The Top 5 Questions Facing The Atlanta Hawks This Off Season

Brennen SCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

MIAMI - MAY 01:  Head coach Mike Woodson of the Atlanta Hawks watches his team face the Miami Heat during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Hawks 98-72. 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 Doug Benc/Getty Images)

5. Has the current Hawks team reached their plateau?

We have all seen the Hawks team grow and improve team over the last few years. It is common belief that the Hawks will continue to get better, but I still think that there are a few missing pieces.

I love the chemistry of the current Hawks team. Zaza Pachulia referred to the team as a “family”, but I think Josh Smith nailed it on the head when he said,

“We all think we’ve got the right nucleus and now it’s just a matter of adding the right pieces to push it along.”

It will be up to Mike Woodson to decide if the team is at a point where they can get to that next level, and if not, what does he need to do to get the Hawks over that hump.

4. How can the Hawks team become mentally stronger?

It is easy to see that the Atlanta Hawks are being held back by the psychological aspect of basketball. The Hawks were a robust 31-10 at home, but were a pitiful 16-25 on the road.

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If a team is to become great, they need to be able to overcome the disadvantages that come with traveling away from Philips Arena. They also need to be able to overcome adversity when another team takes the lead.

Many a time this season, I watched as the Hawks blew a big lead, or even worse, never gained the lead and basically rolled over and died. I’m not sure how a team goes about becoming mentally strong, but all I know is that if the Hawks ever want to make it past the second round of the play offs, it is an issue that will have to be addressed.

3. Can the Hawks find their “Lebron James”?

I was thinking about this very question the other night when the Cavaliers had just finished their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks. What I mean by “their Lebron James” is: Who is their true leader and their true go-to guy?

I like that the Hawks are the kind of team that is willing to share the wealth (scoring) among their top four scorers on any given night, but I realized that all of the great teams in the NBA have one player that can be counted on to dominate 9 out of 10 games.

The Lakers have Bryant, the Cavaliers have James, the Magic have Howard, the Celtics have Garnett, the Nuggets have Billups, and I know the Hawks have Joe Johnson, but I’m questioning his consistency after his poor play off performance.

So, I think a big question for the Hawks this off season is if they can find that one guy that is synonymous with the Atlanta Hawks. That guy that everyone will accept as “legit”. That guy that will be mentioned in the same sentence as “MVP”.

2. Who should the Hawks draft in Round One of the NBA Draft?

From what I have seen and heard, my gut feeling is telling me that the Hawks keep Mike Bibby at Point Guard and go for a big man that can help the Hawks score in the paint. The Hawks need a true center so that Al Horford can move back to the position in which he is most comfortable, Power Forward. The consensus pick that I’ve seen from most mock drafts is BJ Mullens, the 7’0” center out of Ohio State.

Mullens has a lot of potential and is a really effective defensive player because of his size. Many analysts compliment his athleticism and quickness when taking is size into account. However, many people have questioned Mullens’ attitude, work ethic, and consistency.

On the other hand, if the Hawks decide to let Bibby go or trade him, the Hawks can always hope that a very talented point guard such as Johnny Flynn drops to them at No. 19. Regardless of who the Hawks draft, the franchise can only add more depth to a very talented group of players.

1. Which players should the Hawks keep and let go?

It is highly doubtful that the Hawks will be able to get through the off season without losing at least one of their players. Unfortunately, the Hawks will have five key players that will be listed as free agents: Zaza Pachulia, Mike Bibby, Flip Murray, Marvin Williams, and Solomon Jones.

Of these five players, only Pachulia and Jones played less than 24 minutes per game, and Zaza still played a valuable 19 minutes per game.

As a Hawks fan, I’m really at a loss for which players the Hawks should let go. Other than Solomon Jones, I feel like each of the other four are very valuable to the team. Murray and Pachulia are very strong off-the-bench players which is something that cannot be overlooked.

However, realistically, some of these players will not be returning next year, and if I had to choose the player that I think will not be back next season, it would be Flip Murray.

Murray played 24.7 minutes per game in 2008, and he proved that he has the potential to be a starter in the NBA. Murray will either receive more playing time or another team will take notice of Murray’s value and work out a deal with the Hawks.


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