Atlanta Hawks Make the Grade

leman bellContributor IApril 16, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 6:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles the ball against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 6, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Hawks just finished a fantastic regular season and are off to the playoffs as a confident team. 

Why shouldn't they be? 

They have increased their win total from a year ago by ten games. 

They finished the season with the fourth best record in the Eastern conference, earning home-court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs. 

And they get to play an opponent that they've beaten three times this year. 

How did they do it?  Here are my grades.

Mike Bibby 

A steady, crafty, veteran point guard, Bibby has hit big shot after big shot for this club.  Floor leadership and locker-room presence has been a welcome addition to this club. 

His defense isn't great and his shot selection is sometimes off but, for the fact that his team finished in the top five in fewest turnovers, he gets an A.

Joe Johnson

A silky-smooth shooting guard.  Johnson seems as though he can get his shot against anyone.  He has carried this team for the past three to four years.  He's the teams leading scorer and assist leader. 

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Johnson has kept the team afloat with all three front court starters missed significant time due to injury.  It's hard to be mad at the fact that his scoring didn't increase when he has a shooting point guard and an ever-improving front court. 

He could have imposed his will more at times, but he also led the league in minutes played.  Ten more wins and he's the captain—he gets an A.

Marvin Williams 

A long, athletic, sweet-shooting small forward.  Williams has shown steady improvement in his game, but not his numbers.  His points are about the same, but he also have never played with a scoring point guard. 

His newfound range has given his team another deep threat and allowed him to use his athleticism to get to the cup.  Getting to the free throw line has given him a major confidence boost. 

He went missing in a few games where his team needed him.  Missed significant time due to injury.  Defense and rebounding underwent a slight improvement. 

Let's face it—14 ppg ain't bad for your fourth offensive option.  I'll give him a B.

Al Horford 

A tough, hard-working, beast of a center.  Horford is undersized but more than held his own against the rest of the league.  He defends the post as well as anyone.  It seems as though rebounding is a passion for him. 

His offensive game is raw and inconsistent.  His scoring is increasing as his post moves improves but never commands a lot of attention. 

He carried a heavy load, as Za-Za was the only reliable backup.  When he missed time due to injury, his presence was missed in the lineup.  Give him a B.

Josh Smith

A hyper-athletic power forward.  Smith is the most gifted defender on the team.  His energy on the ball, in the passing lanes, help defense is second to none.  He wins games with his defense. 

His offense has been up and down this year.  He has figured out how to score in the post and is a good passer.  He takes bad shots sometimes, but no more than anyone else.  About a 16 ppg average at 50 percent shooting is nothing to laugh at. 

He lost interest in rebounding on that west coast trip, but regained the love after being benched by coach Woodson.  He missed time early due to injury.  Without the blowup with Woodson and the injury he'd be higher, but he get a B.


At times this is one of the best units in the league in effectiveness.  Other times it's not very effective at all. 

This may be the tightest rotation in the league.  There are only three guys that get major minutes. 

Flip Murray is instant offense.  Mo Evans does a little of everything.  Za-Za Pachulia is the only one to come in for Josh or Al regularly.  All of those guys get an A

The rest of the bench is a major disappointment.  They get a F.


Mike Woodson has turned this franchise into a winner.  He's developed his players and they've bought into his system.  His team is very underrated defensively. 

He held it together with about all of his regulars missing a ton of time.  With his GM expressing his willingness to stand pat, Mike Woodson took the same group of players and won ten more than a year ago. 

Over the course of the season, he probably should have tried to develop his young point guard.  It seems when Acie Law got the chance he seemed like he was lost.  Woody's "work itself out" offense could use some help. 

Woodson accomplished his stated goal of fourth place in the east.  National pundits gave  his team no shot.  He gets an A.

The overall grade for the team is an B.  Not a lot was expected from the Atlanta Hawks this season.  This team started strong.  They had a injury to Smith then Horford, then Marvin.

They had a couple of bruising west coast trips that they didn't fare too well on.  They made up for those on a couple of unusually long homestands. 

All being said, I think they finished the year right where most fans expected.

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