Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith reacts after he fouled during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of a second-round NBA playoffs basketball series in Chicago, Wednesday, May 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Atlanta Hawks: ESPN's annual Summer Forecast series predicts Hawks to finish 8th in East next season

The Atlanta Hawks will finish as the 8th seed next season, barely beating out the Milwaukee Bucs for the final playoff slot, according to ESPN’s forecast of the 2012-13 Eastern Conference standings.

ESPN kicked off their fifth annual NBA Summer Forecast on Aug. 20, and after looking at the projected Eastern Conference standings, apparently they don’t think too highly of the Hawks’ chances this season.

Well screw them! (haha).

The forecast has Atlanta projected to finish 40-42 overall next season — that’s the exact number of games the Hawks won last season, in a shortened-season nonetheless.

Maybe the reasoning for the poor projection is because Atlanta shipped off their best baller for a bunch of average players with expiring contracts. But that’s only on the surface. A lot of people are making too big of a thing losing Joe Johnson. The players the Hawks got in return aren’t great but they fill much needed roles, Anthony Morrow is a promising young shooting guard who is improving his stroke with each passing season, and DeShawn Stevenson could provide lockdown defense.

But even the other acquistions Atlanta made were good too. They got Kyle Korver basically for free because they used a trade exception, the Hawks traded Marvin Williams — an under achieving swingman with a hefty contract — to the Utah Jazz for veteran point guard Devin Harris, that’s an upgrade as well. On top of that, they signed a pure scorer in Atlanta native Lou Williams as a free agent.

Call me crazy, but I see this trade working out very similar to how the Carmelo Anthony trade worked out between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks a few years ago. Just like Denver, Atlanta will benefit more with salary-cap relief and quality players to add depth.

Atlanta Hawks will be a better team moving forward.

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