The Atlanta Hawks spent the better part of a decade knocking on the door of the NBA elite. They never quite got there, and now they’re officially in rebuilding mode. This offseason, they cut ties with the guy they thought would be their franchise player, Josh Howard, and invested in the guy they think will be the future franchise player, Al Horford.
However, plenty of questions remain — is he really a franchise player, and how many wins can he lead the team to this year?
Horford, an accomplished low-post player who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds last year, is on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the league. He signed a five-year, $60-million extension in 2010 that he has clearly outplayed. He may or may not be a true franchise player, but he’s worth a lot more than that. With three years left on that deal, now is the time for Atlanta to see what their team looks like with him as the best player.
This year unfortunately won’t give them much hope that he can lead them to a championship. They just don’t have enough supporting players around him. Horford does his best work on the block, and needs others to spread the floor and create opportunities for him. Kyle Corver can still shoot but is atrocious on the defensive end, Elton Brand is way past his prime and Louis Williams creates for himself, but not for his teammates.
This is a transition year for the Hawks. They don’t have the talent to compete for a spot in the playoffs, and they just might be bad enough to compete for a top pick in next year’s stacked draft. Horford is a good piece, but if he’s the best player on your team, that says more about the rest of the squad than it does about him.
Atlanta will struggle to get wins this year. The best teams in the league will make short work of them, and even the mediocre teams will find them an easy win on most nights. They’ll get wins against the other bad teams in the league, but that won’t get them very far. I’ll put them in for a final record of 26-56.
It’s going to be a tough year in Atlanta — the good news is they should have some help on the way next year via a high draft pick.