Wednesday , Mar , 16 , 2011 Paul Eide

Quietly, the Hawks Keep Winning


With the playoffs fast approaching and each game as significant as ever, the Atlanta Hawks are a team that you hear almost nothing about and really haven’t all season. Even last year when they advanced to the second round of the playoffs the only reason they were even mentioned was because they got swept 4-0 by the Magic.

But they aren’t the same team this season. Head coach Mike Woodson is gone and first year coach Larry Drew has made his imprint on the team. Veteran and unofficial leader Mike Bibby is gone.

Trading 12 year vet Bibby for seven year vet Kirk Hinrich was smart if only to get a pair of fresh legs for the end of the season and eventual playoff run. It’s unfair to say Bibby is done, but he at least looks to be on the decline of a very solid career. Nice move by the Hawks.
The biggest difference between Drew and Woodson is a focus on defense and more ball control on offense. The Hawks as a result are giving up two points less per game but interestingly scoring six ppg less than they were last season, which leads me to another conclusion; maybe no one really pays attention to the Hawks because when you watch them they really don’t seem that good. But somehow they’ve beaten the Bulls, the Magic and Knicks twice, and they’re 11 games over .500 which is something only eight other NBA teams can say.
Stats wise as a team they are completely middle of the road to even bad; they’re 16th in the league in FG % (46%), 25th in ppg (95.4), seventh in FT % (78.2), 19th in three point shooting (35.4%), and 29th in steals (6.1). If there was a stat for keeping games close until they end, they’d be near the top of the league but that’s really about it.
The other reason you don’t hear much about them is because they lack a stud with a big name. Joe Johnson is the closest thing but really his name is more notorious for his offseason contract that some labeled ridiculous. On top of that he hasn’t had a great year.
But not having a true stud in the ilk of a Carmello or Wade is what makes them so good because you can’t just clamp down on one guy. The Hawks have four guys averaging 15+ ppg (Johnson, Smith, Horford, Crawford) and Marvin Williams averages 10.1.  
Something has to be said for the progression of Al Horford as an all-around big man.  Horford, who seems like he’s been playing for tem years already, is having his best year as a pro in his fourth season and has become even more of a rugged force in the middle which is required in the grittier Eastern Conference.
If the playoffs started today the Hawks would be the fifth seed and would draw the current fourth seed, Orlando Magic. The Hawks are 2-1 vs. Orlando this season.
But if the Hawks want to sway the popular opinion that they are a soft team that only makes the playoffs because they are in the weaker Eastern Conference, they need to take out a big name foe, not just make it there. And Orlando would be a start.