Friday , Oct , 02 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Can Joe Johnson and Atlanta Hawks challenge Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic?

In recent years, the Hawks have made progress. While ‘The ATL’ is no longer the NBA’s Siberia, they still lack the size and have too many question marks to beat the East’s top teams in a best-of-seven series. Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams are on the verge of big things. This trio of forwards has skill, athleticism, chemistry, and, because they’re young, could dominate opposing frontcourts for years to come …


Can Joe Johnson and Atlanta Hawks challenge Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic?Every day until the regular season begins, HoopsVibe the Blog will ask and answer an important question facing each of the NBA’s thirty teams. Weigh-in with thoughts on our ‘Key Question’ feature in the comment box below.

Today’s team: Atlanta Hawks.

Key Question: Are the Joe Johnson led Atlanta Hawks able to compete with Eastern Conference powers like the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic?  

The Quick Answer:
No.

In recent years, the Hawks have made progress. While ‘The ATL’ is no longer the NBA’s Siberia, they still lack the size and have too many question marks to beat the East’s top teams in a best-of-seven series.

Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams are on the verge of big things. This trio of forwards has skill, athleticism, chemistry, and, because they’re young, could dominate opposing frontcourts for years to come.

Problem is they’re all forwards.

One element is missing: size. Horford, a solid rebounded and scorer, is a ‘four-man’ playing out of position at the ‘five-spot’. His effort and heart are commendable, but won’t win a playoff round against seven-footers like Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, Cleveland’s Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

Atlanta, while much improved as an organization, still has issues. For instance, management hasn’t given  Mike Woodson an extension and the longtime sideline boss is still expected to win games, despite being a lame duck coach in the last year of his contract. Woodson, a loyal employee, deserves better and should either be let go or rewarded with a new pact.

Then there’s Joe Johnson’s pending free agency next summer. Johnson is the Hawks’ franchise player; it’s no coincidence the team’s fortunes changed after they completed that controversial sign-and-trade for the superstar.

Management hasn’t extended him, either. And his status as an unrestricted free agent in 2010 could dog the team all year, with the uncertainty spilling over on-court. Bottom line: a new contract for Johnson should have been priority one this summer.

Prediction:
4th in the Eastern Conference.     

Sound off: Where do you see Atlanta finishing in 2010? Get at us in the comment box below and follow Oly on HoopsVibe and Twitter. Photo courtesy of FLC