Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In My Dreams

It's been asked by a few that I reveal my inner most Hawks Dream, so I finally have some time to identify what would make a 'status quo keeping' Hawks offseason that makes me feel as though we are headed for a first round loss in the playoffs (i.e. playing one of the East's big three in the first round).

So, here's the Hawk Str8Talk version of a Dream Offseason** that could keep the Hawks in contention for 2nd and 3rd round playoff possibilities

** This would be using the remaining free agents available (obviously, this would have been a more useful and impactful blog after the draft, but before free agency began).

Dream Hawks Roster
PG - Ramon Sessions (via a sign and trade of Ramon Sessions and cash for Mike Bibby)
SG - Joe Johnson
SF - Lamar Odom (if everyone else can make a play for Odom, why not us - shoot, if we have $8M for Marvin Williams over 5 years - I'm cool with giving 4 yrs and $8M/yr for Odom)
PF - Josh Smith
C - Al Horford

BPG - Jeff Teague
BSG - Flip Murray (Re-sign)
BSF - Maurice Evans
BPF - Hakim Warrick (yes, he is limited offensively, but he's a significant upgrade to Solomon Jones)
BC - Zaza Pachulia

3rd String Center - Randolph Morris
3rd String PF - Othello Hunter
3rd String Big Man/Vet/Leadership Glue Guy - Joe Smith
3rd String PG - Free Agent Guy who can play defense and handle the ball
3rd String SG - Free Agent Guy who can shoot and defend at the league minimum

Coach: Jeff Van Gundy (would take a shot at Kurt Rambis or Mark Jackson)

Now, this would solve several issues for the Hawks. First, there are enough players for a 11 man rotation. The top 10 plus Joe Smith. This would give the Hawks enough players to actually use competent players in the event of slump, matchup purpose, or injury. Currently, we are unable to make adjustments b/c we only play the same 8 players each game. This provides some coaching flexibility. Obviously, the first benefit would be from a change in coaching philosophy, but even if we didn't change the coach. You'd have to cater some of the offense to the strengths Sessions brings to the table in terms of penetration & defensive presence.

The move to bring Odom on board provides a veteran presence, better rebounding, the same 3 point range, and versatility on the defensive end. Sure, Odom can be inconsistent, but inconsistency is Marvin Williams' middle name. The second team is also stronger - we'd have a PG to groom into the position, but with a player in Sessions that he'd have to take the position from. Additionally, Warrick provides a shot blocking and athletic presence that's a better than Solomon Jones. If Warrick doesn't provide that presence - you have Joe Smith waiting in the wings for PT as well as providing a solid locker room presence to assist the new coach (or old coach - as it were).

This, people, is the Hawk Str8Talk dream offseason team using players that are actually still available this offseason. Now, let's go make it happen, GM Sund. Leave any bargain PG/SG options in the comments section...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rotation Expansion?

It's been a focus of this blog to see the rotation expand to 10-11 players during the regular season - no matter who the players are. Of course, you can't do that in the playoffs, which has always been a point of contention.

Here's some words from the horse's mouth. We'll see whether or not - the words translates into action. As a note, last year - Woodson said he was going to be expanding the roster and playing more players during the season. Time will tell....

Also, a last note - he also notes the fact that other teams besides the big 3 will be targeting the Hawks spot as the 4th seed. Something that we've taken a lot of grief for even suggesting...ironically, there is something that Woodson and I agree on.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Offseason Blues - Updated...

I wanted to update my offseason report card from a few weeks ago since 1. many things have changed since our last report card and 2. many people continue to try to sell me on the fact that the Hawks have done good things this offseason. Since we've been unmoved by our offseason upgrades (re-signing last year's players do not qualify), Hawk Str8Talk HQ is looking to figure out what we can do to improve this team. That will be the subject of our next blog. First, we'll update the offseason board below and then get to analysizing.

1. Lakers - Added Artest. Lost Ariza. (Limbo - Odom)
2. Nuggets - Added Lawson, Afflalo. Lost D. Jones (Limbo - Kleiza, Petro, Carter)
3. Spurs - Added Jefferson, Blair, McDyess. Lost Bowen, Oberto, Thomas (Limbo - Udoka, Vaughn, Gooden)
4. Blazers - Added no one. Lost Rodriguez, Frye. (Limbo - LaFrentz)
5. Rockets - Added Ariza, D. Andersen. Lost Artest, Yao, Mutumbo. (Limbo - Wafer, McGrady injury)
6. Mavericks - Added Marion, Q. Ross. Lost Bass, Stackhouse, George, A. Wright. (Limbo - G. Green)
7. Hornets - Added D. Collison. Lost No One. (Limbo - Ely, R. Bowen)
8. Jazz - Added Maynor. Lost Boozer (soon) (Limbo - Collins, Almond, B. Knight)

