And the award for “Dumbest Headline” goes to…Pace and Space! You like me! You really, really…wonder why I picked that little Google-friendly…never mind. The Hawks suck.
That’s…not actually the question we’re trying to answer here, though. The question is not “are the Hawks good”, but “are they good enough to win 24 games again and clear the low bar of their 23.5 over/under.
Or, put another way, “are the Hawks somehow even worse than last year?”
Well, they replaced Dennis Schroder with Trae Young, who showed in Summer League that he’s either Stephen Curry Evolved…or about as accurate as setting up a Roman onager on the three-point line and expecting it to shoot basketballs in the remote vicinity of the basket.
Mike Budenholzer is now the coach in Milwaukee. That’s good for the Bucks (more on them next week) but not so great for the Hawks, who now must make do with Lloyd Pierce.
On the bright side, Pierce presided over the debacle in Philadelphia as Brett Brown’s assistant, so at least he has firsthand experience with atrocious basketball teams.
The Hawks were the worst team in the East last year and the third-worst in all of basketball. Will they be at least that good, clearing that over/under? Or will they suck in ways not previously dreamed possible in an Atlanta basketball landscape that looks like it pissed off General Sherman’s ghost?
2017-18 record: 24-58
2018-19 over/under: 23.5
They Can’t Be THAT Bad, Can They?
Did we mention they got Jeremy Lin? Provided Lin can play more than one game this season, that’s an upgrade, right?
Well…the dirty little secret is that Lin has always been a terrible shooter, a mediocre-to-poor defender, and a guy who’s still living off the fumes of a reputation he built in one magical month in New York back during the lockout year in 2012.
I mean, we’ll get to Lin in a Thursday “Is He Any Good” sometime this year, I’m sure, but unless you think that the 37.2 3PT% he put up in Brooklyn in 2016-17 is going to be his new normal, you’re looking at a guy who’s spent his career as a below-league-average shooter.
Young…well, back on draft day there were arguments to the effect of he could go first overall or 31st and you would have justification for both opinions. He’s either going to be a star or a disaster with no in-between. He does, however, seem to be the most likely candidate for an Emmanuel Mudiay/De’Aaron Fox complete goddamn horror show debut.
Kent Bazemore is a 1.1 VORP guy who’s emerging as an actual quality NBA player after Atlanta fished him out of the G-League a few years back; at age 29, he’s probably all he’s ever going to be, but what he is ain’t that bad.
Taurean Prince is 24 and coming off a sophomore season where he jumped from “cover your eyes” as a rookie to a good situational defender who now simply needs to learn to step up his game offensively. The .549 True Shooting was a nice start in 2017-18.
Dewayne Dedmon posted a genuine “starter on a playoff team” WS/48 and is another guy who, if he puts it together and learns his place when his team has the ball, could make the leap. Terrible on offense but very solid on defense, Dedmon makes an interesting platoon partner with Miles Plumlee.
Dedmon is also a vacuum cleaner when someone misses a shot, an underrated skill in today’s gee-whiz world, but someone’s got to get the rebound.
Atlanta managed to snake Alex Poythress away from the Pacers, and while he may never be a star or even a starter, there are plenty in Indiana who rightly believe that the Pacers (or at least the Mad Ants) lost some real potential for a rotation/second-unit guy.
Bluntly, there’s nobody on the Hawks, except for Young if he doesn’t pan out, who could be truly said to suck in the mocking tones usually reserved for the true advanced-stats horror shows out there.
Count me among those who think that the disincentivizing of tanking is going to smooth out the tail end of the wins curve in the standings this year.
As such, there’s no reason for the Hawks to intentionally faceplant and go 15-67.
Which leaves the question of “OK, even if they’re bad, are they worse than last year?”
And…well, I’m putting a lot of faith in Jeremy Lin’s health and Trae Young’s jump shot here, but I say they’re at least as good as 24 wins.
They won’t make the playoffs. They won’t even get within smelling distance of the playoffs if they stand downwind.
But they’ll win 25-30 games. Over. Still busted, but over.