Rumors are swirling about Atlanta trading hometown favorite Josh Smith. Smith was snubbed out of the NBA All star Game even though he averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds per game. He has many off-nights but he will have to bring the energy and intensity every game if he wants to make a run with the Hawks in the playoffs and remain in Atlanta. The trade deadline is February 21st and we will see if the Hawks will accept any teams' offers for Smith or if they will stay content and decide to negotiate with him on a new contract before free agency this summer.
|Hawks' Forward Josh Smith|
The Hawks are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. They started the New Year at 20-10 and are now 29-22 at the all star break. Atlanta lost shooting guard Lou Williams for the rest of the season due to a knee injury suffered against the Brooklyn Nets in January. The Hawks won two games in a row with wins against Dallas and Orlando before the all star break with clutch shooting from players such as Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver, and DeShawn Stevenson. Atlanta will look to seek more contributions from these role players. Point guard Devin Harris has been in a slump lately but will look to regain his shooting stroke in the second half of the season.
The Eastern Conference is in such a tight race heading into the playoffs. If teams such as the Nets or Pacers lose in one night, it helps teams like the Hawks, Bulls or Celtics make a quick leap in the standings. Atlanta has to play smart basketball and beat some of these contenders.
Aside from Josh Smith, point guard Jeff Teague has to take a high leadership role and have control over this team. He has to make smart decisions and not make costly turnovers. The Hawks drafted Teague in 2009 to be the point guard that they've been desperately looking for to build around.
|Hawks' Center Al Horford|
Two-time all star Al Horford has to control the paint. Offensive rebounding has been a problem for Atlanta in many games and if Horford crashes the boards every single game, the Hawks can be dangerous. This also applies to big men Zaza Pachulia and Ivan Johnson who give Atlanta good contributions with their scoring and rebounds off the bench.
The Hawks hold their own fate. The Eastern Conference is competitive with many teams who can do damage in the playoffs such as the defending champion Miami Heat and teams under the radar such as the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. Atlanta has to stay healthy and head coach Larry Drew has to instill a winning mentality to the team. We will see how the second half turns out for these rising Atlanta Hawks.-Yuriy A.