Watchability Rankings: No. 22 Hawks
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports’ Adi Joseph and Sean Highkin will be counting down NBA teams based on watchability for the upcoming 2013-14 seasons. We’ll go one team a day, from least-watchable to most, giving you an idea of what to keep an eye out for this season. Today, we continue with the No. 22 Atlanta Hawks:
2012-13 record: 44-38, finished sixth in Eastern Conference, lost in the first round of the playoffs
Adi Joseph’s 2013-14 record projection: 39-43, finish eighth in Eastern Conference
Two best players (2012-13 stats): C Al Horford (17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists a game), PF Paul Millsap (14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds a game with Utah Jazz).
The Hawks made a run at Dwight Howard and lost, and then let leading scorer Josh Smith leave for the Detroit Pistons without making much of an effort to keep him. So is Atlanta another landmark on the tanking map? Not so fast. General manager Danny Ferry may have radically rebuilt the roster, but he made smart signings to keep the team competitive. In addition to re-signing guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver, the Hawks got former Utah Jazz big man Paul Millsap on a terrific contract and fleshed out the bench with low-cost signings like DeMarre Carroll and Elton Brand. He also hired former San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to replace Larry Drew as head coach, and hiring someone from that organization is never a bad idea. Atlanta won’t be competing for a title, but they’re still very much in the playoff mix.
WHY YOU CAN’T MISS THEM
A faster pace: Speedy point guard Jeff Teague was re-signed, and German rookie Dennis Schröder can push the ball in transition, too. The Hawks brought back sharpshooter Kyle Korver, and second-year guard John Jenkins figures to see more minutes this season. All of this should translate into a faster-paced, more exciting Hawks squad than years past.
Unsung big man: Al Horford doesn’t get the attention former college teammate Joakim Noah does, but he’s been one of the best centers in the league since he was drafted in 2007. He’s a force at both ends … [For more on NBA Watchability Rankings: No. 22 Atlanta Hawks, click here.]