Blazersedge 2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Hawks and Wizards--Don't Freak Out

Ha ha!  That headline seemed to go with the spirit of the day.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Record:  37-45, 3rd in Southeast Division, 8th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

4th in blocks

 

Others:

15th in the league in scoring (98.2 ppg)

15th in opponent scoring (100.0 ppg)

19th  in ppg differential (-1.8 ppg)

16th in field goal % 

21st in opponent field goal %

18th in three-point % 

7th in free throw attempts per game

7th in free throw percentage

12th in assists

14th in steals

22nd  in turnovers

17th in opponent turnovers

Very Good offensive rebounding team

Poor defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Maurice Evans, Flip Murray, Randolph Morris

Significant Subtractions:  Josh Childress, Salim Stoudamire, Jeremy Richardson

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Mike Woodson

 

Key Players

PG:  Mike Bibby, Acie Law

SG:  Joe Johnson, Flip Murray

SF:   Marvin Williams, Maurice Evans

PF:  Josh Smith, Solomon Jones

C:  Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia

 

Comments

 

Atlanta had an interesting season last year, making the playoffs and giving the Celtics all they could handle before succumbing in the first round.  This typifies their reputation at the moment:  dangerous but inconsistent.  They have the athleticism and scoring power to fry your Cheetos.  But they can’t put it together every night.  Joe Johnson is a multi-talented offensive player who is often overlooked when discussion of the league’s better shooting guards comes up.  He averaged 22 points with 6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.  Josh Smith has come into his own as a punishing forward.  His athleticism is awe-inspiring.  It doesn’t hurt lining up next to Marvin Williams either.  That forward tandem will flat out beat you down.  Oh, and then there’s big Al Horford, the low post and rebounding machine.  This is a young, hungry lineup with legitimate talent.  The Hawks are a sports car waiting to be let loose.

 

Atlanta has a few obstacles to overcome if they want to rise in the conference, however.  First, even though the car has plenty of horsepower, they’ve been driving directionless for the last couple of years.  They’re hoping that veteran Mike Bibby will provide a sure hand at the wheel but this isn’t the Bibby of old.  It’ll be interesting to see how he keeps up with these kids and whether he can score efficiently enough to keep defenses honest.  His distance shooting will sure help free up those driving lanes though.  Second, the Hawks have absolutely got to get better on the defensive boards in particular and on defense in general.  They should be running it every chance they get.  That’s hard when the opponent shoots well and you’re not sure of any rebounds.  Third, like many young teams, they had a far better home record (25 wins) than road record (12 wins) last year.  They need to keep their focus and develop a killer instinct on the enemy’s turf.  They should be making opposing crowds ooh and aah at their dunks.  Finally, they need a little help off the bench.  The uncompensated loss of Josh Childress is going to hurt them.  Some of their bench players just don’t fit their style.  Their athletic game will suffer if all of their starters have to play huge minutes.  They need to hope Flip Murray discovers some of his old magic and that somebody else on that second unit can score.

 

The Hawks aren’t poised to challenge the conference elite yet, but they should be a team that benefits from experience.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see them post a winning record this year if a couple of the above-mentioned flaws get corrected.  They’re not a team opponents can overlook anymore.

 

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Record:  43-39, 2nd in Southeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

5th in free throw percentage

27th in assists

 

Others:

14th in the league in scoring (98.8 ppg)

12th in opponent scoring (99.2 ppg)

15th  in ppg differential (-0.3 ppg)

22nd in field goal % 

19th in opponent field goal %

17th in three-point % 

19th in free throw attempts per game

10th in steals

15th in blocks

7th in turnovers

12th in opponent turnovers

Good offensive rebounding team

Poor defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Dermarr Johnson, Juan Dixon, JaVale McGee (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Roger Mason

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Eddie Jordan

 

Key Players

PG:  Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels, Juan Dixon

SG:  DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young

SF:  Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire

PF:  Antawn Jamison, Darius Songalia, Oleksiy Pecherov, JaVale McGee

C:  Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, Andre Blatche

 

Comments

 

Ahhhh…what the heck is going on in Washington?  The Wizards are like a mountain climber on an icy slope in a storm.  They absolutely have to hold on to the position and tools they have lest they fall precipitously, yet as long as they’re clinging to the same two pitons they can’t make it any farther up the mountainside.  Every time Gilbert Arenas gets injured it’s like a little more of their foothold crumbling.  Guys like Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are doing everything they can to make sure the team holds together, but to what end?

 

Here’s what you love about the Wizards:

 

--They have dependable players in their major positions, provided Fauxstradamus is healthy.

 

--They have enough scoring to whip butt on you on any given night.

 

--When faced with the abysmal defensive performance of two seasons ago they righted the ship and actually bothered to watch a man or two (as opposed to watching the entire opposing team waltz down the lane for dunks).  Not many veteran teams can or will adjust their style of play like that.

 

--Their bench has a lot of nice names…for a bench.

 

Like many of their compatriots in the mid-to-lower Eastern ranks, they don’t fit together seamlessly.  Take Antawn Jamison, for example.  He’s an amazing statistical player.  He’s defying experts and nay-sayers by having some of the best seasons of his career after age 30.  But he’s not the kind of guy you’d say complements Gilbert Arenas, who also likes to play with the ball in his hands.  Caron Butler is the best team guy of their big three and a huge asset.  When the other two are healthy he may not touch the ball enough.  And then there are Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas.  Haywood is a nice player but isn’t the type of guy to anchor your defense or key the fast break with a tough rebound and brilliant outlet pass.  Thomas is a monster but plays his own game and doesn’t always get along with others.  All of these guys are really good in their own ways.  They’re like a pretty jigsaw puzzle with no more than two pieces that connect.

 

The Wizards’ great hope for advancement may be two of their youngsters, Nick Young and Dominic McGuire.  Each has the athleticism to be special.  Each should be able to score in this league when they get going.  Young had a very good rookie season and should be primed for more playing time.  McGuire was somewhat disappointing.  But then again how invested is this team in helping those youngsters shine?  It would do the Wizards a world of good if one or both stepped forward, allowing at least one of the established stars to get traded for decent value:  defense, shooting, team players.

 

As it stands the Wizards will be in the middle mix in the conference as usual.  Barring more injuries there’s no way their scoring power and experience will let them free fall.  But there’s not much hope of them leaping forward either.  How long is first-round-and-out good enough?

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

 

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