The theory put forth has been that Atlanta was a talented team a point guard away from being a contender in the East. They have a fantastic scorer in Joe Johnson, explosive wing players in Marvin Williams and Josh Smith and, in my opinion, the Rookie of the Year in the middle in Al Horford. When they traded for Mike Bibby in February I assumed like everyone else they were a lock for the sixth seed in the East. Instead they've been battling with the Nets and Pacers for the eighth and final seed. I see four big reasons behind the Hawks failure to be any better.
1. They have no bench. Josh Childress isn't bad, but one guy isn't depth. A good team has a rotation of at least seven usually eight. After Childress you are looking at: Acie Law (an inconsistent rookie), Mario West (simply not that good), Solomon Jones (ditto) and Zaza Pachulia (a big white guy who sorta takes up space). No bench means the starters play heavy minutes which wears them out not only during the game, but also over the course of the season.
2. They can't win on the road. The Hawks have won just nine road games all season which ranks 23rd in the league. Hawks coach Mike Woodson had this to say about winning on the road, "You've got to control game tempo when you're on the road and you've got to defend and rebound. You do those three things, you put yourself in position to win." Which brings us to our third point.
3. They are deceptively terrible on defense. All of the Hawks starters are capable of locking down on defense, but the effort isn't there. Josh Smith is second in the NBA in blocked shots and 14th in steals and the Hawks still give up almost 100 points per game. This isn't that bad compared to the rest of the league, but when you only average to score 97 point per game it hurts. For our final point,
4. They can't shoot from behind the arc. The Hawks average 4.4 made 3's per game which is good for 27th in the league. This isn't terribly suprising considering most of their players are strong slashers. Unfortunately it allows opposing teams to sag in the middle of the floor which makes it tough for Horford and Williams to get easy looks.
I suspect the Hawks will sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed as the Pacer and Nets continue to suck. The Hawks first round pick belongs to the Suns this year so they will have to address these issues in the free agent market. I've heard rumors that some guy who plays in Washington is planning to opt out. . .
- I know very few people care about the Hawks, but I felt like writing about a team that is ignored by most of the sports media . . . for good reason of course.