Only five Atlanta Hawks players remain from last year on a team that has made the last five postseasons. New General Manager Danny Ferry and new Head Coach Larry Drew are re-building, although they insist that they are not according to statements on Media Day. Even though the Hawks bolstered their back court with quicker players, they didn't do much for the front court especially in size, which aided in last year's play-off loss to the Boston Celtics. With so many changes, with new players and new staff, it will be difficult for the Hawks to make it to the post-season this year.
Hawks Management say they want speed, quickness, and defense which they have in their returning core players forward/center Al Horford, 9.9 Career Points Per Game, forward Josh Smith, 9.9 Career Points Per Game, and guard Jeff Teague, 10.6 Career Points Per Game. However, gone are two key players from offense, top scorer Joe Johnson who went to the Brooklyn Nets with his 18.8 game point average and Marvin Williams, 7.8 game point average, who went to the Utah Jazz for guard Devin Harris. Unloading large salaries early on looked like they were going to make a play for Dwight Howard. Josh Smith who wanted to be traded last year, was not, so now that he is the team leader, maybe this will help out.
It was no surprise that the Atlanta Hawks lost to the San Antonio Spurs in their last pre-season game. It was close at 101-99, only because the Spurs' older three all-stars (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker) sat out the entire game. High scorers for the Hawks were forward Damion James and rookie forward Mike Scott with eleven points each.
In the Hawks' first pre-season game, they beat the Miami Heat 92-79 despite 22 points from Chris Bosh, 10 points from Ray Allen, 6 points from LeBron James with limited minutes, and none for Dwayne Wade who did not play. Smith did step up as the go to guy and put in 21 points. Surprisingly, guard Lou Williams added 18.
Only a few players (Smith, Horford, and forward/center ZaZa Pachulia (8.9 career points per game) remain behind from the days of General Manager Billy Knight noted for his drafting little known talented players who have performed well. Sadly, to most Hawks fans, Knight is only remembered for not drafting Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
Veteran players and newcomers to the Hawks have contributed early on in pre-season. Guard Lou Williams from the Sixers has averaged 14.0 points, guard Kyle Korver from Bulls has averaged 7.0 points, and former Nets guard DeShawn Stevenson has averaged 11.0 points. Injured Harris has not played.
It will be interesting to see how much the rookies Scott and John Jenkins as well as the younger players: forward Ivan Johnson and guard James Anderson perform. With little playing time it looks like the following players: Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver, Johan Petro, Carldell Johnson will be dropped before the final roster.
Ferry and Drew may have made too many changes too soon for the Hawks to make the play-offs. They want defense which comes from knowing your teammates and having some size to back up the speed. With the changes made, the Atlanta Hawks will be fortunate to finish among the Eastern Conference's top eight teams.