STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Hawks went 53-29 and made the playoffs for the third straight season in 2009-10, but the team failed to show progress in the playoffs, getting swept out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the second consecutive season. Atlanta opted to go into a holding pattern with its roster, retaining Joe Johnson and limiting any additions to bench players. The only significant change will come on the sidelines with Larry Drew taking over coaching duties. Drew was an assistant coach under ex-Hawks coach Mike Woodson, so he’s more than familiar with the personnel and shouldn’t have a problem assuming control of the team. Atlanta looks primed for another solid regular season, but without an infusion of new blood, it’s difficult to envision this team improving on a second-round showing in the playoffs.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Al Horford has cemented himself into the rotation as the Hawks’ primary big man and should be on the hardwood for 34-38 minutes per night. Josh Smith is deployed as the team’s starting power forward and looks primed to average over 35 minutes for the fifth consecutive season. At small forward, the Hawks will run out Marvin Williams for about 30 minutes. Starting shooting guard Joe Johnson usually leads the team in playing time, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him average 38-40 minutes. Mike Bibby will likely see his playing time dwindle again this season, landing somewhere between 24-28 minutes. Of the reserves, Jamal Crawford will have the most significant role with 28-31 minutes. Sophomore Jeff Teague figures to step in at point guard more often, which should result in about 20 minutes worth of action each night. Zaza Pachulia and Maurice Evans will round out the primary rotation, but each will struggle to see more than 15 minutes. Etan Thomas, Jason Collins, Josh Powell, Pape Sy and Jordan Crawford fill out the roster, but all five will be limited to mostly mop-up duty.
Al Horford: Horford continued his strong development in his third season, averaging career highs of 14.2 points and 9.9 rebounds while shooting an impressive 55.1 percent from the floor and 78.9 percent from the charity stripe. The 24-year-old proved to be a valuable fantasy commodity despite ranking fourth on the Hawks in shot attempts. While it’s unlikely Horford will ever develop into the top offensive option for the Hawks, he should have his number called more often in his fourth season, making him one of the few upside options on the roster.
Zaza Pachulia: Pachulia has carved out a role as the Hawks’ primary big man off the bench over the past three seasons. Unfortunately for Pachulia, the Hawks don’t utilize their bench much, leaving him with limited playing time. Even if an injury opened up playing time for Pachulia, his lack of shot blocking (0.4) and subpar field-goal percentage (46.0) doesn’t translate into fantasy success.
Etan Thomas: Thomas was one of the Hawks’ few offseason additions, signing a one-year deal with the team this September. His career averages per 36 minutes, 11.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks are respectable, but Thomas will have trouble earning a large enough role in the rotation to become a fantasy factor.
Jason Collins: Collins re-upped with the Hawks this offseason to add depth to the team’s frontcourt. Like last season, most of his time will be spent in warmups or street clothes.
Josh Smith: For the first time in his career, Smith showed maturity in his game last season, avoiding errant three-point attempts and not making nearly as many mental mistakes. The result was a career-best campaign as Smith finished with high-water marks in field-goal percentage (50.5), rebounds (8.7), assists (4.6) and steals (1.6). His free-throw percentage (61.9) is still awful, but Smith’s improved effectiveness paired with his always-stout defensive numbers make him one of the more well-rounded performers in the game.
Marvin Williams: Another year gone by and we’re still waiting for Williams to live up to his billing as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Selected ahead the likes of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, Williams arrived in Atlanta with tons of expectations, but he still hasn’t put it all together. In his fifth season, Williams saw his playing time (30:30), scoring (10.1) and rebounding (5.1) all dip. There’s no doubt he’s a solid contributor to an NBA rotation, but Williams hasn’t shown any hints he’ll be able to develop into the a star anytime soon.
Maurice Evans: In his two seasons with the Hawks, Evans has carved out a role as an end of the rotation piece off the bench. He has the scoring touch to put together a solid outing or two when forced into extra playing time, but those nights are too few and far between for Evans to warrant much fantasy consideration.
