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Team Preview #19: Atlanta Hawks

by Eric Wong AKA Roto Evil

August 28th, 2008


The Hawks went 37-45, but still managed to make the Playoffs for the first time in 9 years. Shockingly, they gave the Celtics a better run for their money in Round 1 than the Lakers did in the NBA Finals. I'm not a huge fan of Coach Mike Woodson, but he's improved their team every year since taking over in '04-05. As a team, their 91.1 pace factor (18th) and 98.2 points (15th) was in the middle of the pack.


Key Additions: Maurice Evans, Flip Murray, Randolph Morris, Othello Hunter
Key Losses: Josh Childress, Salim Stoudamire

The most talked about offseason loss of the summer was Josh Childress leaving Atlanta to join Greek powerhouse Olympiakos. Apparently, his new contract is a sweet one that will pay him a lot of tax-free money, includes perks like a free car & apartment, and STILL allows him to opt-out and return to the NBA if he so chooses. For the time being, the Hawks have lost one of the league's top 6th men, the best 'fro in the game, and one of their most athletic & versatile players from last season. A tough loss for Atlanta, but you've got to give it up to Josh for making a bold decision and landing in a sweet situation.

To replace Childress, the Hawks signed swingman Mo Evans to a 3-year deal for $7.5 million. He's a better shooter and solid defender, but he's still no J-Chill. To replace Salim Stoudamire's scoring punch, they also added veteran guard Flip Murray. The Hawks also beefed up their frontline by adding 22-year old Randolph Morris (who played just 224 total minutes for the Knicks the past 2 seasons) and 22-year old Othello (I haven't played that game in a long time) Hunter, an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State. Oh yeah, the Hawks also re-signed Josh Smith to a 5-year deal for $58 million.


The leader of this team is Joe Johnson. Last season, he finished 2nd behind Iverson in minutes played with 40.8 per game. He's finished in the Top 7 in that category in each of the past 5 years, so don't expect that to change. Joining him in the backcourt is Mike Bibby, who averaged 33.3 minutes after coming over from the Kings. A heel injury bothered him at the end of last season, so I'll bump that number up to 34 for '08-09. Backing up Bibby is 2nd year prospect Acie Law (15.4 mpg) and the veteran Speedy Claxton (0 games played in '07-08). IF Speedy is 100% healthy, I could see him moving ahead of Law in the rotation, but that's a huge if. Flip Murray will backup Joe Johnson, so his playing time will be limited unless Joe goes down.

At small forward, Marvin Williams is still just 22 years old, but he's entering his 4th season and needs to step up. He played 34.5 minutes in '07-08, and that number should increase to 35-36 if he's ready. If not, his backup Mo Evans (22.9 mpg) is capable of playing big minutes. At power forward, Josh Smith will provide 36 minutes of high-flying action once again (just cross your fingers for an improved jump shot). At center, Al Horford is ready to improve on his rock solid rookie season. He averaged 31.3 minutes in the regular season, but a whopping 39.6 vs. Boston in the Playoffs. I'm projecting 33 mpg in '08-09, which means a slight stat increase across the board. Zaza Pachulia may appear to be gangsta in this picture, but he's really just a giant man who wants peace and love. In one of the cooler NBA player moments of the summer, Pachulia appeared on CNN to plead for peace in his home country of Georgia. Mark him down for 15 minutes as the backup center. Morris, Hunter, and Solomon Jones will battle for the remaining big man minutes.

DON'T SLEEP ON: Mike Bibby

The last time we saw Bibby, he was getting schooled by Rajon Rondo in the Playoffs. In 7 postseason games, he averaged a meager 10.3 points, 3.1 dimes, and .6 steals while shooting 33.8% FG, 29.2% 3P, and 65.6% FT (U-G-L-Y). Based on that, I'm somewhat hesitant to recommend him. And if you compare his 13.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.3 steals in '07-08 to the 19.6 points, 6.8 assists, and 1.6 steals that he averaged in '04-05, it seems that Mike Bibby has fallen off.

But those numbers are somewhat skewed, as he played a lot better after being traded to the Hawks (6.5 assists in Atlanta vs. 5.0 in Sacramento). And don't forget that Bibby battled major injuries last year. Right before the season started, he tore ligaments in his thumb and had to miss the first 36 games. Then in February, he bruised his heel and was often seen limping around the court. If people are high on Acie Law (I'm not), then they'll likely shy away from Mini-Me this year, making him a potential mid-round value pick. One last thing: Bibby is a free agent after this season, and he'll want to cash in with one more nice contract before he retires.

BE CAREFUL OF: Marvin Williams

This pick is going to surprise some people, as Marvin seems like the player most likely to benefit from J-Chill's departure and he could be ready for a breakout season. However, if everyone is expecting this (like when everyone targets the same "sleeper"), Williams could be drafted too soon in some leagues. First, I would like to see him prove that he knock down open threes.

In '07-08, he was just 1-10 from beyond the arc (no confidence). In '06-07 and '05-06, he attempted a lot more threes (98 total), but he made just 24 of them (24.5%). To open things up for Atlanta's offense (and to contribute in another category), Marvin needs to knock down some treys. Supposedly, he's working on this aspect of his game, but it could come at a cost to his fantasy owners. Last season, he shot a respectable 46.2% from the field, but if he starts jacking up more threes (and continues to make them at a poor rate), that number could fall well below 45% and start to hurt.

Most young, athletic forwards rack up steals and blocks, but there's a big difference between Rudy Gay's 1.4 steals & 1.0 blocks per game, and Marvin's 1.0 steals & .4 blocks. Also, with J-Smoov & Horford around, you can't expect Williams' rebounds to climb much higher than the 5.7 that he pulled down last season. He was the #2 pick in '05 and still has a lot of potential, but he doesn't excite me very much from a fantasy perspective. If you take him in Round 7 or earlier, you're making a mistake.


(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)

J-Smoov: 2nd
Johnson: 3rd - 4th
Bibby: 6th - 7th
Horford: 7th - 8th
Williams: 8th - 9th
Evans: Don't draft (but pickup ASAP if Marvin goes down)

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