1. Cavs - Added O'Neal, A. Parker. Lost Wallace, Pavlovic. (Limbo - Smith, Szczerbiak)
2. Celtics - Added Wallace. In Limbo - Marbury, G. Davis, L. Powe, M. Moore.
3. Magic - Added Carter, R. Anderson, Bass. Subtracted by Alston, Battie, Lee, & Turkgolu. (Limbo - Lue, Foyle)
4. Hawks - Added Crawford, Teague. Lost Law, Claxton. (Limbo - West, Jones, Williams, Murray)
5. Heat - Added no one, but possibly Odom. Lost no one (Limbo - Moon, Magloire, Head)
6. Sixers - Added Brand, Holiday, Kapono. Lost R. Evans (Limbo - A. Miller, Marshall, Ivey, Ratliff, Rush)
7. Bulls - Added James Johnson, T. Gibson, Pargo. Lost Gordon (Limbo - A. Gray)
8. Pistons - Added Gordon, Villanueva, Daye, Coach Kuerster. Subtracted Wallace, Afflalo, McDyess, Iverson, Coach Curry
9. Wizards - Added Arenas, Foye, and Miller. Lost Pecherov, E. Thomas, Songalia
10. Raptors - Added Turkgolu, DeRozan, Evans, A. Wright, J. Jack. Lost Marion, Kapono, A. Parker (Limbo - Delfino, J. Graham)

Well, it looks like we have updated the list to include one more team in the East - the Raptors. While most of the Atlanta fan base seems to have sated by the trade of spare parts for a useful part, it is still unsettled on whether the Hawks have made any appreciable upgrades to the team outside of a reliance on our current players' offseason improvement. But we recall that last season's 2nd half and postseason revealed areas that need improvement in order to move up in the East (or even to keep status quo).

It was apparent to most that the Hawks were lacking in defense, rebounding, interior depth, leadership, and toughness. These areas were not up for much debate, so what has been done to address these areas? far!

While the East's Big Three all made moves to improve upon their core assets, the Hawks tried to match them with the acquisition of Jamal Crawford. As we noted earlier this summer, we are not as enamored of this deal as most. At a price of $1.5M, Flip Murray provided us 12pts a game in 24 minutes as the backup shooting guard/point guard. As a starter for the Golden State Warriors (a team that plays at the highest pace in the league), Crawford provided 19.7pts a game in 38 minutes as the starting shooting guard. Basically a 1 pt per 2 minute clip for each player. Now at a price of $9.3M, that trade doesn't look so appetizing as the prospect of using Law & Claxton as chips for a big man and then re-signing Flip Murray at a fraction of the cost for similar production. While we certainly don't believe Murray to be a defensive stalwart - he's still an upgrade over Crawford defensively.

That said, we admit that on its face - the trade is better than nothing, but the question remains that it might be short-sighted to take a trade that improves your talent base when that talent isn't addressing the areas that caused your 2nd half slump and postseason collapse (Note: we consider 7 games to beat the Heat (3 losses by an avg of 20+pts) and a sweep by the Cavs in all uncompetitive games a collapse.) So, while our friends at the AJC seem to be declaring the Sund era a success, we are still in wait and see mode. This roster still hasn't been filled out. We still don't have Marvin Williams in the fold. We still have qualifying offers out to Solomon Jones and Mario West (which still puzzles us). We still have no idea how our 5 weaknesses have been improved. These are weaknesses that are time worn for winning championships.

That coupled with the fact that other teams are netting at more talent than what the Hawks have attained to date speaks to our working assertion that we're losing ground to the teams ahead of us AND that the teams behind us are catching us. If the Heat add Odom, we will have another team in the running for the 4th seed in the East. It's no guarantee that any of the new teams' additions will result in the chemistry that will result in a rise in the standings, but it stands to reason that adding All Star talents in Washington and Philly, adding NBA champion experience and talent in Toronto and Miami, growth in Chicago, and possibly just a new coach and chemistry will catapult Detroit and/or 3-5 other teams past the Atlanta Hawks.

We're going to wait until the roster has been filled out to pass judgment on where this team will reside in the standings, but at this juncture - we're still not convinced that healed injuries and Flip 2.0 is enough to keep our standing as the 4th best team in the East.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Allow Us To Re-Introduce Ourselves

The Hawks Str8Talk blog has been around for almost a full year and we've found a niche in the Hawks Blogosphere where we get to speak our truth. There are some fan blogs dedicated to complete homer-dom, some dedicated to criticizing everything that the organization does that isn't deemed successful, and some that are just all about calling it like it is.

That's where we wanted to fall into the blog spectrum, so it's important we reset our compass for our loyal readers (all 7 or 8 of them). So, here's the Hawk Str8Talk creed:

1. The writer of this blog above all else wants to see the Atlanta Hawks win a NBA championship.
2. The writer of this blog will always cheer for this goal to be achieved.
3. The writer of this blog will always tell the truth about this organization in good times and in bad times.
4. The writer of this blog will always view the actions and progress of this team through the prism of 'does what I see translate into winning a NBA championship?'
5. This writer of this blog will add other filler around this to entertain the people and give them a glimpse into the things not normally talked about in NBA blogs (as examples, we discussed the comparison in dance teams, marketing and sales staff, game operations, celebrities seen, fights, ticketing and logistics, etc - all in additon to analysis of the players, coaches, and ownership)

So, it's with that creed that we speak about my beloved Atlanta Hawks. In the past few days, there have been some interesting debates and challenges to our beliefs, but make no mistake - we are always first and foremost - hopeful about the prospects of our Atlanta Hawks, but let it be clear - this is Hawks Str8Talk. Just b/c we want something to be one way doesn't mean we're going to say something that isn't our truth.

