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Divesting themselves of Joe Johnson over the summer offered the Hawks a win before the season even tipped off. For as much as Johnson, who was traded to the Nets, was responsible for sending Atlanta to five straight playoffs, his contract ($19.8 million this season) made it nearly impossible to add the complementary pieces necessary to get past the second round. With the additional savings new G.M. Danny Ferry realized by trading the No. 2 pick in 2005, Marvin Williams, to Utah, the Hawks could have up to $30 million to use in free agency next summer, when Chris Paul and Atlanta native Dwight Howard hit the market.
In the meantime the Hawks will see how far their own free-agent-to-be, Josh Smith, can take a roster filled with productive, yet disposable, players. Smith has shown a growing maturity of late, eschewing the spectacular play for the smart one. He'll be quick to embrace the idea of making the team his own.
COACH: Larry Drew (3rd season with Hawks)
2011--12 RECORD: 40--26 (2nd in Southeast)
OFFENSE: 96.6 ppg (17th)
DEFENSE: 93.2 ppg (6th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 17.5 ppg (28th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
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