Playoff Contention: Atlanta Hawks
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In the last 10 months, the Hawks traded away their big-money player (Joe Johnson), lost two key bench players for the season to injuries (Louis Williams and Zaza Pachulia) and dealt with a Summer 2014 free agent who will probably leave them because he wants a max contract (Josh Smith).
Still, GM Danny Ferry and Coach Larry Drew have been able to find a winning combination that has been able to get Atlanta into its sixth straight NBA Playoffs in spite of the obstacles.
That winning combo has been Al Horford, Josh Smith, Kyle Korver, Devin Harris and Jeff Teague.
Collectively those five make only $41 million and together they have produced 42 wins so far, even as the organization restructures itself for the Summer 2014 free-agency period.
Talk about great bang-for-your-buck.
Two $5 million Hawks have been lost to injury (again, Williams and Pachulia), while the rest of the squad is field with only $12.5 million.
And still they win enough to get in.
Next year, Atlanta only has $18 million on the books--in the form of Horford and Williams--so Ferry is getting a good look at how he can take this team to the next level--sign a big-money free agent or two--and surround his cast with these existing bargain buys.
The Hawks have fielded better teams before, but they've never had a better base to build for future teams until now.
You just gotta love that Atlanta has been able to play Top 10-level defense because of the incredible pick-and-roll defense of Smith and Horford.
It makes you root that this franchise can keep their homegrown Hawk Smith in Atlanta and surround him and Horford with yet another standout.
On offense, the Hawks have been able to keep their head above water with the all-around play of these bigs, not to mention the outside shooting of Korver (46 percent on 3's) and the dual point-guard attack of Harris and Teague.
True, they are not likely to go far in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
And a player or two may actually leave the core group this summer.
But one thing is certain in Atlanta: the 2012-13 Hawks have provided the perfect foundation for this franchise to take off in the near future.
Anything they do in the 2013 NBA Playoffs is just unexpected bonus.
The Hawks bench is pretty bad, but don't blame the subs. Atlanta is in cost-cutting mode, plus they've been hampered with season-ending injuries to sixth and seventh men Williams and Pachulia. Thankfully, however, Coach Drew has been able to rely on the quintet of Teague, Harris, Korver, Smith and Horford, who have a +10.2 net rating per 100 possessions in 321 minutes together. It is this quintet that also posts a fabulous 95.0 defensive rating together. That is incredible when you consider they are getting better output than any of last year's most popular lineups when they were committed to Joe Johnson's four-year, $89 million contract. It just goes to show that a defense can still carry a team to success when you have two bigs--Smith and Horford--who can defend the pick-and-roll exceptionally well. Because of the injury-depleted bench, the Hawks are going to have to rely on the starters to play heavy minutes in the playoffs, while making sure Ivan Johnson, Anthony Tolliver and DeShawn Stevenson are the first names called off the bench, since these are the best battle-tested men of the bench. For what it's worth, this bench trio has only played 44 minutes together, but has a +11.7 net rating and a tough 92.0 defensive rating together.
THE 5,000 MINUTE RULE
The 5,000 Minute Rule says most championship teams have five-plus players together for at least 5,000 minutes before they win a championship, and the Hawks have three active players in The 5G Club: Smith (24,667 minutes with the Hawks), Horford (14,858) and Teague (6925). Zaza Pachulia, who is out for the year with an Achilles injury, logged 12,719 minutes in Atlanta.
LORD OF THE RINGS
DeShawn Stevenson, who played with the Dallas Mavericks' 2011 NBA championship team, is the only Atlanta Hawk with a ring. Stevenson played 103 minutes in the 2011 NBA Finals.
Hollinger Playoff Odds say Atlanta has a 1 percent chance to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.2 percent shot to win the NBA championship; Basketball-Reference says the Hawks have a 2 percent shot to reach the 2013 NBA Finals and 0.3 percent chance to win the title.
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C AL HORFORD: 72 games, 37.3 mpg, 17.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 19.8 PER, +3.1 Net, +7.4 On/Off
C Johan Petro: 29 games, 10.7 mpg, 3.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 10.9 PER, -13.6 Net, -15.8 On/Off
C Zaza Pachulia* (injured): 52 games, 21.8 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 13.1 PER, +0.7 Net, -0.2 On/Off
PF JOSH SMITH: 73 games, 35.7 mpg, 17.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 17.4 PER, +1.9 Net, +3.4 On/Off
PF Ivan Johnson: 65 games, 14.6 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 15.0 PER, -1.6 Net, -3.3 On/Off
PF Anthony Tolliver: 59 games, 15.1 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 8.4 PER, -1.4 Net, -2.9 On/Off
PF Mike Scott: 37 games, 7.9 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 14.5 PER, -6.5 Net, -8.0 On/Off
SF KYLE KORVER: 71 games, 31.0 mpg, 11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 13.8 PER, +4.6 Net, +8.9 On/Off
SF Dahntay Jones: 74 games, 12.8 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 6.2 PER, -6.1 Net, -9.4 On/Off
SG DEVIN HARRIS: 55 games, 24.6 mpg, 9.9 ppg, 3.3 apg, 14.8 PER, +7.5 Net, +10.3 On/Off
SG DeShawn Stevenson: 53 games, 20.8 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 8.7 PER, -1.6 Net, -3.5 On/Off
SG John Jenkins: 57 games, 13.8 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 13.2 PER, -8.9 Net, -12.4 On/Off
SG Louis Williams (injured): 39 games, 28.7 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 16.0 PER, 0.0 Net, -1.2 On/Off
PG JEFF TEAGUE: 77 games, 33.0 mpg, 14.6 ppg, 7.1 apg, 16.7 PER, +1.0 Net, +0.4 On/Off
PG Shelvin Mack: 16 games, 12.0 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 11.7 PER, +7.9 Net, +9.9 On/Off
2011-12 GONE HAWKS (.606)
SG Joe Johnson: 60 games, 35.5 mpg, 18.8 ppg, 3.9 apg, 18.4 PER, +5.9 Net, +6.2 On/Off
SF Marvin Williams: 57 games, 26.3 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 15.8 PER, +3.0 Net, -1.5 On/Off
PG Kirk Hinrich: 48 games, 25.8 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 2.8 apg, 9.2 PER, +1.5 Net, -3.7 On/Off
SG Willie Green: 53games, 17.4 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 13.9 PER, -3.3 Net, -9.9 On/Off
SF Tracy McGrady: 52 games, 16.1 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 13.6 PER, +5.7 Net, +2.6 On/Off
PF Vladimir Radmanovic: 49 games, 15.4 mpg, 4.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 11.7 PER, +2.9 Net, -1.2 On/Off
PG Jannero Pargo: 50 games, 13.4 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 1.9 apg, 13.6 PER, +3.3 Net, -0.6 On/Off
C Jason Collins: 30 games, 10.3 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.7 PER, +1.7 Net, -2.3 On/Off
SG Jerry Stackhouse*: 30 games, 9.1 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 11.5 PER, -0.9 Net, -5.1 On/Off
C Erick Dampier: 15 games, 5.5 mpg, 0.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 5.5 PER, +2.3 Net, -0.3 On/Off
* Hawks that did not play in 2012 NBA Playoffs; returning players in boldface