In our last post, there seemed to be some thought that at HST HQ - we were panicking. Nothing could be further from the truth. In an offseason where we are currently staring at bringing back the same type of team (with Flip traded out for Jamal and possibly David Andersen traded out for Randolph Morris), we simply said - as presently constituted, we haven't addressed the problems that plagued us the latter half of the regular season and during the playoffs. Those problems were the reason we almost lost to a woeful, inferior Miami Heat team and were swept by a strong, but not so strong that we couldn't compete with them Cleveland Cavaliers (and yes, we're accounting for the injuries).

So, when faced with that, and the potential that all the other teams were adding pieces that POSSIBLY can make them better (Magic - Carter, Celtics - KG and Rasheed, Cavs - Shaq, Wizards - Arenas, Andersen, and Miller & coach; Pistons - Gordon & Villanueva & coach, Bulls - didn't need anyone - they made their moves at the trade deadline and looked young, yet better than us during the last half of the season and postseason; Sixers - Brand) - the Hawks seem to be stuck in mud.

We don't feel good about just re-signing the old team when we are still lacking defense, rebounding, and a true backup point guard who will play next year (Woodson has shown that he's not playing young players unless he's forced to - i.e. our first 3 years, so Teague is a thought for 2011, but not now) and trading Flip for Jamal didn't seem like much of an upgrade. Don't let our pessimism about that confuse anyone regarding our ability to make the playoffs. We can make the playoffs with last year's team. Can we win a 1st round playoff series or even compete in a 2nd round playoff series? That's a question that concerns us based on last year's results. So, here at Str8Talk, we can't ignore how badly we needed leadership, better strategy, toughness when finally faced with good teams in the playoffs (or in the Heat's case - even bad teams with a superstar). It's not a good feeling to see other teams trying to add things that change the course of their fate vs. taking essentially the same recipe and hoping for a different result.

That said, there's still time and we'll waiting with bated breath to see what GM Sund has in store. Hopefully, our fears and concerns will be addressed and our path to a title becomes clearer. Thanks for your time...

The Notorious Hawk L.U.V.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hawks As An 8th Seed?

In true Str8Talk fashion, it was with great hope that we thought that the Hawks would be players in the offseason. So, we decided that it was time to assess what the top teams have done in free agency to date AND figure out where the Hawks project out for next season's playoff seeding based on that assessment.

So, in NBA news...and reporting on teams that were as good or better than the Hawks last season

1. Lakers - picked up Artest, lost Ariza
2. Nuggets - Done nothing yet
3. Spurs - picked up Jefferson
4. Blazers - picked up Turkgolu
5. Rockets - picked up Ariza, lost Artest, injury woes with McGrady and Yao
6. Mavericks - in limbo with Kidd
7. Hornets - Nothing
8. Jazz - all potential free agents decided to stay

1. Cavs - picked up Shaq
2. Celtics - lost Marbury, might be able to pick up Wallace, injury issues with Garnett
3. Magic - lost Lee, Turkgolu, and Carter
4. Hawks - picked up Crawford - still unsure about Zaza, Flip, Childress, Bibby, Marvin Williams
5. Heat - nothing
6. Sixers - nothing, but Brand should be coming back
7. Bulls - lost Gordon
8. Pistons - picked up Gordon, Villanueva...losing Wallace & Iverson
9. Wizards - picking up Arenas, Foye, and Miller

Now, looking at this becomes fairly apparent that the Hawks are performing up to recent standards (last midseason included) with regards to making championship level improvements. There's no doubt that the Hawks have caught no one this offseason and likely have sacrificed their ability to even get the 4th seed in the East. In the West, all the teams have made moves with the understanding that to stand pat is to allow another team to pass you by.

While there were many who were excited about Jamal Crawford, count us among those who were not. I'd much rather be in the position of the Pistons, Bulls, or Wizards this offseason and despite the Magic's net loss - they still are better than the Hawks at full strength. Which brings us to our current state...we still have no point guard (Teague, Crawford, Johnson are all shooting guards - don't let anyone tell you otherwise), we still don't have a center (or a backup center), and the ownership is not known for spending money.

So, where does that leave us during the the #8 seed at best. Fortunately, the Heat haven't done anything or else we'd be staring at the possibility of not being in the playoffs this upcoming season. To be sure, things certainly can change with a few contract signings, a few injuries, or coaching changes, but as it stands - we are a team in hopes of making the playoffs ONCE AGAIN. These thoughts of 50 win seasons are not being harbored by this fan. Let's hope that we are singing a different song on Aug. 1st.