Running with Zaza

IconThis blog is devoted to the Atlanta Hawks, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the global game of basketball.

Old Hawks Are Playoff Ready

While getting ready to watch the Hawks play the Bobcats, I am thinking about the current state of the Atlanta Hawks as we approach the All Star Break. This team is playoff ready and primed for a great second half of the season.

The Hawks are 28-20 and second in the Southeast Conference. I am predicting 3 wins and 1 loss in their four games before the break. The Hawk will beat Charlotte, the Clippers, and the Wizards, but lose at Detroit next Wednesday night. That will make them 31-21 at the All Star Break. With all of their injuries and tough early schedule, the Hawks are one of the surprise teams in the NBA.

The season has been a roller coaster ride for Hawks’ fans. The early season success raised expectations, but there have been some low points including a massacre at first place Orlando. When this team is healthy during the 2nd half of the season, there should be some great moments.

Here are my two goals for the team for the rest of the season. First, win 50 games. Secondly, earn the 4th or the 5th seed in the Eastern conference playoffs. Going into the final 30 games of the season, working to reach those marks has to be the mind set of this team.

Winning 50 would be great, but the playoff seeding is ultimately more important. I argue that the Hawks roster is better suited for playoff basketball than for the NBA regular season. This is not a run and gun, up and down basketball team. Playing on back to back nights or 4 games in 5 nights kills the Hawks because of their lack of depth. Rick Sund can sing the praises of Acie Law and Solo Jones, but they are too young and are not ready for prime time. In fact, the conventional wisdom that this is a young basketball team is dead wrong.

In the playoffs, Coach Woodson’s rotation is going to get shorter. He probably will go with an 8-man rotation. Of those guys, Bibby, JJ, Mo Evans, Flip, and Zaza are older, veteran players with lots of mileage on their legs. Marvin Williams and Josh Smith each have been in the league over three years. These guys are not young by NBA standards. Al Horford is the only guy I would call young and he is a four year college guy. If Smith develops the same maturity level as Marvin or “the Boss”, the Hawks are a mature and experienced group headed into the playoffs.

The other great thing about the first round of the NBA playoffs is that there are days off between games. My concern is that Bibby and Joe are logging too many minutes. Because of the off days, they should be able to play without worrying about getting tired. The Hawks have played a ton of close games this year and more often than not Bibby has been the guy that has knocked down clutch jump shots down in the clutch. He has made numerous big 3 point shots this year.

Bibby and Marvin Williams will be playing for contracts. That fact alone helps the Hawks in the playoffs. Do not underestimate the importance of money to these guys. The next contract is Bibby’s last. Marvin’s contract will make him a journeyman or a starter for the next several years. Marvin has been having his best season of his career this year. I think it is because he is not worried about Josh Childress looming as his back up.

Mo Evans’ role has been to come off the bench and Evans has not really played as well as I expected him to play this year. Without someone competing for his job, Marvin has been more relaxed and played better. His floor game with rebounding and passing has been consistently good all season. He played very hard in Wednesday night’s big win on the road versus Minnesota.

What are the variables for the Hawks in the playoffs? There are two. Can Mo Evans and Flip Murray provide offense of the bench? These guys started off hot, but cooled off in the month of January. Flip is coming back around, but Mo Evans has not been shooting the 3 point shot that well. If he can make 3’s and guard Tayshaun Prince or Paul Pierce, the Hawks can advance deep into the playoffs.

The second wild card is Josh Smith. You either love Smith or you hate him. He dunked so hard over Steve Nash two weeks ago that the Philips Arena crowd lost their minds. The replay itself inspired oohs and aahs. My problem with Smith (I wrote about this extensively last summer in this blog) is that for every positive thing he does on the court, he commits one or two errors. Plus, the scrunched up, complaining face that he makes is terribly annoying. When you are frustrated as a fan, imagine how frustrated Mike Woodson is coaching the talented, but erratic J-Smoove.

If Smith will rebound, block shots, stop his man from beating him off the dribble, and finish in transition, the Hawks are a scary team. They are a team that can reach the Eastern Conference Finals. If Smith settles for long jump shots, turns the ball over, makes lackadaisical passes, scowls at the officials, and ignores Coach Woodson, the Hawks can get beaten in the first round by Detroit or Miami. No matter what happens-- Hawks’ fans are going to have a blast this spring watching this “old” team in the playoffs.


Post a Comment 0 comments:

Post a Comment