Updated: Oct. 28, 2005, 9:33 AM ET

Hawks hope for brighter days


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Where will the Atlanta Hawks finish in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 12 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

Marc Stein ESPN.com
The Hawks never even had a honeymoon to enjoy the long-awaited acquisition of a marquee free agent. Joe Johnson and his new teammates face a season of dealing with tragedy.
Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
They won a grand total of 13 games last season, probably half of them as a result of their opponents staying out a little too late in one of the NBA players' favorite party cities. This season, Johnson alone probably gets them to 18 wins.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
Atlanta will be an exciting team to watch. Marvin Williams looked shell-shocked in the preseason game I saw. Johnson will earn his money. Can you play more than 48 minutes in a game?
Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
"Small ball" will be the order of business for Mike Woodson's Hawks. Johnson and Al Harrington are a nice combination to help improve this team. However, they must find a way to improve their defense from a year ago (last in the league).
Eric Neel ESPN
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Let the Salim Stoudamire Rookie of the Year campaign begin here and now ...

Tim Legler ESPN Insider

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Atlanta Hawks.

Scoop Jackson ESPN
Page 2


At this point, something good has to happen, but only if they let Ty Lue run the point.

John Hollinger ESPN Insider
Good news: They might double their win total. Bad news: That would still leave them miles from the playoffs. Death of Jason Collier casts pall over season before it even begins.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
We'll see whether Johnson can lead the other 10 small forwards on the team out of the cellar. The Hawks paid him too much this summer and didn't add enough talent around him to make the signing worth the $70 million.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
Hawks have a lot of good, young talent with Josh Smith, Josh Childress and rookie forward Williams. Interesting to see how the Johnson experiment at point guard works. Hawks will improve on their 13 wins, but it still will be a long year.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
Tyronn Lue is their truest PG; Zaza Pachulia is their truest center; and they don't have anyone listed as a PF on their roster. Other than that, they have everything covered.
Chris Broussard ESPN Insider

Young guns need to start maturing and meshing.

No. 2 in your program …
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
The Hawks gave up boatloads of money and players for Joe Johnson, so they'll be expecting big things this season.

Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Hawks' roster:

Starters: Size advantage in the backcourt, disadvantage up front.
Gotta love the good player in a contract year.
Athletic, yes, but does he have range? Or heart?
Big banger, little game.
10.1 ppg + 6.0 rpg = second-team All-Rookie.
His career average of 3.2 dimes per is a tad worrisome.
Bench: Tony Delk's too old. Marvin Williams and Salim Stoudamire are too young. Everyone else? Too untalented.



ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.

Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Josh Childress
Player Efficiency Rating
Vs. NBA Avg.: +0.2

With Childress having split his rookie year between playing for the Hawks and portraying LeBron's little friend Thirst in the Sprite commercials, that first year was substantially better than most people realize. Critics panned him when he struggled early, and observers quickly forgot about the Hawks altogether, but Childress' final numbers were extremely solid for a rookie. His Rebound Rate led all shooting guards and would have ranked highly even if he had moved to his natural small forward position. At any position, his quick hops and long arms make him a serious threat on the offensive glass.

First he'll have to improve his jump shot, though. Childress has a weird jump shot he pushes from under his chin with his elbow flying out to the side, which sends the ball on a low trajectory. Basically, it's like Shawn Marion's but without the arc or accuracy, and it makes it tough for him to play in the backcourt. However, he still managed to shoot a high percentage because he got so many dunks and layups, and his free-throw percentage is outstanding. He likes to come off curls on the left side and go straight to the rim, which also gets him to the line a fair amount.

Childress came into the league with a rep as a good ball handler, but he failed to live up to that in his rookie season. He wasn't terribly creative off the dribble, and his Assist Ratio was surprisingly poor. Since the Hawks have so few players who can create their own shot, it would be hugely beneficial if he could improve that number this season. He also needs to get better at the defensive end. Childress' Defensive PER was among the worst in the league, and though some of that was a result of playing out of position, he has a ways to go in terms of effort and toughness, as well.

-- Hawks player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

Remembering Jason
AP/Nell Redmond
Royal Ivey's shoes honor former Hawks teammate Jason Collier, who died Oct. 15.

SportsNation Speaks
What should the Hawks do with Al Harrington?
50.2% Look for best possible trade
41.1% Hang onto him, see what happens
8.8% Build around him long-term

Vote: Hawks in 2005-06 | Results

Tim's Time
Legs on Hawks: Johnson traded a whole lot of wins for a whole lot of dollars to be the main guy in Atlanta. He will put up numbers.

The Hawks will put up numbers, too. In the loss column.

Smith is a nightly highlight reel, but he and Johnson are the entire show. The good news is that only about 1,000 people will have to suffer through it every night.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

Coach's Corner
Mike Woodson
Experience: 1 year
Reg. season record: 13-69
Playoff record: none
Coach's profile

Woodson will cause some problems for opponents by playing "small ball." Joe Johnson and Al Harrington must be great every night out, which is hard to do.

To play small, you must take advantage of the 3-point line, but the Hawks are thin on deep shooters. They were last in defense a year ago which is impossible to overcome.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider

Hollinger's Q & A
How many 6-8 guys can a team play at once, anyway?

Atlanta's hopes for the future rest on Johnson, forward Harrington, rookie Williams, and second-year forwards Childress and Smith. All five have shown promise, but it's hard to imagine them teaming up together because their positions overlap. As each is between 6-7 and 6-9, it's difficult for more than two of them to inhabit the court at the same time.

Atlanta's plan for this year is to allow Johnson to play point guard, with Childress starting at off-guard, Smith and Harrington at the forwards, and Williams cutting his teeth while coming off the bench. But that requires Johnson and Childress to play out of position, making it difficult for either to thrive. It also deprives the team of a push-it-up point guard who could make the best use of the two Joshes' finishing skills, which is why Tyronn Lue should see plenty of minutes as the year wears on.

In the long term, Atlanta likely will need to trade at least one and probably two of the group, with free-agent-to-be Harrington the most likely candidate. That's especially true with the death of backup center Collier, which not only presents the team with a major emotional hurdle but also exposes a glaring lack of size up front. Exchanging one of Atlanta's many small forwards for a true center seems the most logical way to clear up both on-court problems.

More Hollinger Hawks analysis Insider

Fantasy Fix

Sleeper: Johnson has waited for an opportunity like this, as have his fantasy owners. While the young Joshes get the notice in Atlanta, Johnson comes over ready to provide 20 points a night. No, his breakout stats in Phoenix weren't the best he can do. Now, he's the main scorer and veteran presence. Don't wait past three or four rounds.

Bust: Williams was the No. 2 pick in the draft, and eventually the Hawks will have an exciting scorer. For now, Marvin's going to find playing time harder to come by. Fantasy owners have a tendency to draft on name value and see who the real draft's top picks were. In this case, Williams isn't a top-10 fantasy rookie.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index


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