Atlanta Hawks fans have witnessed a veritable roller coaster last 12 months. After bowing out to the Boston Celtics in an injury-ravaged first round effort, the Hawks hired a new general manager and completely reworked their roster. They sent away Joe Johnson for scraps and exchanged Marvin Williams for Devin Harris.
There were guards aplenty on the opening day roster, which made for a difficult situation for Coach Larry Drew to appease all parties involved. The Hawks have endured injuries, trade rumors, and trade yet remain in the thick of the action in the Eastern Conference. As of March 8, the Hawks are in 5th place but only a game and a half separate the 4th place Brooklyn Nets from the 7th place Boston Celtics. Now to hand out some awards:
In my estimation, the team MVP has been Al Horford. Every game, he quietly puts up very solid numbers. His midrange game seemingly is never discussed in the same way as say LaMarcus Aldridge, but the numbers are very comparable. In fact, Al Horford has a higher effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage along with more rebounds per game than Aldridge. Only one of the two was an All-Star sadly.
Without Joe Johnson, Al has upped his usage on offense and has taken more shots. He now averages 17.4 points on a career hight 13.9 shots per game and 10 rebounds, one of only two players to average at least 17 points and 10 rebounds a game (David Lee is the other). A former Atlanta quiet superstar is now in Brooklyn but another has emerged this season in a Hawks uniform.
The most improved Hawk is Jeff Teague. He would have been in line for a biggest disappointment award if not for his huge month of February in the wake of Lou Williams’s season ending injury. His season average of 14.5 points and 7.1 assists could nab him with a big offer in restricted free agency from that the Atlanta Hawks may have to match. He has also developed his long range shot as an added weapon. His three point percentage sits at 37%, up from 34.2% last season.
Devin Harris has clearly been an X-factor. In 43 with Harris, the Hawks are 26-17. In all other games, the Hawks are 8-9. In cooperation with Teague, pushes pace and help thwart slow-footed teams. Considering Marvin Williams is having a career-worst season in Utah, it seems the Hawks have benefitted from the arrival of Harris and made the correct decision to cut bait on the former #2 overall draft pick.
The key to the Hawks’ success going forward rests firmly on the shoulders on the man affectionately known as J-Smoove. His shooting alternates between good, bad and ugly, but when Josh Smith is on, few defenders can slow him down. Defensively, he’s been a large plus, despite the occasional rough shooting patches. He blocks 2 shots a game, in the top 10 of the league, and logs 1.2 steals a game. Should the Hawks make a run in the postseason, it seemingly will take consistant performances from Josh as he matches up with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce, Paul George Luol Deng, and even LeBron James.
The Hawks will have a lot of questions heading into the offseason, but with 22 games left in the 2012-2013 season, Atlanta has a chance to lock up a postseason appearance feor the 6th straight season after missing 8th straight in the early to mid 2000s. In comparison with many other franchises that may have bloated contracts or a lack of player talent, the state of the Hawks franchise looks very strong and this year’s team is a team that the city Atlanta can and should rally behind.