Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Obligatory Basketball Pre-Preview Grades

Hawks Friends & Foes,

It's ALMOST time for the NBA season and, by extension, the Hawk Str8Talk (HS8T) Season Preview. Now, this time last year - we had spent an entire offseason debating the goodness and badness of our offseason pickups and having optimistic thoughts about a 50 win season and making noise in the playoffs.  Despite some of our blog haters, the very items we said were going to be issues for the Hawks played themselves out in disappointing fashion. Those were:

  • Leadership - This can be broken into three areas - front office, coaching, & player.  Unlike many teams, what happens at the top permeates throughout each level of leadership with the Hawks.  Our front office leadership has never done anything that spoke to the point of winning a championship. It has always lended itself to saying - we want to be relevant.  And if that's your judgment for success, then job well done.  Since this blog speaks to everything championship leaning, that's not really all that valuable to us and so, in essence, it's no surprise that GM Knight and GM Sund did not (or were not allowed to) make the moves that had a risk/reward that lends itself to championship levels. Which leads to why our players are not developed or used with the goal of a future championship.  We've yet to see a true leader emerge for the Hawks and we don't expect that again this season. Due to this, our #1 concern is what we get from Jamal Crawford.  Short of good coaching and leadership, expect Jamal 'Gunning for a New Contract' Crawford to be on full display.  Grade (relative to last year): D
  • Strategy - This is where we probably got the most schizo feeling about the season.  On one hand, it's inconceivable to us that the Hawks championship fortunes are ultimately going to be changed by hiring the assistant coach of the coach that you ultimately blamed for our failure in the postseason.  Bottom line, it's not just X's and O's that were problems for the Hawks - it's just the general motivation and energy from the bench that were at fault.  The in-game strategy was not that great and so, it's easy for the assistant coach to read the tea leaves and say - I'm going to change everything.  Who wouldn't do that?  That said, this experiment still doesn't change the fact that you have BAD defenders. You have offensive players who aren't making ANY offensive system championship level.  So, to change the coach and none of the main rotation still means nothing.  That said, on the good side, Coach Drew hasn't spoken about keeping any of the old strategies.  That's good and portends that there is upside to be found somewhere if executed well.  So, that's what we'll look for (though again, I'll say this - if Teague is not the opening day starter and doesn't get at least 30-40 games to prove that he can handle the job...flush any shot this team has at winning 50 games this season). Grade (relative to last year):B-
  • Toughness - So, our changes are Jordan Crawford, Josh Powell, Etan Thomas, Pape Sy, and Coach Drew (and his staff - hello, Nick Van Exel). I'm not going to even to try to tell you that there's some belief that these additions will make the Hawks stand up and be present when punched in the mouth, so just call this a big ol' fail and move on  Grade (relative to last year): D
  • Defense - Strategically, if Teague gets 35 minutes a game, then the defense gets an upgrade.  If the scheme changes, we'll see how that changes things, but we like the attempt to change things.  That said, we didn't change any players.  In fact, we got ANOTHER shooting guard in the draft, which is just silly unless you trade Jamal Crawford for someone who DOES address your glaring defensive talent issues. Grade (relative to last year): F
  • Front Office Woes - Basically, the feeling that we'd be better off with David McDavid or Belkin should tell you everything that needs to be said about our front office. I've yet to feel like I've been dealt with honestly as a fan with regards to a championship product.  So, if they just come out and say that they just want to be able to make the playoffs each year, then I get mad that our aim is set too low, but I settle into understanding why we do what we do.  Anything short of that and it's an epic fail. I mean we replaced our bad coach with one of the people who have followed him for the past 6 years and expect me to believe he's the answer. Right! And for the record, I am no longer saying that we're cheap - I'm saying that we're just not smart with the money in the name of cheapness.  Meaning I think we were trying to be cheap by selling the draft pick we acquired in the draft this year without understanding that if we get a useful player in the draft that it's cheaper to keep them over time than picking up the Thomases & Collinses of the world at the veteran minimum. Again, just dumb... Grade (relative to last year):F
  • Familiarity Breeds Success? - The jury will be out on this.  Familiarity breeds 2nd round playoffs, but we're not sure why the Hawks have been so reticent to make real changes each year.  Each year, teams BETTER than ours are making upgrades and changes to their rotation.  EACH YEAR!  The Hawks, not so much...and I can't say I know why. Our salary number say it's not even about saving money Donald Sterling style. Grade (relative to last year): C .
So, next week, we'll publish our Season Preview and Prediction.  We got a lot of hate last year because we like to revise our prediction as we see things that tell us to change it.  That's just our way of doing things, but we always come back and compare our original projection with the actual result.  Last year, we said that the Hawks best case record would be 52-30 (meaning good years, good health, etc) and they won 53 games in the best case scenario.  I predicted 47 wins.  I was off by 6 games and folks are hatin'.  Presumably, that was because we were right about the things that we discussed above leading to getting killed in the playoffs.  I said that then and I'll repeat it.  The Hawks can win a lot of games in the regular season again and get killed in the playoffs if they don't address these issues above in a real, substantive way. 

So, yes, I'm going to do predictions, but they really are meaningless.  The regular season record is a function of health for the most part.  As the Celtics showed, taking off the regular season didn't hurt them with regards to winning the title.  Losing Kendrick Perkins is what did that.  So, I'm saying that as presently constituted at our best health - all things considered...we have work to do.  How much work will be revealed next week....

With that said, it's time for Hawks basketball...jump on board with our game recaps, Hawks community updates, ticket discounts, and much more...

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Bret LaGree said...

I think the key to not getting grief for one's predictions is to make consistently incorrect predictions which are generally incorrect in the same way which leads folks to ignore any future predictions.

ATL_Hawk_Luv said...

Bret, you have the unique ability to make me laugh at myself. My desire to be right must be curtailed in essence.