|NBA Offseason Report Cards|
Laugh if you will, but every team in the Southeast can make a logical argument why it can win the division. While, in part, that speaks to how much the aging Heat have come back to the pack, it also hints at the improving talent in Orlando, Charlotte and, yes, Atlanta. This is going to be a tight race, as the kids try to focus on winning consistently and veterans such as Shaq just try to stay focused. If what happened over the summer is any indication, however, Shaq had better show up to start the season in shape for a change because this division is coming for him.
What Went Right:
They drafted well.
For a team that has made a habit of puzzling fans and experts alike with their draft selections in recent years, the Hawks seem to have finally gotten it right with Al Horford and Acie Law IV. Neither may have the most upside, but both are as close to NBA-ready as the college game has to offer. Horford will bolster a frontcourt that needed more off the glass and around the hoop, and while Law may not be Deron Williams or Chris Paul, he could be the tempo-directing point this team has long lacked.
They didn't give into temptation.
Josh Smith has alternately thrilled the coaching staff with his eye-opening athletic gifts and driven it to distraction by butting heads with their instructions. With an abundance of swingmen, Smith has often found himself in many a trade rumor. To Atlanta's credit, they didn't deal him this summer (at least as of this writing). When you have a 6-foot-9 player who can block more than two shots a game, why would you trade that?
What Went Wrong:
The ownership situation has yet to be resolved.
The tug-of-war between the multi-headed ownership group and a former partner in that group, Steve Belkin, hangs like an anchor over most of what this franchise does. Free-agent deals, front-office personnel decisions -- everything running a franchise entails is never quite clear cut with Belkin still in the mix and, more important, still at war with his former co-owners.
Is that all?
With some $6 million in salary-cap space, a glut of swingmen and a yawning need for more defense the Hawks have passed on the summer season. Whether or not that has been a result of their buyer's remorse over Speedy Claxton or because the aforementioned unresolved ownership situation, the Hawks could have made plenty of plays for defensive-minded players such as Mickael Pietrus, Ruben Patterson or even a James Posey. They didn't, and that could hurt.
The Hawks have been quiet, but effective, this summer filling some big holes through the draft and retaining one of the league's youngest rosters. But coach Mike Woodson, who is in the last year of his contract, needs to at least contend late into the season, and given the East's relative weakness, perhaps even reach the postseason. He appears to have the talent to do so; does he have the coaching chops?
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