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2012-13 Atlanta Hawks Preview

For the last few seasons, the Atlanta Hawks have been a good NBA team.

The problem is, they are not a great team. They are a team destined for the playoffs and an early exit.

Over the last five seasons, the Hawks have made the playoffs every season, but never got past the second round. When that happens repeatedly, it's time for some changes.

In late June, the Hawks hired Danny Ferry from the San Antonio Spurs to be the team's president of basketball operations and general manager. Hiring anyone from the Spurs' organization is immediately a brilliant move.

Ferry hit the ground running. About a week after he moved his furniture into his new office, Ferry sent All-Star guard and leading scorer Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, the Hawks got Anthony Morrow and almost no one who can help right away. But what they did land was a 2013 first-round pick and a bucket load of expiring contracts.

Ferry then shipped underachieving small forward Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for point guard Devin Harris.

He signed bench stud Lou Williams, traded for sharp-shooter Kyle Korver and drafted Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins.

That is quite an overhaul.

"I was playing with my national team in the Dominican Republic and I was in South America and I didn't have any Internet for three weeks," said former All-Star Al Horford about his offseason. "What was happening was my dad would call and be like 'This and that happened.' For me it was a good time to be away from everything. We are actually pretty excited the guys who still remain here."

Besides Horford, the other main cog for Atlanta is Josh Smith.

Few players in the league can fill up a stat sheet like Smith. Last season, he averaged 18.8 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists and shot 46 percent from the field.

Smith can also be a tad difficult to handle and might not be Atlanta's headache much longer. Smith's contract runs out at the end of the season and he told the Hawks he won't sign a long-term deal during the season.

That makes Smith perfect trade bait at the deadline.

But the Hawks figure to be in the playoff mix, so who knows. What we do know is that Atlanta will be one of the significant players in free agency with a lot of dollars under the cap.

2011-12 Results: 40-26, second in Southeast; Lost in East quarterfinals to Boston.

ADDITIONS: G Lou Williams, F Kyle Korver, G Devin Harris, G Anthony Morrow, G DeShawn Stevenson, C Johan Petro, G John Jenkins

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:

PG- Jeff Teague SG- Anthony Morrow SF- Kyle Korver PF- Josh Smith C- Al Horford

KEY RESERVES: C Zaza Pachulia, G Lou Williams, G DeShawn Stevenson, G Devin Harris, F Ivan Johnson, G John Jenkins

FRONTCOURT: Smith and Horford are All-Star caliber talents.

Horford missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. He is an elite center in the league, although he's a natural power forward. Horford can rebound, defend, shoot, handle and hustle. Truthfully, the Hawks should run their offense through him.

Smith, again, is a handful, but his skills are without question. When he gets out and runs the floor, look out. Smith is an underrated defender with great shot-blocking skills. The problem is the lapses. He jacks up way too many threes and long jumpers when he is unstoppable going to the basket or even posting up smaller players. He could be a beast this season in a contract year.

Korver is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. His quick release means he can come off screens and get the shot off immediately. Korver is a hideous one-on-one defender, but is actually a decent help defender. Korver won't kill you out there.

BACKCOURT: Jeff Teague got the starting job last season and performed admirably. He averaged 12 PPG, but a pretty meager 4.9 APG. He's quick and can score.

Morrow has scored double-figures in all four seasons in the league and has shot as high at 47 percent from the 3-point line. That's a staggering number, but he's probably a mid-40 percent shooter. That is still beyond respectable. Morrow doesn't do much else better with poor rebounding and assist numbers.

BENCH: The bench backcourt may be the best in the NBA.

Harris took a tumble last season in Utah. After averaging at least 14 PPG since the 2007-08 season, he only poured in 11.3 PPG in 2011-12. He's seemed to have a hard time fitting in since his All-Star season of 2008-09. Harris can still score easily and is lightning quick. A transition to the bench might be a nice career move.

Williams has been a bench guy basically his whole career. Last season, he led the 76ers in scoring despite coming off the pine. He can put the ball in the hole, but will take his fair number of shots doing it. Williams is not a good defender, which is fine. What you really like about Williams is that he will take and make big shots, all the while, not caring about starting.

"I just want to be in the rotation. That's my main thing," said Williams, who grew up in Atlanta and finished second last season in Sixth Man of the Year voting. "As long as I'm on the court, I just try to maximize the minutes I get and make everything happen that I can."

Zaza Pachulia is a great backup center. Everyone else is a role player.

COACHING: Larry Drew has done a decent enough job holding things together with Horford's injury and Smith's attitude issues. This season will be no different as he lost an All-Star two guard and his leading scorer. This will be a testing season and remember, Ferry didn't hire Drew.

OUTLOOK: While it's hard to imagine a team sustaining the loss of a player like Johnson, the Hawks can. Williams will take up a lot of Johnson's scoring loss and Korver could thrive after teams double Smith and Horford.

The forward combination of Smith and Horford, both playing to their potential, could be a top unit in the NBA. If Smith isn't too much of a hassle, or isn't traded at the deadline, the Hawks should be alright.

They aren't contenders for the Southeast title or Eastern Conference title, but, like most every season, you can pencil the Hawks in the playoffs, but not for long.