After 12 games, the Hawks are sitting pretty with an 8-4 record, which is good enough for fourth best in the East. How did they get there and what can we expect in the future?
1. Who has been Atlanta’s best player so far this season?
Daniel Christian, HawksHoop: No surprise here, but Al Horford has been Atlanta’s best player. When he attempts more shots than any other player in a game, it’s almost a sure fire sign that the Hawks have accomplished their offensive goals. He’s an efficient scorer from everywhere inside the arc, an abled passer from the post, a great rebounder and a fantastic defender. He may be suffering from a sudden ineptitude at the free throw line and a broken jump shot, but his all around play in the last week and his overall effectiveness in so many areas make him the easy choice.
Bo Churney, HawksHoop: Without a doubt, Al Horford. In his presence, the team has jumped to first in defensive efficiency in a time where it’s most reliable wing defender (DeShawn Stevenson) is missing games. His only downfall so far this season (FT shooting) is likely just a bump in the road for him, as he has usually shot well from the line.
Jerold Wells, HawksHoop: Statistically Al Horford is the Alpha Male that this team desperately needs and should feature. In terms of ability (as has been the case for a few years now) Josh Smith is the best player. In the interest of a concise answer, recent Eastern Conference Player of the Week Al Horford has been the Hawks best player thus far.
2. Who has been the most disappointing player?
Christian: It has to be Josh Smith. Smith started off the season in all-around train wreck fashion as he air-balled free throws, took way too many jumpers, and didn’t get back on defense. It’s not that he was just ineffective, but he actually began to detract from the team’s success when he was on the court. He’s turned things around lately, but it was a putrid, inefficient start from the man who is supposed to be the new franchise centerpiece in Atlanta.
Churney: Josh Smith. He’s actually toned down the amount of jumpers in pure volume, but he is missing everything outside of 14 feet at a historically bad rate. You would think the guy who is about to receive the biggest contract of his life would be playing like it.
Wells: I’m not sure it’s really all his fault but I expected Jeff Teague to take “the leap” this year. He seems to be in limbo and that is preventing the break out I am convinced he is capable of.
3. What do you anticipate from the Hawks in the next 10 games?
Christian: I see the Hawks going 7-3 in their next 10 games, losing only to Denver, Memphis, and Miami. The Hawks have a pretty light schedule aside from those three, and assuming they can bounce back from their earlier loss against Golden State, they should waltz to 7 easy wins in the coming two weeks. Of course to do that, they’d need to take care of business against Charlotte and Washington twice, Orlando, and Cleveland. And if we’ve learned one thing, it’s to NTTH.
Churney: The next 10 games are over a three-week stretch, so I think the Hawks will do very well. As I noted earlier, Josh Smith has been absolutely dreadful so far, so I think he hits a hot streak and the Hawks win eight of the ten games, including a victory over either Memphis or Miami. Being the Hawks, they will probably lose one of the games against Charlotte. I would definitely be happy with a 16-6 record after 22 games, though.
Wells: A 10 game winning streak and the national publicity that comes with it would be nice! Games against Miami and Memphis will pose problems and most likely end in losses. Denver and Golden State are beatable. Atlanta is defending very well right now and if that keeps up then I’ll go glass half full and say 8-2 in the next 10.