 48 games last season, en route to not only their first winning season in exactly a decade, and earned a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Perhaps more impressively, was that the team was able to take out a top three MVP candidate in Dwyane Wade and his Miami Heat in the first round.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what may have some of you unenthused. It was the inconsistency, the lack of half court offense, and the downright ugly games, that basketball fans begrudgingly had to look at to see this team knock out Wade and company. It may be also the beating they sustained at the hands of Lebron James, and the Cavaliers in the next round that may lead some of you to conclude that their success was a fluke.
But where is the love for the most consistent Atlanta team since the days of Mutumbo, and best back-court since Blaylock and Steve Smith. Mike Bibby, has given the team a certain swag ever since he's assumed his position at point guard. He's a proven winner, who has been through his fair share of playoff wars in his twelve year career. Of course when we talk about the hawks, we have to talk about Joe Johnson, perhaps the most underrated 2 guard in the league. Add that to the fact that the team added not only Jamal Crawford, an all-out scorer, but Jeff Teague as well, and needless to say, there are not too many worried about backcourt production in Atlanta.
But the reason that this team has the potential to be better than last year is because of the untapped potential of their starting front court. 23 year olds, separated by just 16 days, Marvin Williams and Al Horford missed a combined 36 games last season as they were hampered by injuries. Williams, a former number 2 pick of the 2005 draft, has really improved his game over the past three seasons, after a disappointing rookie campaign. In the fifteen games Horford missed last season, the Hawks were 6-9. Horford's physicality alone is essential, as he is an anchor to an effective defense.
Lastly, Josh Smith, had a down season last year. That doesn't mean that there was a drop off in highlights or energy. There was just a slight drop off in production in points, rebounds, assist and blocks. But even the young fellow, who is only about sixth months older than Williams and Horford, was hampered by injuries last season, missing 13 games, the most in his five year career. Hopefully, on the same page as his coach, Smith should improve this season.
If the frontline can remain relatively healthy, they will not only improve as a unit, but help improve the team as well.