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NBA Draft Kit: Atlanta Hawks Preview 2011

Mike Barner

Mike Barner

Mike Barner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

ATLANTA HAWKS PREVIEW 2011

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Hawks finished the 2010-11 season with a 44-38 record, leaving them as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They faced off against a tough Magic team in the first round but won the series in six games. They were not as fortunate in the Conference Semifinals as they fell to the Bulls in six games. The Hawks will return most of last yearís team, with the exception of Jamal Crawford. However, he could be a significant loss given the offensive spark he provided off of the bench. The trio of Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith we be the focal point of the team again this season, but the Hawksí success could hinge on how Jeff Teague performs as the starting point guard.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Jeff Teague will get the opportunity to be the teamís starting point guard this season and is expected to play 30-35 minutes a game. Kirk Hinrich is slated to be the backup point guard, but he is expected to be out until late December or January due to a shoulder injury. He could also see some time as the backup shooting guard, resulting in about 20-25 minutes a game. Joe Johnson will be the teamís starting shooting guard and could also see some minutes at small forward. He will likely play 35-40 minutes a game between the two spots. Tracy McGrady will serve as the backup shooting guard and could also see minutes at the point and at small forward. He should play around 15-20 minutes a game as a result. Marvin Williams will be the teamís starting small forward and will likely play 25-30 minutes a game. Josh Smith is slated to be the teamís starting power forward, but he will also see some time at small forward. He will likely play 30-35 minutes a game. Vladimir Radmanovic will provide depth at small forward and power forward and should play 10-15 minutes a game. Magnum Rolle and Pape Sy will try to make the team as backup forwards, but neither player would see significant playing time if they make the cut. Al Horford is going to start at center and will also spend some time at power forward, which should leave him with about 30-35 minutes a game. Zaza Pachulia will serve as the backup center and should play 15-20 minutes. Jason Collins will also see some minutes off the bench and could play 5-10 minutes a game. Rookie Keith Benson will provide the Hawks with more depth at center and could play an expanded role as the season progresses.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS

Center

Al Horford: Horford is going to start at center, but heís expected to see more time at power forward than he has in the past. If that is the case, he should see better matchups, commit less fouls and possibly save some energy on the defensive end. He has averaged at least nine rebounds per game in each of his four seasons in the NBA, but 2010-11 was arguably his best season overall as he set or tied career-high averages in points (15.3), assists (3.5) and steals (0.8). He also shot a career-high 55.7 percent from the field and 79.8 percent from the charity stripe. Look for him to be a valuable fantasy asset again this season.

Zaza Pachulia: Pachulia provides the Hawks with a veteran presence in the middle and could play his way into an expanded role this season. If Marvin Williams struggles at small forward or gets injured again, itís likely that Josh Smith would shift to small forward, Al Horford would shift to power forward and Pachulia would see increased minutes at the five. He doesnít provide a lot of fantasy value in his current role, but he might make his way onto the fantasy radar if the preceding scenario were to play out.

Jason Collins: Depth up front is important to a teamís success, and the Hawks get just that from Collins. Beyond that, he wonít play significant minutes and struggles offensively, so heís not much of a fantasy option.

Keith Benson: The Hawks see potential in Benson, but heís likely to see a limited role to start the season. If Horford does spend more time at power forward than center, Benson could possibly jump over Collins on the depth chart since he is the better offensive player.

Forward

Josh Smith: Smith is a valuable fantasy player because he can fill up multiple categories on the stat sheet. He proved that yet again last season when he averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 steals and 0.7 three-pointers a game. He also shot a career-high 72.5 percent from the charity stripe, an area where he has traditionally struggled. Smith lost around 30 pounds during the offseason so the Hawks would have an easier time moving him between small forward and power forward. If he can continue to improve at the free thrown line and play a few more minutes per night, his fantasy value could go even higher.

Marvin Williams: The small forward position is Williamsí to lose, but injuries have been a problem over his career. He has been limited to fewer than 65 games in a season three times in his six-year career. Even when he does play, heís not one of the better fantasy options at the forward position. He can provide fantasy owners with steals and a solid percentage from the free-throw line, but he doesnít really do enough in the other categories to have a major fantasy impact.

Vladimir Radmanovic: The Hawks will be the sixth NBA team Radmanovic has suited up for since entering the league in 2001. Heís only going to play limited minutes off the bench, so heís not going to be a significant fantasy contributor. The one area he excels in is shooting from distance - he has averaged 1.4 three-pointers in 23.0 minutes per game for his career.

Magnum Rolle: If Rolle is able to make the roster, heís likely to be buried on the bench. Donít expect him to be fantasy relevant this season.

Pape Sy: Sy spent most of last season in the D-League and could be headed there again this season. If he does make the team, he wonít play much.

Guard

Jeff Teague: With Teague entering his third season in the NBA, the Hawks are ready to hand him the keys to the offense. He hasnít averaged more than 14 minutes per game in either of his previous two seasons and has only started a total of 10 regular season games, so it remains to be seen if he will be able to handle consistent heavy minutes. While heís not likely to provide fantasy owners with much on the boards, he should be a solid source for points and assists. He should also put up useful defensive numbers after averaging 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in his limited action last season.

Joe Johnson: One of the better (and highest compensated) shooting guards in basketball, Johnson took a step backwards last season. He averaged only 18.2 points, the first time he averaged fewer than 20 points per game since the 2004-05 season. He also averaged 1.2 three-pointers (his lowest average since 2003-04) and a career-low 0.7 steals per game. It is possible that he felt the pressure of the big contract he signed before last season, but with Jamal Crawford no longer on the team, the Hawks will really need Johnson to be an offensive force again. Even with his lower-than-expected averages last season, he was still a valuable fantasy player and will be again this season.

Kirk Hinrich: The Hawks acquired Hinrich for the playoff push last season, but he had trouble adjusting to his new team. He started 22 of the 24 regular season he played with the Hawks but only averaged 8.6 points and 3.3 assists in 28.6 minutes per game. He enters this season with a shoulder injury and will miss at least a few weeks. Hinrich should see decent minutes off of the bench when healthy, but he is unlikely to provide significant fantasy value.

Tracy McGrady: McGrady was an interesting signing for the Hawks based on how well he fared towards the end of last season with the Pistons. He can play three different positions, so he could earn significant minutes if someone goes down with an injury. Heís already going to see increased minutes to start the season with Hinrich out. McGrady is no iron horse himself, so he may not be able to play significant minutes even if he is presented with them. While heís clearly a shell of the player he used to be, he could provide fantasy owners with cheap value in deeper leagues.

Sleeper

Jeff Teague: Teague was expected to compete with Kirk Hinrich in training camp for the starting point guard spot, but he was able to lock up the position once Hinrich got injured. With Hinrich out for a few games, Teague has a chance to get off to a hot start and cement himself as the starter. Young point guards are usually hot commodities in fantasy drafts, but Teague hasnít received much hype. He could provide a nice return on a mid-to-late round selection.

Bust

Marvin Williams: Although he is going to start, Williams is a shaky fantasy option at best. He has the potential to be a quality player, but heís always battling injuries and has struggled to produce consistently. His best season was in 2007-08 when he played 80 games and averaged 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals a game. Even those numbers arenít spectacular. Additionally, he doesnít provide hardly anything when it comes to assists and isnít a great shooter from distance. Donít be surprised if he eventually plays his way out of the starting lineup.

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