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Hawks' Roster Analysis - Shooting Guard

Joe Johnson. This year is the coming out party for Joe Johnson. Anyone that watched the exciting playoff series with the Boston Celtics knows that Super Joe has the capability to take over a game. Johnson is on the cusp of rising from the very good player to All Star level. It is imperative that Coach Mike Woodson find someone else that can guard the other team’s best perimeter player. At the beginning of games and in certain situations, Joe should match up with the likes of Kobe, Ray Allen, etc. However, in the 4th quarter, Johnson does not need to kill himself guarding these guys. He needs to kill the other teams with his scoring and playmaking abilities. The additions of better perimeter players should make Johnson an even better player this year. Woodson is going to be able use a variety of line-ups with Johnson and Evans in the game at the same time. Woodson can even go small at times with four perimeter and Al Horford in the post.

Maurice Evans. Signing Maurice Evans is my favorite move of the Hawks’ off-season. I just like this guy’s floor presence. He started games last year for Los Angeles and Orlando; but he should play just as many minutes this year for Atlanta. His role should be the 6th Man role as the first player off the bench. For Coach Woodson, he brings versatility to the line up that was missing last year. Evans spaces the floor with his outside shooting. He probably will not get to the basket or the free throw line very often, but his shooting presence will keep help side defenders out of the driving lanes. He is an above average defender with a workman-like attitude. He also brings toughness to the Hawks that was lacking during the 2007-2008 regular season.

Ronald “Flip” Murray. I discussed Murray’s upside in my previous blog about the Hawks’ point guard situation. Murray can play either position. Coach Woodson will be able to pair him with JJ, Bibby, or Law. One of the most intriguing questions going into the regular season is what will the Hawks’ second unit look like. This season the roster is deep enough that Woodson should be able to rest the starters for stretches in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Mario West. At 6’5 and 210 pound, West has a reputation as a defensive stopper. Honestly, I am not sure what else he can do. He could mature into a Bruce Bowen type, but he is not a threat from 3 point range. He is kind of like a poor man’s Josh Childress without the ability to score. That probably is not going to be enough this season to see the floor. Baring injury to one of the other wing players, West’s contribution to the team is to push guys in practice.

Thomas Gardner. The 6’5 225 pound swingman from Missouri played in three games last November for the Chicago Bulls. In a game against Denver, he played 27 minutes and scored 14 points. In that game, the Bulls were down over 20 in the 3rd quarter, so they were garbage minutes, but Gardner can score. He should make the Hawks’ roster unless a decision is made between West and Gardner. West probably makes the team over Gardner, because the Hawks need someone on the perimeter to be a defensive stopper.

Prediction: I see Joe Johnson having a break out year for the Hawks. He might actually make the Eastern Conference All-Star roster without being a replacement for someone who is injured. Mike Woodson has much more flexibility with the addition of Maurice Evans. Evans and Johnson should be on the floor at the same time in the 4th quarter. Evans' outside shooting ability is going to be a huge bonus for the Hawks this season.


Hawks' Roster Analysis - Point Guard

Wow, this position is the most improved on the Hawks roster from the beginning of 2007-08 season to 2008-09 season. Mike Woodson has to be excited that he can pretty much pencil in Bibby as the starter. The great part for Woodson is that these guys should know the pecking order. The Acie Law / Anthony Johnson / Tyronn Lue debacle from last year is a distant memory. Remember when Lue use to take big shots? Awful. Remember when Super Joe (a new nickname let’s see if it catches on) and J-Chill had to play the point? Will Bibby make you forget Chris Paul and Deron Williams? No, but I am starting to think getting Al Horford was worth missing on those two guys. As a group, these point guards can score on any group in the Eastern Conference.

Mike Bibby. One of the Hawks’ highest paid players this season. In the last year of his contract, Bibby will start every game that he is healthy this year. Having Bibby in the lineup is a huge upgrade compared to the start of the 2007-08 season. His outside shooting stretches the defense. He is a veteran leader that has the respect of NBA officials. In critical situations, Bibby draws fouls and earns free throws. The weaknesses are clear. He cannot pressure the ball on defense. Bibby has trouble breaking the defense down and getting into the lane. Bibby’s smarts and skills make the Hawks a stronger regular season team.

Acie Law. Law is the heir apparent to Bibby, but the problem is that he is not much different than Bibby. Law is a solid player, but he will not scare opposing defenses. Mike Woodson can rely on Law to run the offense and get the ball to the right guys on the offensive end. Defensively, he is important, because he can pressure the basketball. In his second year, Law needs to make a major step forward in his development. Whether or not he can make open jump shots and beat his man off the dribble are the variables that should determine his playing time.

Flip Murray. Murray is the most intriguing new player in the Hawks’ backcourt. He is an explosive scorer and a game changer. If he is focused, Flip can mean the difference in close games, because he can beat anyone off the dribble. What happens after he beats is man is the part that is scary. Anything can happen. He could find someone for an open 3-pointer or dunk, or he could dribble the ball off his foot. Because of his size, I see him playing lots of 4th quarter minutes in place of Law.

Speedy Claxton. Forget about Claxton. It’s over for him unless Bibby gets hurt and misses significant time. He is small and has lost a step. If Bibby goes down, Claxton can run the point to start games. My question is do the Hawks give him some minutes so that they can try to trade him? This is the last year of his contract. He lasts the year with the Hawks and then quietly leaves Atlanta.

Mike Woodson has to feel more comfortable with this position than he ever has during his tenure with Atlanta. Does anyone remember when Boris Diaw was the point guard? Bibby solidifies the position on a nightly basis. Bibby stays healthy and shoots a high percentage from 3 point range. Acie Law plays at times, but Flip Murray earns more and more minutes during the regular season. Murray should thrive with the southern hospitality of Atlanta. I guess the final question is can Mike Woodson get any of these point guards to play defense?