Well, the Hawks were summarily swept out of the playoffs by the Cavs.
On the one hand, how much did injuries to Horford, Marvin, and JJ contribute to their lack of ability to be competitive? I say it was significant, mostly with Horford and Marvin.
On the other hand, even with a healthy roster at full strength, I feel the best this year's Hawks could have hoped for was a push to seven games. The Cavs are playing extremely well, and I think Orlando is the only team in the East (at least on paper) with a real shot of giving the Cavs fits and keeping Lebron from the NBA finals.
So, now that it is all over, let's break down the season and give some goals for the offseason.
This season was a resounding success. By keeping the same basic group from last year that took the eventual champions to seven games and adding a couple veteran role players, the Hawks made another jump, both in their record and in a higher spot in the playoffs.
The Hawks are not a one-man show. The NBA seems to love them, even on abysmal teams. They seem to get more TV time. The star power brings in the advertisers.
The Hawks, however, were not builtto be a one-man show. Billy Knight had a dream of five 6'8" to 6'10" super athletes running the floor and everyone else off the court. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, and Marvin Williams defined that dream. A nice idea, but in an era where quick point guards that can break down defenses reign supreme, dreams have to be adjusted. So Knight was fired, and now we have Sund.
The adjustment is a Hawks team modeled after a Pistons team that won a championship against an All-Star-studded Lakers' squad (Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton). They won that championship without a clear go-to guy or star, but they did have amazing team defense and role players that could knock down shots.
So, with that in mind, what are the offseason goals for the Hawks this season?
1. Keep the core. If another team is so desperate that they offer Marvin Williams or Bibby or Flip Murray a max contract in an economic recession while the salary cap shrinks, then you let them go. Otherwise, do what you can to keep the current 7-8 man rotation intact.
2. Keep Bibby. The only major question is Bibby. He's been a point of contention all year. Is his offensive game an acceptable trade-off for his defensive liability against smaller, quicker guards? I say yes, it is. As long as he doesn't ask for some outrageous contract, like the one he has now, the Hawks could keep him for much less than they're paying him now. That is a win-win. Defensive lack or not, he and Horford have made the difference on this team.
3. Get another quality big man. This is huge. I'm talking about a legitimate center who can start if called upon. A starter that would allow Horford to slide over to play the four spot would be great. Marvin Williams and Flip Murray off the bench would be an awesome asset. This center would primarily be responsible for blocking shots and grabbing rebounds and running the floor. My wish list: Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, and Channing Frye.
4. Get rid of Claxton. Don't be too desperate about it, but trade that albatross of a contract as soon as a halfway decent deal comes around, preferably one that clears cap space or gets a player like I mentioned in No. 3. With teams looking to clear space for the summer of Lebron, the Hawks might be able to get another veteran off the bench AND a draft pick or two for Claxton. If Sund is good, he gets one of those guys on my wish list with Claxton.
5. Develop Acie Law. Give him more quality minutes off the bench. Woodson has grown as a coach, but Bibby isn't the future of this team. Acie could be, but we don't know yet. All we know is he never gets Woodson's confidence enough to show anybody what he can do. A lottery pick with Law's potential should have been a major contributor this past season. A good staff gets him ready.
6. Get a better coach. This one is pure fantasy, but while Woodson has improved over the years, I believe a better coach will get more from this team, even pushing them to an elite competitive level, like Adelman has done with a Yao-less Rockets team. Probably not going to happen, mostly because ownership won't pony up the cash to get that kind of coach, but I believe it is necessary if a championship is ever a real goal.
7. Fix and resolve the ownership situation. While it hasn't been in the forefront lately, it is still too much of a distraction and hindrance to build an invest in an elite team, which the Hawks are really only a step or two away from.
The Hawks have the resources and the talent to make that next step. They need to take that step or seriously risk being left behind as teams like the Heat, Bobcats, and others in the East will only get better.