COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Hawks were a playoff team for the sixth consecutive season in 2012-2013, but again failed to advance to the second round.
If the Hawks find a way to make it back to the postseason this season, they will tie the record for most consecutive playoff appearances since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968.
Still, as the Atlanta Braves proved in baseball, simply making it to the postseason is not good enough. If the Hawks want to be able to contend once they get to the NBA's after-party, there are a few burning questions they must address:
Who Will Be the Starting Shooting Guard?
Devin Harris was the man at shooting guard for much of last season, but he has since returned to Marc Cuban's mother ship in Dallas.
Louis Williams is a rising star at the two-guard position, but he is still recovering from an ACL injury that happened on Jan. 18 last season and may not be completely healthy or prepared to take on a starter's role when the doors open on the 2013-2014 season.
This leaves Kyle Korver, John Jenkins and DeMarre Carroll as the likely candidates at shooting guard. Korver is really a small forward, but he saw time at the two-guard last season and has opened the preseason as Atlanta's starter. As a 10-year veteran, Korver has the most seniority of the group and would allow for the smoothest transition. However, Korver playing guard leaves Atlanta weaker at the three-spot, as well as off the bench.
At 6-4, 215 pounds, Jenkins is built like the prototypical shooting guard. He averaged 6.1 points per game during his rookie season, but got little run in the postseason. Bigger things are expected from Jenkins this year after he turned heads at the NBA's 2013 summer league while averaging 18 ppg. He is the one Atlanta wants to win the starting job, but it just remains a question of whether or not he is ready to take it in only his second year in the NBA.
Can the Hawks Replace Josh Smith?
The Detroit Pistons gave Smith a four-year, $54 million deal, to which the Hawks wished them good luck with that as they skipped away waving their arms in the air and singing, "I'm walking on sunshine."
Smith was a fine player for Hawks during his nine seasons in the ATL, but he was not the type of player around which a championship contender could be built. Smith was as athletic as any player in the league, but his lack of a true scoring arsenal coupled with his sudden desire to start chucking up 3s made $13.5 million per season a little too rich for the Hawks' blood.
Atlanta turned around and used its freed-up cash to woo Paul Millsap away from the jazz-music mecca that is Salt Lake City, Utah.
Millsap is a high-motor player who averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in the 2012-2013 season. At 49 percent from the field, Millsap shoots for a higher percentage than Smith, and his 74.2-percent shooting from the free throw line was 22.5 percent higher than what Smith shot from the charity stripe last season.
Who Will Give Atlanta Bench Production?
With all the player movement, Atlanta may be a little light in the personnel department to start the year. The Hawks ranked No. 20 in the NBA in bench scoring last season, and, in 2013, their second unit is looking even more sparse.
A healthy Williams would solve a lot of problems as an anchor off the bench, but, after him, the rest of the rotation is very unproven.
Second-year power forward Mike Scott has been a nice surprise for the Hawks during the preseason. The 6-8, 237-pound University of Virginia product has averaged 16 points and six rebounds over the Hawks' first two exhibition games. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2012 when he started the season with two straight double-doubles, but he was only able to average 3.9 ppg the rest of the way.
Atlanta also signed veteran power forward Elton Brand to a one-year, $4 million deal this offseason to add a little more experience to the young roster. Although he is no longer a 20-points-per-night scorer, Brand is still a player who can give Atlanta good production while spelling Al Horford for small stretches of the game.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Hawks since Dominique Wilkins created a poster over the first defender foolish enough to step onto his runway.
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