For those of you with NBATV, this will be your first opportunity to catch the Hawks on TV this year. Think of this as the preseason viewer's guide for Hawks' basketball. Here's the quick and dirty:
What To Watch For:
A Flex Offense-The new Hawks offense looks much less like my wasted youth playing NBA Jam and much more like Hoosiers passing four times before they shoot. Instead of Iso-Joe, look for movement and more ball screens. For more on this, check out the great work done at NBA Playbook in breaking down what we're seeing early from the Hawks this year (ht Peachtree Hoops).
Turnovers-The Hawks had the fewest turnovers in the NBA last year. It reflects heavily on their lack of ball movement-guys who dominate the ball the way Joe Johnson does generally average more turnovers, but the lack of passing allows fewer opportunities for things to go wrong. A big part of the growing pains for the Hawks will be to get used to making crisp passes and still managing to control the ball, and that includes JJ. You can expect the difficulties in this area to spill over into the early parts of the season as this team has five years' worth of bad habits to overcome.
Jordan Crawford-JC2 can score. He's exactly as advertised. Given his placement on the depth chart, we won't see very much of him in the season, but he's been entirely as advertised in the preseason, as he's been among the top ten scorers in preseason action. That includes a huge 30 point effort against Washington when many of the Hawks' regulars are out. Be sure to keep an eye on number 55 when he's on the floor-he'll have to do some work to become an NBA defender, but scoring comes very naturally to him.
Transition Defense-It's been pointed out that the Hawks need to work harder on getting back in transition. Being a team that barely turned the ball over and still gave up too many points in transition doesn't portend well now that the Hawks are becoming more vulnerable to turnovers. What's really disappointing is that it has been the guards who have really not held up their end of bargain (and Josh Smith, if he's feeling particularly pouty). Horford always plays hard and runs the floor well, so keep an eye on the other four in transition opportunities. Better and more consistent effort will go a long way in determining where the Hawks stand this year.