|3rd Overall||13th Overall|
Statistics through 1/20/10
Josh Smith is more under control than ever before. Few power forwards are as solid near the rim. He's a borderline All-Star. Al Horford is steady and solid and never intimidated by bigger centers.
Joe Johnson is perhaps the most underrated star in basketball, capable of big games on both sides of the ball. Mike Bibby's best days are well behind him and if he's not hitting the open 3-pointers.
Josh Smith deserves major consideration for the All-Defensive team because of his shot-blocking skills. Johnson is surprisingly aggressive for a big-time scorer and Horford is solid in the middle.
Jamal Crawford is perfectly suited for the sixth man role: big scorer off the bench, no ego about starting, and changes the tempo. Zaza Pachulia lends stability at center and Maurice Evans brings 3-point shooting.
Mike Woodson has the command and respect of his locker room and shows growth as an in-game coach. He hasn't allowed his contract status to be a distraction, as most coaches would. Like his team, he's cool and composed.
The Hawks can beat anybody. Ask the Celtics -- Atlanta is 3-0 against Boston. That in itself is a victory for this club and demonstrates the growth shown by the Hawks over the last few years. Management decided to keep the young nucleus intact and made a big off-season addition in Crawford. Both have paid off handsomely, as the Hawks have stayed near the top of the East all season.
Are they squarely with the big boys in the East, with the Celtics and Cavaliers and Magic? Well, if they're a cut below, then only by a sliver. Provided they stay healthy, the Hawks will be big challenge for any title contender in a seven-game playoff series. Unlike last season, they have a terrific player coming off the bench, and Johnson will be in contract drive once the postseason begins.
Still, we wonder if they'll have what it takes to pull out a Game 7? That's the only lingering question.
-- Shaun Powell
Explanation of Marking System