The Atlanta Hawks got a new General Manager and oh, my - Danny Ferry wasted no time upsetting the apple cart. The Hawks will retain 4 or 5 of their players from last year (Ivan Johnson's a restricted free agent with an offer from the Hawks and is likely coming back, but that's not official yet). The rest are new to the team. On top of that, Ferry has positioned himself to make some noise in free agency next season, which means he could also be doing more trading between now and the deadline.
With that many new players, there are plenty of question as to who will be starting for the Hawks. The first question is whether they will continue the recent trend of playing Al Horford at center or if they decide to go big, play Zaza Pachulia at center and move Horford and Josh Smith down a position.
For the moment, let's say the stay the course and the lineup will look something like this:
C: Al Horford >Zaza Pachulia > Johan Petro
PF: Josh Smith > Ivan Johnson (probable) >Jordan Williams > Mike Scott
SF: Anthony Morrow/Kyle Korver
SG: DeShawn Stevenson > Lou Williams > John Jenkins
PG: Jeff Teague/Devin Harris
1-3 could be a real mystery. Jeff Teague and Devin Harris are both starters. Is one better than the other? At one point, I could have said Harris, but right now it's a toss-up to be settled in training camp. It would not be a surprise if one of them was traded, but for now, it's a strong position. Teague is the incumbent, but either one could start.
How Lou Williams will be used is another interesting question. It's widely assumed he will be the 6th man/primary bench scorer. If that's the case, someone from the pool of DeShawn Stevenson/Anthony Morrow/Kyle Korver/John Jenkins will be starting. And yes, assuming Josh Smith is playing the 4, that's also the talent pool for small forward.
You could well see Korver and Williams alternating minutes in some form, just because it isn't clear to me it's sane from a defensive standpoint to have Korver and Williams on the court at the same time. There's a roster slot open (possibly two, depending on what happens with Johnson) and it would not surprise me for Ferry to sign a more established small forward. This lack of a clear 3 also explains why you see a lot of projections about the Hawks opting for a bigger line-up and sliding Smith over.
For instance, at some point you might see the following line-up on the floor:
With that lineup you run the offense, see if a basket presents itself and then let Lou go to work if there's not obvious shot with ~8 seconds left. If the opponent tends to score with their frontcourt, that's a pretty good defensive lineup.
The Hawks have a reliable 4/5 rotation with Horford, Smith and Pachulia. If Johnson's back, he's shown himself to be a productive extra option at the 4. The point guard position is rock solid. Starter's minutes at shooting guard will be occupied, not perhaps by the starter. The rest of the wing rotation is up and the air and waiting for someone to step up. Except for Stevenson, the defensive specialist, all the other wings are noted bombers.
What does this mean for the Hawks in '12-'13? Chemistry is going to be the wild card, since you're going to have 2 or 3 new starters, but another middle playoff seed seems likely. Danny Ferry is looking to get a big free agent or two next summer, so he's not looking to tank (see: Magic, Orlando). If all goes well, I could see the Hawks in the second round. A typical season for the Hawks, lately. If you follow the Hawks, be glad they're in the East. They'd be in what could be a real dog fight for the last two playoff seeds if they were in the West.
Keep an eye on Ferry, though. There could be a LOT of trade rumors running through Atlanta this year. More than the Hawks fans are used to hearing.
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