When the Hawks traded Joe Johnson to the Nets over the offseason in what was basically a salary dump, the majority of the NBA world praised the Hawks for a move that would pay dividends a few years down the road.
Down the road has come a little sooner than expected.
The Hawks are 15-9, sitting pretty at 3rd in the Eastern Conference standings. An increased role for certain players coupled with crafty offseason moves have helped the Hawks become so successful.
Josh Smith and Al Horford had always been the 2nd and 3rd options to Joe Johnson, but have thrived now that they have taken more of a prominent role in the Hawks offense. Smith and Horford are terrific players around the basket. Not only can they score, but they are both good rebounders and very athletic.
These two have always been good players when they are relatively close to the basket. NBA offenses, though, are based on spacing. Spacing is not possible unless you have players that can shoot the ball from the outside with both efficiency and effectiveness. Where Horford and Smith lack in outside shooting, the supporting cast has truly stepped up. Players like Louis Williams, Kyle Korver, Deshawn Stevenson, and Devin Harris have helped in this facet and are a huge reason for the success that the Hawks have had.
Louis Williams had been an “instant offense” player for the 76ers for years. The Hawks picked him up in the offseason in a shrewd move. Williams can score from any spot on the court, and when you mix him with three-point extraordinaire Kyle Korver, opponents need to keep a close watch on the perimeter against the Hawks.
The player that makes this all work, though, is Jeff Teague. This young, quick point guard has matured quickly, helping this Hawks team thrive.
Throw in Harris, a very adequate back up point guard, and Stevenson, who possesses a very rare combination of outside shooting and defense, and the upstart Hawks aren’t that big of a surprise anymore.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they have to deal with both the Heat and the Knicks, who are both ahead of them in the standings. Both teams possess a lot of talent, and whether or not the Hawks can compete with that remains to be seen.
This may not be the year that the Hawks win it all, but the trade of Johnson was always one that was for the future, and so far, the future is pretty bright for the Hawks.
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