|PG Jeff Teague|
This year we saw hometown product Josh Smith have arguably the best season of his career. He averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds. Many critics believed he was an all star snub. Smith definitely put in the work and proved that he wanted to win games. His game elevated when all star center Al Horford went down for two months with a left pectoral muscle injury. Joe Johnson also increased his stats.
|PF Josh Smith & SG Joe Johnson|
We also saw the development of PG Jeff Teague. After his breakout performance against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs last year, he earned the role as a starter. He averaged 12 points and 4 assists after averaging 5 points and 2 assists the previous year. Teague does a great job of getting to the basket and finishing. He knows how to run the offense and all he can do is get better and improve year by year. He will continue to bring playoff experience which will help him develop into the point guard that the Hawks have been looking for.
When Al Horford went down, many Hawks fans believed that their season was over. Little did they know, they were wrong. Atlanta's bench stepped up with key players such as Jannero Pargo, Willie Green, Ivan Johnson, and veteran all star Tracy McGrady. Josh Smith's leadership increased which earned him the role as a team captain. The Hawks racked up key wins against the NBA's top teams such as the Heat, Bulls, Thunder, and Celtics.
The topic that Hawks fans always want to bring up is Joe Johnson and his max contract. He is expected to perform at a high level every night and whenever he doesn't stuff the stat sheet, he receives a lot of criticism. When he doesn't hit a game winning shot in crunch time, he gets bashed for it. In my opinion, I believe he has to perform at that level. Night after night he needs to average at least 25 points per game. Every year it seems that Joe always steps up in the regular season and earns a trip to the all star game but come playoff time, he shuts down. Other players step up, but Johnson has to be that guy that puts the team on his back and is going to help the Hawks win and go deep into the playoffs.
I also believe that the Hawks should've took advantage of an aging Celtics team. There was no excuse to lose three games in a row and lose home court advantage. Game 6 wasn't an excuse to lose the whole series. The Hawks handed Boston those games in those three straight losses. Some factors were not coming out strong in the beginning of the game and not executing in the second half. Atlanta should know what the Celtics like to do in the playoffs due to the fact that they played Boston in the first round of the playoffs in 2008 which the Hawks took the Celtics to seven games but lost the series, unfortunately.
It will be a very interesting offseason for the Hawks. Ivan Johnson is a restricted free agent. There is also a long list of unrestricted free agents such as Jason Collins, Eric Dampier, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Tracy McGrady, Jannero Pargo, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Jason Collins. Atlanta did a good job of signing veteran players last offseason but I think most of these players received one year contracts to evaluate on how they would play this season. I believe guys like Pargo, McGrady, Hinrich, and Green deserve extentions. Our bench definitely improved this year and I wouldn't want most of this team to break apart.
The Hawks are just a work in progress. This is a team filled with talent that can go to the next level. Head coach Larry Drew has had a solid first two seasons but just has to find a way to go deeper into the playoffs. Atlanta can't afford always going out in the second round, and this year, the first round. I think the Hawks should spend some money this offseason and they must do this if they want to be recognized as one of the elite teams in the east and in the NBA.
It was fun watching our Atlanta Hawks this season as usual. I hope you continue to read my blogs next season and hopefully the Hawks can do some big things next year. We'll always go through good and bad times together. Look out for my offseason evaluation blogs this summer. So until then, GO HAWKS!!!-Yuriy A,