Josh Powell: After winning back-to-back championships with the Lakers, Powell signed a one-year deal with the Hawks this offseason. He was an energetic bench player for the Lakers and is expected to play a similar role for Atlanta. Powell could earn slightly more playing time on a team like this, but nothing in Powell’s previous five NBA seasons leads us to believe his production will be significant enough for him to make a splash in fantasy.
Pape Sy: The Hawks selected Sy with the 53rd overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. The 6-7, 225-pound swing man from Senegal has the skills to play either guard or forward position, but he’s still considered a raw talent and will likely take a couple of seasons to develop into a valuable rotation piece.
Joe Johnson: Johnson was one of the big winners in free agency this offseason, inking a six-year, $120 million max deal with the Hawks. That deal cements Johnson as the Hawks' team leader for the foreseeable future. He lived up to that billing last season, leading the team in scoring (21.3), assists (4.9) and finishing second with 129 three-pointers. The Hawks’ offense will once again funnel through Johnson, so look for him to continue to have plenty of opportunities to put together an impressive stat line.
Jamal Crawford: In his first season with the Hawks, Crawford embraced a move to a reserve role, resulting in his most effective NBA campaign yet. Playing just over 31 minutes per game, Crawford saw his field-goal percentage rise to 44.9 percent while pouring in 18.0 points per contest. The effort earned Crawford the Sixth Man of the Year award as he proved to be one of the league’s most explosive offensive options off the bench. Despite the success in his first season with the Hawks, Crawford is currently in the middle of a contract squabble with the team, asking for an extension or a trade. The Hawks haven’t even addressed the issue publicly yet, but early indications are the team is unwilling to negotiate with a player under contract and will let Crawford stew quietly. Crawford’s value could drastically change pending the outcome of this situation, so monitor it closely before looking his way on draft day.
Mike Bibby: Bibby was the big loser with Jamal Crawford joining the Hawks last season. The 32-year-old veteran posted career-worst marks in scoring (9.1), rebounding (2.3) and assists (3.9). He’s still projected as the starting point guard to open the season, but Jeff Teague has a chance to win that job and will likely steal more minutes from Bibby even in a bench role. Once a fantasy mainstay, Bibby’s career is clearly on the downside.
Jeff Teague: The Hawks selected Teague out of Wake Forest University with the 19th overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. With Bibby and Crawford seeing the majority of action at point guard, the team was able to usher Teague in slowly, limiting him to 10 minutes per contest throughout his rookie campaign. The 22-year-old guard is expected to play a bigger role in his second season. Teague is best with the ball in his hands and has an uncanny ability to get to the rim. He’s not likely to be a great assist man, but Teague can hold some value in fantasy as a scorer once he starts receiving more playing time.
Jordan Crawford: Atlanta had Crawford fall on their lap with the 27th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. Crawford was an electric scorer in college, averaging 20.5 points in his sophomore season at Xavier. He’s an excellent shooter with the ability to step back and nail threes at the NBA distance, making him the heir apparent to Jamal Crawford. Crawford won’t have a big role during his first season, but he’s a legit talent worth monitoring for future campaigns.
Jeff Teague: With Bibby’s career on the downswing, Teague will jump to the forefront this season as the Hawks’ point guard of the future. He could challenge the veteran for the starting job in the preseason, but the more likely outcome is Teague slowly eating into Bibby’s playing time throughout the season.
Jamal Crawford: As we’ve seen in his previous stops, an unhappy Crawford isn’t a good thing from a fantasy perspective. With Crawford asking for a contact extension or trade this offseason, we could be stuck with a disgruntled Crawford all season. Hawks general manager Rick Sund has took stances against players holding out in the past, so there’s little chance Crawford gets what he wants out of the situation. And even if Crawford is traded, it’s doubtful that he’ll land in a situation as ideal for him as Atlanta proved to be last season.