New-look Hawks could be fun to watch

sports@macon.comOctober 30, 2012 

The Atlanta Hawks got my attention this offseason. No, it wasn’t because they brought in an All-Star like Dwight Howard or fired head coach Larry Drew. They didn’t do that.

They simply started over.

They probably wouldn’t put it that way, but when you trade two significant pieces of your starting lineup for the past seven seasons, that’s pretty much what it is.

Atlanta’s ownership has been laughed at for years. They fought with one another in various court proceedings, and they almost sold the team a couple of times. But they made a brilliant move when they hired Danny Ferry to be the new Hawks’ general manager.

Ferry had a fresh set of eyes that came into the situation with an objective viewpoint. He was also given the power to do whatever needed to be done to make the Hawks a championship contender.

And the first moves he made were to rid the team of the ridiculous contracts of Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, two players who accounted for 40 percent of the starting lineup for some time.

It just didn’t make any sense that those players got paid so much money, and yet the Hawks seemed stuck in neutral. Johnson was a nice player, and he could be great at times. But he was getting older and costing more money, and that’s not an effective game plan for an NBA team.

So Ferry found the Brooklyn Nets willing to take Johnson’s large contract off his hands, and Utah wanted Williams. The deals give Ferry tremendous financial flexibility, which wasn’t available as long as those two were still around.

Now Ferry will have a number of expiring contracts in his possession, and next summer he can go shopping for a new set of stars to join the roster. Howard will be at the top of his wish list.

But, for this season, the Hawks still have a chance to be good. They were on pace for more than 50 wins last season in the abbreviated campaign. They may be a bit below that mark this season, but not by much.

With Johnson gone, Josh Smith can now take the reigns as the leader of the team. Smith is a dynamic player, and he can carry this team at times. But it has seemed as if he has been hesitant because of Johnson being the highest paid player.

Now Smith can combine with Al Horford to form a very dangerous duo. Smith’s contract is up after this season, so he’s getting ready to get paid, as well. But, unlike Johnson, Smith is the type of player you want to build your team around.

Horford will be back after an injury ruined his season last year. The team did pretty well without him, but there’s no doubt Horford has tremendous value.

Jeff Teague is back for his fourth season. The point guard really took a giant leap last year when he averaged 12.6 points and almost five assists per game. Devin Harris, acquired for Williams, will get significant minutes as the backup and could start some at the two-guard spot.

One of the important pickups by Ferry was Louis Williams, the former South Gwinnett star who was going to Georgia before he decided to go straight to the NBA. Williams is a scorer who is more suitable for a backup role. He did that last year in Philadelphia and averaged right at 15 points per game.

Ferry has assembled a bunch of shooters to join Williams. Former Georgia Tech star Anthony Morrow will be a big help off the bench. And Kyle Korver was acquired from Chicago. He could get starts at the small forward spot. Korver has always been a top-notch shooter.

This will be a different team, but it looks like a really good team. The Hawks will have some nights when they’ll struggle on defense. But this should be more exciting than the hum-drum team that has taken the court the past few years.

For the first time in many years, I’m interested enough in the Hawks to want to go see them play in person. The once-stale Hawks are refreshed and ready to go. Will they win enough to keep our attention?

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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