Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 11:48 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Will Hawks ever take flight?

Hawks

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Atlanta Hawks finish in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
Everybody's still waiting to see if the young talent can emerge into great players. Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress -- those three have to improve for the Hawks to rise.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
If Speedy Claxton stays healthy, the Hawks could take a step forward because their talent is nice elsewhere.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Chris Paul last year, Rajon Rondo this year. Are they allergic to talented young points? Claxton will help, but he's starting off hurt and he's most effective as a backup or secondary player.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
Subtracted their second leading scorer, Al Harrington, but if Marvin Williams and Josh Smith take big leaps, the Hawks may move up a spot or two in the standings. If they don't, they're front-runners in the Greg Oden sweepstakes.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
Lots of young talent -- especially breakout candidate Josh Smith -- and the additions at PG (Claxton) and center (Lorenzen Wright, Shelden Williams) will help. But they gave away their second-best player and still don't know who the owner is.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
If Speedy Claxton can stay healthy, the Hawks have a chance to win as many games as they have the last two years combined. I still would have signed Hot Sauce to a 10-day ... or something.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
They'll be better with the added experience of their young talent, and there is some upside with Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Plus, Shelden Williams is a sleeper for Rookie of the Year. Just not enough firepower here.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
The Hawks are still too young, especially in the frontcourt. Speedy Claxton will help at the point, but their lack of defense (27th in defensive FG%) makes it awfully difficult to win on the road (8-33 last season).
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
The easiest thing to do as an NBA Insider is pick these sad sacks for last in the conference. Memo to Steve Belkin: Are you really sure you want to win the ownership battle for this franchise?
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 15
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
Claxton is indeed a point guard and has won a ring, but the Hawks haven't added much else since last season. Which makes a notable jump unlikely unless two of my favorites (Joe Johnson and Josh Smith) are secretly planning All-Star seasons.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 4.4 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 14.1 | Standings


First-Rate Second-Guessing
Williams
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Marvin Williams, whose selection with the second pick in last year's draft seemed foolish in light of No. 4 selection Chris Paul's subsequent emergence, showed signs as a 19-year-old that the pick won't be second-guessed forever like Sam Bowie over MJ.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Speedy Claxton
Point Guard
5-11 | 170
$25 million for little guy with career 4.3 apg? Um, okay.
Joe Johnson
Shooting Guard
6-7 | 230
Top scorer (20.2 ppg)/part-time point can't keep pulling double duty.
Marvin Williams
Small Forward
6-9 | 228
Second-year savior is budding inside-out threat.
Josh Smith
Power Forward
6-9 | 225
Improved jumper stokes confidence as end-game closer.
Zaza Pachulia
Center
6-11 | 265
12 and 8 exceeded expectations. Doesn't that say it all?
Bench: Tyronn Lue, Salim Stoudamire and Josh Childress fuel perimeter. But undersized Lorenzen Wright and Shelden Williams will get gassed inside.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Josh Childress
Player efficiency rating
projection: 15.81
vs. NBA avg.: +0.81
Hawks profiles

Scouting report: Childress' jumper is Shawn Marion light -- a weird flick shot taken from just under his shoulder, with his elbow sticking out and a high arc. He can reliably hit 18-footers from the corner, but this part of his game is hardly his strong suit.

Childress gets most of his points on rebounds and fast breaks and can be a liability in the half court, especially since he's not as good a ballhandler as advertised when he came out of Stanford -- in particular, his Turnover Ratio is far too high for a player who gets so few touches.

Childress' length and athleticism make him a competent defender, especially by the standards of this team. However, like many of his young teammates he has some problems keeping focused at that end and makes the occasional blunder. He also doesn't do well in strength matchups as a result of his skinny frame.

2006-07 season: Look for more of the same from Childress, as neither his role nor his production figure to change much this year. Childress won't hit 55 percent from the floor again, but his other numbers project to be a carbon copy of his first two seasons.

That would make him one of the league's better sixth men, especially if he can take another step forward defensively. But with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams in the picture, he'd have to change teams for his role to increase much.


Face Of The Future
Smith
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
No need to grimace. Josh Smith can sky, and his outside shot is improving. After the All-Star break he averaged 15.0 points, 7.8 boards, 4.1 assists and 3.1 blocks.


SportsNation Speaks
The Hawks' descent into awfulness hasn't been pretty. We asked fans what needs to get straightened out.

Hawks' biggest impediment to success?
29.9% The ownership mess
24.8% Youth
18.7% Overall lack of talent
10.4% Poor defense
9.0% Point guard play
4.5% Small fan base
2.7% Coach Mike Woodson

Vote: Hawks in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Hawks

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Hawks' logo on your chest?

If the Hawks can hit the 30-win plateau this year, the tattoo parlors in Atlanta would be filled with bare chests begging to be branded. The best bet would be to stick with the letter "J" or "W," since it covers an initial in seven of 13 players with roster spots.

If the Hawks don't win 30 games, things could get a bit lengthier and a big uglier. One could go with the classic "Knights out for Billy" or even the always popular "There's only room for one MW on this team."

Don't expect any patience for an administration already on the hot seat.

Chase Kuech | Impending Firestorm



Coach's Corner

MIKE WOODSON COACHING FILE
Experience: 2 years
Record: 39-125
Playoffs: 0-0
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

Mike Woodson has to get his young team to play better defense, period.

Last season saw the Hawks foul more than all but one other NBA team, and they were among the four worst teams in field-goal defense.

These are traits of a young team, but experience alone is not enough to get guys to defend better. They have to be taught, too.

Woodson is in a similar position to Brian Hill -- he has a talented, young team that needs to be pushed but not to the point of breaking.

Woodson also needs to develop an offense that takes pressure off Joe Johnson, or this team could have the most one-dimensional offense south of Philly.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Athleticism. The Hawks can play above the rim with anybody. With freakish athletes like Smith, Childress and Williams, the Hawks' leaping and running was the one thing most likely to catch an opponent off guard.

This is where Claxton's addition might really help. Despite all their talented, athletic wing players, the Hawks only ranked 17th in pace factor last season, largely because they lacked the kind of point guard who could push the ball up court and take advantage of those other players' skills.

The other way to make better use of Atlanta's athletic gifts is for them to take better care of the ball. The Hawks could shoot and score, and would have been a top 10 offense except they had the league's third-highest turnover rate.

Those mistakes were another reason the team couldn't take as much advantage of its open-court capability -- too often a 3-on-2 break turned into a pass into row 17.

More Hollinger Hawks analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Claxton
Claxton

Sleeper: Speedy Claxton comes over from the Hornets and, with more consistent playing time as the starting point guard, will be a solid source of steals and assists.

He's not a great shooter percentage-wise, nor does he make many 3s. If he can stay healthy (a big if, historically), he could reach his career highs of 13 points per game and six dimes.

Bust: Some thought Josh Childress would step up and improve upon his rookie season in '05-06, but all he did was essentially duplicate his numbers from '04-05.

He does a little bit in each category, and his shot selection really helps his field-goal percentage, but it doesn't appear he'll develop into a sexy fantasy selection.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index



 

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