The summer of 2010 saw many iconic NBA transactions. It was the summer of LeBron, Bosh and Wade. Another player that made a splash that year was Joe Johnson, who signed a six year $119 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. Many criticized the deal saying it would cripple the Hawks, making it impossible to add anyone else impactful. Well, what do you know? They were right. For two seasons the Hawks dealt with mediocrity as Joe Johnson controlled much of their cap space. Luckily for them, they found a suitor in the Brooklyn Nets who agreed to take on Johnson’s contract and let the Hawks move forward without their former All-Star guard. Does this mean an improvement for the Hawks is in store?
Even with Joe Johnson still on the team, Josh Smith had taken the reigns as best player on the team last season. His high flying athleticism leads to awe inspiring dunk after dunk. He blocks shot as well as anyone in the league and is the team’s captain. The major flaw in his game is his jumpshot – something he settles for far too often. Opposing teams fall in love with Smith when he stops attacking the basket and tries hitting shots behind the free throw line. He can be an All-Star player if he gets his head on straight and sticks to his strengths. Well, he could develop a decent shot, I suppose. Neither seems to be likely.
Now, with the subtraction of Johnson from the team, the Hawks had some flexibility. They managed to bring in some new players and spend a little cash. Louis Williams was brought in from Philadelphia as he figures to contend for Sixth Man of the Year again. Kyle Korver joins the Hawks after two seasons in Chicago. He still has one of the best shots in the NBA. He also showed signs of defensive competence somewhat often in Chicago. It remains to be seen if that was the work of Tom Thibodeau - Korver could easily revert back to his swiss cheese defensive prowess. Another top shooter in the league is joining Korver in Atlanta, as well. Anthony Morrow, who was brought in as a result of the Johnson trade, will likely be the team’s starting SG. With Williams, Korver and Morrow, the Hawks have a potentially deadly trio of three point shooters. The three of them will assuredly find themselves on the floor together fairly often.
Less than a month into the season last year, the Hawks’ All-Star center Al Horford suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out until the middle of the Hawks’ playoff series. He is, by all accounts healthy now and ready to join Josh Smith as the faces of the franchise and leaders on the team. With Joe Johnson gone, I really believe Horford takes a step up in terms of his play. He’s already been named to the All-Star team twice, but there’s still room for improvement. He’s still not quite a superstar. The leap could happen this season if he stays healthy.
The point guard role for the Hawks will be shared by both Jeff Teague and new addition Devin Harris. Harris was brought in from Utah in a trade that saw bust Marvin Williams shipped out of Atlanta. Since his All-Star campaign in 2009, Devin Harris has slowly regressed. He’s in Atlanta now where he has two guys in Smith and Horford that he can defer to and a slew of shooters he can look for open behind the arc. He’ll also have the very solid Teague to spell him off the bench. Not much pressure on Harris in Atlanta. That may do him some good.
It’s a new look for the Atlanta Hawks this season. No Joe Johnson is a good thing for this team. It's not often where a team loses it's supposed superstar player and actually makes an improvement. They may not have immense success this year, but the future is brighter now that they have ridded themselves of Johnson’s contract. They’ll have plenty of competition in the East for the final seed in the playoffs.
Season Outlook: The team finishes at .500, but in the mediocre East, that’s good enough for a playoff berth. They don’t come close to winning a playoff game.
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