Over at the Bill Simmons owned Grantland website, Simmons and Jalen Rose are counting down their rankings of all 30 NBA teams in a video series. The Atlanta Hawks were revealed as #22 in Simmons’ rankings.
My first reaction was to laugh out loud, literally. I thought to myself “this has to be a joke”. But alas, April Fools Day is a good 6 months away.
Now, I’m not in the business of blasting people who have successfully used internet blogs, podcasts, video series, and more to bring sports news and opinion to the common sports fan. In fact, I have routinely applauded Simmons work at the various internet sites on which he has written. It’s noble for him to have no hesitation in voicing his sports opinions, and disagreements with those opinions are gonna happen. But this latest opinion is simply absurd.
I’m not going to beat around the bush; Bill Simmons is either trolling or absolutely out of his mind. There is no real reason to expect the Hawks to finish in the bottom 10. Yes, they lost all world versatile forward Josh Smith among a couple of other parts. But the overwhelming consensus is that Paul Millsap will quickly develop a chemistry with backcourt mate and almost completely (if not completely) offset the loss of Josh Smith.
Add to that defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll pestering wings in the fashion that Deshawn Stevenson was expected to last season, and the combo of Elton Brand, Gustavo Ayon (upon returning from injury) and Pero Antic replacing the dirty work of Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson and you have a team that most like will not miss a beat in making the playoffs a seventh year in a row.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Simmons and Jalen Rose’s previews of each team in the league, starting with the Philadelphia 76ers and up to the Toronto Raptors, but this time he’s gone off his rocker.
Simmons also floated the ridiculous idea of entertaining an Al Horford offer to the Bulls for Carlos Boozer’s inflated contract, which I won’t even begin to touch.
Plain and simple, the Hawks will not tank. They will certainly compete for a playoff berth and only the threat of a bundle of key injuries could possibly sidetrack that goal for this season. It doesn’t matter if it’s labeled restructuring, rebuilding, or reloading, the Hawks will still be competitive. End of story. Even in the process of getting younger and gaining assets there are just too many questions in the middle of the East to believe the Hawks will finish as low as Simmons thinks they will.
It’s beyond silly to suggest all of the Milwaukee Bucks, who have had a greater offseason juggling after finishing 6 games behind the Hawks last season, New Orleans, who may be missing two of their top three players Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon to open the season, and the Detroit Pistons, all defense no shooting, will finish above the Hawks, who essentially had a zero sum offseason.
Despite a shuffling roster last season, mid-season injuries to Lou Williams, Zaza Pachulia and others, among other issues, the Hawks still grinded out 44 wins while picking up the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Cavaliers should be greatly improved after drafting Anthony Bennett and signing Andrew Bynum (assuming health). Ditto for the Washington Wizards, who filled a hole on the wings with 3rd overall pick Otto Porter. Both have top shelf point guards when healthy and will be pesky in the Eastern Conference. But clearly, the Hawks have a longer track record with the Teague-Horford core than those mentioned above.
For perspective, the last time the Atlanta Hawks finished as low as 22nd in the league was in the 2006-07 season, just below the now non-existent Seattle Sonics. Longtime Hawks fans may recognize that season as the drafting of Sheldon Williams fifth overall, employing Speedy Claxton, the second-highest paid player on the team according to Basketball Reference, as well as the starting point guard and leading assist man being Anthony Johnson. The Hawks finished dead last in points per game and effective field goal percentage that season. It’s impossible to imagine a roster with Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford approaching that kind of futility, although Simmons seemingly has wilder thoughts floating through his head.
Off base predictions aside, Hawks fans should still check out the video above, which helps detail what the state of the team will be in the coming season. Or maybe you are just interested in stories about the Gold Club in Atlanta.
There is more to say, but trying to inject rationality into irrational punditry is as difficult as it sounds. In the end, it’s just one man’s opinion that I clearly think is absolutely silly. The prediction madness will end soon enough once real NBA action starts at the end of October.