Why go 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 when you can go 4-on-4, and have to awkwardly decide whether you can play full court or half court?
Anyways, it’s the All-Star Break and the Hawks currently sit at 29-22, good enough for sixth in the East, all while mired in constant trade rumors about Josh Smith.
What do the Hawks experts think?
1. Have the Hawks exceeded or disappointed on your expectations for them so far? Or are they exactly where you expected them to be?
Bo Churney: After the hot start to the season, it could be easy for someone to say that the Hawks have disappointed, but overall, they are about exactly where I thought they would be: middle of pack in the East, with an outside shot at 50 wins. However, one could easily look at the loss of Lou Williams as a major reason to why the Hawks aren’t exceeding expectations right now.
Buddy Grizzard: Only the Hawks could exceed expectations while disappointing. If the Hawks had won just one more game, say the 1-point loss at Detroit, the team would be even in the loss column with 3rd-place Indiana. Tantalizingly close to a breakout, but somehow still same-old, same-old. How completely Atlanta Hawks is that?
Robby Kalland, Peachtree Hoops: They’ve been regular (shout-out Ivan). I had predicted them to go 45-37 at the beginning of the year so 29-22 is just above that pace. Like many recent Hawks teams this squad seems to play to the level of their competition as they’ve had some impressive wins (MEM, OKC, LAC) but had disappointing losses (WAS, CLE, NOH). They’ve been more exciting, but right around where I expected them to be.
Raj Prashad: Atlanta heads into the break clinging to the No. 6 seed, so I’d say it’s about where I expected them to be after temporarily rebuilding this summer.
2. Who has been the most important player in getting the Hawks to 29 wins?
Churney: While I maintain that Josh Smith is still the best player on the team, I think Al Horford has been more important for the Hawks in terms of winning. Horford provides an erratic Hawks team with some consistency, making him the steady force that allows Jeff Teague and Josh Smith to take so many chances.
Grizzard: Shawty Max. Josh Smith is playing his most minutes since 2006-07, averaging his most assists since 2009-10 and shooting a career-best 35% from 3-point range. If he was shooting his career average 66% from the free throw line instead of his current 50%, he would be averaging over 18 PPG. Smith is having another monster season, but it will be overlooked once again due to questions about his commitment to playing winning basketball.
Kalland: Ivan Joh…Okay fine, I’ll go with Jeff Teague. When Teague pushes the tempo, acts as facilitator, and limits his turnovers, the Hawks win. They’re 7-2 when he has 10+ assists and 12-4 when his turnover percentage is under 14%. Teague’s aggression on defense is also the key to the Hawks forcing turnovers and getting out in transition (7-2 when he has 3+ steals). Al and Josh are the stars, but I think Jeff is the one that can take the team’s play to another level.
Prashad: Josh Smith. He has carried the team on the defensive end and, when he picks his spots, has been a force on offense. Sure, his numbers are down, but when he’s keyed in, Smith has been vital to Atlanta’s contention in the East.
3. What are the chances that Josh Smith is traded before the February 21st deadline? (0-100 percent)
Churney: Seven-percent. For reasons I’ve already extrapolated upon, it’s hard to see any benefit for the Hawks trading Josh Smith. I think Danny Ferry realizes this and will continue to field calls, only hoping that he gets blown away by an offer of Chandler Parson or Kawhi Leonard. (deals that Houston and San Antonio are unlikely to make)
Grizzard: I’d say it’s 50/50 right now. Sam Amick reported Wednesday that Smith’s representation was calling around the league, informing teams that Smith does not intend to remain with Atlanta beyond this season. That combined with Smith’s public proclamation that he deserves max money has seriously (and apparently, deliberately) sabotaged Danny Ferry’s bargaining position. Ferry could return the favor by keeping Smith on the roster until the season concludes, in which case Smith would need Ferry’s cooperation in a sign-and-trade to reach his preferred destination (Boston, according to @GeryWoelfel). It all depends on whether Ferry receives a legit offer by Feb. 21st. Teams are unlikely to make their best offer with Smith’s camp manipulating the situation to ensure he ends up where he wants to go.
Kalland: 20-percent. It will take quite the package to get Josh. The Hawks will not unload him for pennies on the dollar and not many teams will be willing to part with young assets/draft picks for a guy that might be a three or four month rental. Barring Houston offering Parsons, San Antonio offering Leonard, Detroit offering Drummond, or the Suns or Bobcats offering 2 picks, Josh will be a Hawk through this season (No, Humphries and Brooks is not happening. Period.)
Prashad: 36-percent. With back-to-back games where he scored 26 or more points, Smith really turned up his intensity and showed the Hawks what he should be able to produce on a nightly basis. The market just isn’t strong enough to warrant Atlanta trading away their franchise cornerstone even if he could walk at the end of the year.
4. What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
Churney: For some reason, I think the Hawks have a strong finish and come up just short of 50-wins at 49-33. That will probably be good enough for a top-four seed in the East and home-court in the first round. I think they will get past that first round, but then get the doors blown off of them by LeBron and Miami.
Grizzard: Oh boy, I’m really bad at this. Given that the Hawks are middle-of-the-pack in strength of schedule for remaining opponents and play 15 at home, 16 away after the break, I’d say they maintain their current 57% winning percentage. That would equal 47 wins. The Hawks must finish no worse than 5th in the Eastern Conference to have any hope of winning a first round playoff series. Given that Larry Drew played Jason Collins ahead of Zaza Pachulia in the playoffs against Chicago two seasons ago, and played Willie Green and Jannero Pargo ahead of Kirk Hinrich against Boston last season, I will predict the following: The Hawks will lose again in the first round and Johan Petro will play a prominent role.
Kalland: I’ll bump my preseason prediction up slightly to 47-35 for the fourth seed in the East and a second round exit in the playoffs. I think the East is weak enough that they can get out of the first round, but I don’t see them getting farther than that which, considering all the offseason changes, would be a pretty good result.
Prashad: 48-34, No. 5 seed. They take out Brooklyn in the first round, beat Chicago in the second round and lose to Miami in the Conference Finals.