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Team Previews: 2008 Atlanta Hawks Preview

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


ATLANTA HAWKS
By Kyle Fisher
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



The old adage that a playoff series doesn't start until the home team losses a game did not apply to the Hawks in 2007-2008. The Hawks were 3-0 at home in their opening round series against the eventually NBA Champion Celtics but were unable to break through on the road and lost in seven games. Still, for a Hawk franchise that had been considered a laughing stock in the Eastern Conference, the playoff run signals potential for a bright future in Atlanta. The Hawks have two All Star caliber players in Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, and up-and-coming youngster in Al Horford and two solid starters in Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby.


However, the Hawk roster will be void of a key component as sixth man Josh Childress decided to his game to Greece, for a substantial raise, instead of re-signing with the club. The Hawks did re-sign their top priority in Smith and did bring in free agents Maurice Evans and Ronald "Flip" Murray to combat the loss of Childress. The team is also hopeful that 2007 first round pick Acie Law can develop into a solid backup point guard.


The Hawks have a solid core of young players and hope the playoff experience, plus the development of Horford, the scoring of Johnson, the all-around play of Smith and the leadership of Bibby can help the franchise build on a season that was the best in Atlanta in a decade.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION



Joe Johnson should again be one of the league leaders in minutes played despite the additions of Evans and Murray, who both can play shooting guard. The frontcourt trio of Josh Smith, Al Horford and Marvin Williams should all get between 30-35 minutes a night while point guard Mike Bibby logs around 30 minutes a night. There should be minutes off the bench available with the departure of Childress. In the frontcourt, Zaza Pachulia could backup both Horford and Smith and see 15-20 minutes a night. Evans can play both small forward and shooting guard and could see around 20 minutes a night. Murray could also get minutes behind Johnson and could battle Acie Law for backup minutes behind Bibby. The rest of the bench will not see consistent minutes unless a couple of injuries derail the Hawks top nine players.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center:



Al Horford: Horford certainly lived up to his billing as the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He averaged nearly a double-double on almost 50 percent shooting. Horford's offensive skills will continue to improve, which will increase his fantasy value. Horford demonstrated a great deal of toughness on the blocks, as most nights he gave up several inches to his opponent. Horford also got better as the season went on and averaged over a double-double in the Hawks' seven game playoff series loss to the Celtics. Horford may never be the all-around player teammate Josh Smith is, but he looks to be a solid player for years to come.


Zaza Pachulia: Last season was a forgettable one for Pachulia, who battled multiple injuries throughout the season. Pachulia played just 15.2 minutes per game and with the emergence of Horford, Pachulia's days of near 30 minutes a night appear to be over in Atlanta. Pachulia is a decent scorer and rebounder but doesn't have any one skill set that makes him more than a key reserve for the Hawks.


Randolph Morris: Morris was signed in late July after playing 18 games with the Knicks last season. At just 22, Morris is still young enough to develop into a valuable player on an NBA roster. However, don't look for him to get much time in Atlanta.

Forward:



Josh Smith: Smith had another outstanding season, as he had career-highs in scoring (17.2), field goal percentage (45.7), assists (3.4) and steals (1.5). Couple those numbers with elite shot blocking ability (2.8 per game) and outstanding rebounding (8.2 per game) and you have the makings of a top-15 fantasy player. Smith still needs to improve his percentage from the line (71 percent) and 3-point shooting 25.3 percent, but any fantasy owner would love to have Smith on his roster.


Marvin Williams: While Williams is entering just his fourth NBA season, we may already have enough data to know what type of player he is. Williams averaged 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds on 46.2 percent shooting. Williams doesn't figure to improve his scoring much with the current Hawk roster. With Horford and Smith on the glass, it's hard to predict a great jump in Williams' rebounding totals. Williams does not produce assists, shoot the 3-pointer or block shots. Williams is a solid NBA player but has little fantasy upside in his role with the Hawks.


Maurice Evans: Evans was signed in the offseason as a replacement for Josh Childress. Evans had his career-high in scoring (9.3) and field goal percentage (48.9) last season and along with Ronald Murray is expected to provide scoring off the bench. Evans is a developing 3-point shooter, as he had 80 makes last season, 32 more than in any previous season.


Solomon Jones: Jones played in 35 games last season for the Hawks, averaging just 4.1 minutes per game. With the established veterans on the frontcourt, don't look for more than a few minutes a night.


Othello Hunter: Hunter averaged 13.2 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds in five summer league games. It may be difficult for him to make the roster, but if he does, don't expect a lot of production.


Guard:



Joe Johnson: Johnson continued to be the leading scorer for the Hawks at 21.7 points per game, a drop from his career-high of 25 points per game in 2006-2007. His shooting also suffered as his 43.2 percent from the floor was worst his since he has been with the Hawks. Inconsistent guard play and the fatigue of playing an average of 40.8 minutes for all 82 games certainly didn't help Johnson's shooting. Three bright spots were his improved free throw percentage (83.4 percent), his 169 3-pointers made and his 5.8 assists per game. Look for Johnson to continue to be a very good fantasy player and lead the Hawks in scoring and 3-pointers made, but the assist total may drop with a full season of point guard Mike Bibby.


Mike Bibby: Bibby came to the Hawks in a midseason trade and while hi shooting form the floor wasn't spectacular (41.4 percent), he did average 14.1 points, 6.5 assists, 1,1 steals and over two 3-pointers made per game. While Bibby's days as a high scoring point guard are probably over, he still can produce excellent 3-point shooting and decent assist totals for a fantasy roster.


Acie Law: The 2007 first round pick saw little action in his rookie season, as he battled ankle and wrist injuries. Law played in 56 games and averaged 15.4 minutes per game. With Bibby, Johnson, Evans, and Ronald Murray, playing time could be at a premium for Law. While Law is still seen as the point guard of the future, the future may not be now.


Ronald Murray: Murray was signed in the offseason to bring scoring firepower off the bench. Murray has the ability to create his own shot, something that few of the currents Hawks possess. Murray averaged a combined 9.4 points per game in Detroit and Indiana last season in fewer than 21 minutes a night. Murray's main job in Atlanta will be to provide quality depth on the second unit and put the ball in the basket.


Salim Stoudamire: Stoudamire played just 35 games for the Hawks last season and averaged career-lows in most major categories. With the depth of the Hawks' backcourt, it's hard to see consistent minutes for Stoudamire.


Speedy Claxton: Claxton entered training camp last season as the starting point guard, but never played a minute. Claxton has missed most of the last two seasons with knee and wrist injuries. Claxton played with the Hawks' summer league team and is trying to be the primary backup to Bibby. Expect stiff competition from several players for that role.


Jeremy Richardson: Richardson bounced around in the 2007-2008 season before playing 19 games with the Hawks last season. Richardson averaged just 4.6 minutes and may have trouble making the roster.


Mario West: West played 64 games last season but averaged just 4.2 minutes per contest. With the numbers of guards competing for spots on the Hawks' roster, West is fighting for a spot on the team.


Thomas Gardner: Gardner led the Hawks' summer league team averaging 16.3 points per game. Gardner played four games for the Bulls last season but may have trouble sticking with this roster.

Sleeper:

Al Horford: Horford has the ability to improve his offensive game and the most room for growth on the Hawks. Horford will never be an elite scorer, but as he gets more experience playing the post, he can draw more fouls and get to the line. Horford averaged fewer than three free throw attempts per game in his rookie season, which is extremely low for a post player. Horford demonstrated his growth in the playoffs averaging 12.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per night, all totals higher than his regular season averages.

Bust:

Marvin Williams: It is a little cruel to call Williams a bust, as he certainly hasn't flopped, but the former No. 2 overall pick has been passed by 2005 draft mates and current NBA superstars Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Williams isn't above average at any one particular skill and his lack of big scoring and rebounding numbers combined with non-existent passing, 3-point shooting and shot blocking make Williams a limited fantasy player.

Article first appeared on 9/13/08